4 Tips for Executing Complex Native Advertising Campaigns

If panelists at the March 16th Native Advertising Summit had one consistent message for the publishing leaders in attendance, it’s that developing and executing native advertising campaigns is a complex process. Native content is highly custom and often requires the involvement of multiple departments within the publisher and client’s organizations. During a panel discussion titled, “Making Native Advertising Work” executives from Forbes, MXM, The Economist, and Quartz shared how they manage these complexities, outlining the processes behind the launch of their native content divisions and strategies for scaling these services.

Managing director at Imprint Georgia Galanoudis moderated the panel. Panelists included Dan Rubin, executive director of strategy at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, Michael Dolan, digital strategist, client technologies at The Economist, Mike Monroe, VP of marketing and head of Forbes BrandProductions, and Jane Grenier executive director of client services at Quartz.

Much of the panelists’ advice boiled down to preparation and communication. For these publishers, native campaigns were not added lightly to their media kits, but rather carefully thought out so as to minimize missteps.

Here are 4 steps to take before ramping up native ad programs:

1. Create native content guidelines. Rubin of Meredith Xcelerated Marketing advised attendees to work with their legal, sales, marketing, and editorial teams to develop native advertising guidelines. “The first thing we did was we established a native advertising task force,” said Rubin. “That allowed this smaller team to disseminate the guidelines to the rest of the organization and that worked really well for us because it gave us the ability to train before we got the influx of custom deals.” Rubin explained that these guidelines should clearly explain what the sales team is selling in regards to native ads, how they are selling it, and how native campaigns will be executed. Specifying each departments roles and responsibilities in regards to native advertising campaigns is crucial.

2. Determine editorial’s role. A common hurdle to launching native advertising campaigns is a lack of buy-in from the editorial side and confusion about editorial’s role. Though all panelists approached editorial’s involvement with native differently, they agreed that their function should be communicated early. Make it clear whether or not editorial will have a hand in creating native content, advised Rubin. Editors at The Economist, for example, do not create or approve native content, whereas Meredith editors are involved in the final approval process. The panelists also emphasized that holding native content to similar standards as editorial is necessary, not only to maintain the credibility of the editorial brand, but also to make editors more comfortable with native content.

3. Establish an account management team. Because so many players are involved in creating and executing native advertising campaigns, constant communication between stakeholders is a necessity. Often a salesperson cannot take on this communication responsibility because it requires a unique skillset said Grenier of Quartz. “Sometimes on the publisher side, it feels like we’re brokering a client side mixer,” she explained. Grenier said that different teams within the client’s organization review the native campaign at different stages of its development. Rarely are those teams on the same page and sometimes they have very different goals, said Grenier. The account management team needs to be able to quickly bring different departments up to speed and explain the vision of the project.

Dolan of The Economist advised attendees to create a one-page document that explains the project status at a high level. “A little trick that we use is we create a very pretty infographic to give to those clients in meetings. It goes a long way because it does explain very quickly the progress this program has made. Giving that top level view is one way we try to solve that.” (Learn more about how The Economist sells native advertising here.)

Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.