The other day, I managed to take some time out for a few people who had been pestering me with questions about native advertising. By people I mean acquaintances-slash-friends-slash-best-friends-slash-strangers-in-the-making, but that’s not my point. My point is that I had a difficult time, a very difficult time. Read this, and you’ll know why.
Q) If ‘native’ means local, is native advertising all about advertising local products?
A) No. It’s called native because the content matches the editorial look and style of the platform on which it appears. For your information, you can pretty much advertise any kind of product, local or not.
Q) Fine. I get it. But, doesn’t that amount to fooling people? I mean, you are luring people to spend time reading about a product when they might be visiting your site to know what is happening in Syria!
A) Honey, do I look like a scamster? Native content always comes with the tags ‘Sponsored’ or ‘Promotional’ or ‘Partnered’. So, it’s entirely up to the readers whether they want to read or watch it or not.
Q) Paradox! Paradox! If that is the case, why would you even create such content? How would you attract readers’ attention?
A) Ah. That’s where the power of native advertising lies. It’s not only about the product—it’s also about educating people about a related issue. It’s not an advertorial. So, say, if we are advertising a particular brand of sanitary napkin, we will not talk only about why you should buy a sanitary napkin of that brand. We will also talk about the condition of menstrual hygiene in India, the lack of awareness, myths, etc, etc. Of course, what we choose to talk about, other than the product itself, depends on the client.
But, no matter what, the headline never ends up reading something like “Buy XYZ sanitary napkin today!” or “XYZ sanitary napkin is the best! Others can go to hell!”
The content is always inspirational, it comes with a message, it implores the public to go out and do something. So, you see, a native article is so much like an article that you would read in a newspaper or a magazine.
Q) If that is the case, how do you ensure that each and every article appeals to any and everybody?
A) I don’t need to, because there is always a targeted group. If I am advertising baby food, surely I won’t be writing an article on ‘10 reasons why you should have more sex’. I would suggest that topic if a condom-manufacturing brand came to me saying, “Our products are not selling. What is wrong with this country? Is everybody that busy?”
In the case of baby food, my target group will be new or would-be moms or even dads for that matter. And my topic will be something like ‘10 reasons why you should choose your baby food carefully’ or ‘10 foods that are good for your baby’. It’s not rocket science, really.
P.S. I can come up with better headlines.
Q) Do you also do branded content for cable television? You know, back when we were young, we bought such wonderful balms and frying pans and tummy tucker belts that were sold on cable television.
A) Cable TV still exists???
No. I work for a digital platform. But, yes, TV channels also do branded content.
Q) Umm…has any brand ever asked you to make (*coughing sound*) false claims?
A) Like what? The earth is flat? Subhash Chandra Bose is still alive? Mathematics is easy? Honey, let’s get this straight. Brands cannot possibly ask us to do such a thing. If they do, won’t they themselves get into trouble? And so will we. We stand for accuracy, for the truth. Just because our content revolves around a product or a service, we cannot fake things to make it sell.
Q) Do brands pay you separately, especially if they like the article that you write for them?
A) TOTALLY. That is how I recently bought a Ferrari, and am moving to New York City next month. Would you like to join? Oh, and did I mention that I am also planning to buy one of the companies that I write for? It’s headquartered a few blocks away from the White House.
Now, why on earth would brands pay me??? My salary is paid by the company I work for. My company, in turn, charges the brands for the content that we create for them.
P.S. To be honest, I would love it if brands poured in a good word or two every time they liked my article.
Q) Quick question. What do I have to do to get a job like yours? Do I have the right qualifications/skills?
A) The first thing that you need is the ability to think out of the box. Branded content is unique; it goes beyond regular news or feature stories. So, your content ideas should be that which make people say, “Wow. I never looked at it that way!” or “Oooohh…I never knew this!”
In the first few months, you have to learn how to weave in the product into your article. The same goes for videos/infographics/comic strips. And that can be pretty tricky. Because, the moment you talk too much about the product/service, people will easily lose interest. But, again, it’s not rocket science.
Of course, it goes without saying that you must have excellent writing and imagination skills. So, if you enjoy writing and (doodling?), you will be a good fit here.
Q) One last question, please. Do brands give you free products?
Oh, let me recall. One brand gave me slimming pills. Another gave me a month’s subscription of low-fat milk. And yet another gave me a box of green tea. Is that some kind of a hint?
No, brands don’t give me free products. All I get is free coffee in my office. So, are we done here?