Native Advertising: PR or Media Campaign? Why Not Both?

Native advertising is growing at a rapid pace. More and more companies wishing to advertise are now including Native ad campaigns in their strategy. In 2015, it is estimated that $4.3 billion will be spent on native advertising content. And this number is expected to double to $8.8 billion by 2018.

Therefore, a common issue for agencies dealing with these campaigns is in which marketing budget native advertising should belong?

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The way your client’s budget is structured can have an impact on where native advertising fits in. Indeed, when a client is launching an advertising campaign, it usually involves several agencies (PR, digital marketing,..), each one handling one aspect of the marketing plan.
The nature of native advertising makes it a gray area. We usually ask ourselves: Is it part of your public relations budget? Is it technically a media campaign? So where should native advertising be in the budget?

It’s Public Relations

To make the argument for the PR budget, native advertising is strategically placed online to promote brand awareness and influence potential customers. In fact sponsored articles can sometimes be considered as the  new e-PR. Indeed, Native advertising and sponsored posts involve working with influencers such as industry experts and bloggers sometimes as famous as celebrities to publish quality content. For a long time, many advertisers & agencies have wrongly considered bloggers as Electronic Journalists, but they aren’t!
Native advertising, when done with high-quality standard, is a way for every stakeholder to win: the influencer is able to monetize & invest in his media, the reader get access to quality content and can chose to read it or not (compared to standard disruptive and intrusive advertisement), and finally the advertiser gets benefits (better engagement, branding, higher viewing rates…)  from which we don’t have to sing the praises any longer .

For these reasons, Native advertising could be justified as a PR expense, as there is often no direct selling.  PR firms are jumping into this form of content marketing and making a big impact, justifying why the PR element of native advertising is so important.

It’s a Media Campaign

On the flip side, some people would rather think that native advertising should be considered as a media campaign and be reflected as such in the budget. This is because while many forms of native advertising blend seamlessly into the content of an existing page, they also can make the case for purchasing a product or service by name. In some ways, it is an ad campaign!

By definition a Native ad means to work with media and press to push your sponsored post. According to the Content Marketing Institute, Native ads are a way for marketers to distribute the content. It helps to leverage the sales and remains a more effective way to advertise than a PR campaign. For this reason, the Native advertising can be considered a media campaign and deserves marketing and communication goals.

It’s Both!

Native advertising doesn’t fit in just one of these categories. In fact, in all mediums the lines are blurring between what defines content as PR or direct advertising. This is only going to become more and more difficult as traditional media fades into the background and digital marketing takes the spotlight. This also makes budgeting a difficult task when it’s not clear where the PR starts and the media campaign begins. For some agencies, it makes sense to combine these budgets and save the headache of separating out into one budget versus the other. Given the overlap of content and objectives between PR and direct marketing, the most compelling argument can be made to combine the budgets and spend more time planning the native advertising than you do deciding where to allocate the cost.

However, advertisers & PR agencies still have their way. Their experience and knowledge are critical to benefit from their editorial comfort zone (with very specialized influencers).

Ideally (and with Influence Specialists as Upfluence), sponsored articles must take into account all of the PR work that is done by others parties. Concretely, Influence agencies must avoid contacting all of the resource already in contact with PR department. In fact, by working side by side, agencies could offer even better results to their advertiser customer.

Native advertising is nothing new – advertorials have been around as long as advertising itself. The way to reach consumers has evolved into sponsored listings, sponsored tweets and stories, page recommendations, and more. No one knows what the next trend will hold, but being prepared and streamlining the PR and media campaign budgets will help your agency be better prepared for what lies ahead.

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