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Content Marketing and Native Advertising Make a Great Team

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AAEAAQAAAAAAAATtAAAAJDZiZjRlMTYzLTE4NDMtNDE2Zi1iNWU1LWQ3OTUwZmY2ZDJmYQFor some strange reason content marketing and native advertising are often pitted against each other. One Danish writer here on LinkedIn went so far as to claim that there was a war between them. Anyone that says that clearly have no idea what content marketing or native advertising is.

Put in very simple terms, they don’t have the same purpose, so you can’t replace one with the other. And that means that there is no conflict between them. Content marketing is a long-term commitment that requires consistency, native advertising is by definition limited in time, as paid media always is. No one in their right mind would attempt to build a presence solely with paid media, so it’s not even a budget issue.

The fact of the matter is that content marketing and native advertising can strengthen each other. They don’t compete on attention or penetration.

What are we talking about?

Let’s begin by actually defining what we’re talking about:

Content marketing is about creating relevant and useful content to a defined target audience, primarily in your own channels (owned media). For a more in-depth description, read the aptly named Native advertising is not Content marketing by Joe Pulizzi.

Native advertising is about creating content that will fit in an editorial environment. It’s ads (paid media). You can read a definition by Rebecca Lieb here.

The process to create content for native advertising is very similar to when you work with content marketing. It’s all about defining a target audience and creating content that is relevant and useful to them. The aim of the content used in paid media, as native ads, can be to create awareness about our brand or an offering. Another goal is to steer visitors from the media site to our own channels, where we can engage with them and become part of their purchase process.

Reach your target audience

One challenge that a lot of companies have when they begin with content marketing is that their audience, the people who spend time in their own channels, is limited. One of the goals of content marketing is to attract that audience, both in terms of visitors and the amount of time they spend engaging with our content. We can do this in several way, not in the least with the help of SEO and social media. Another way of doing this is to find our target group where they already spend time – namely various media sites.

And this is where native advertising enters the picture. Through sharing relevant and engaging content on a platform where our target audience already spends time we can create interesting and awareness around what we do, and by doing so get them to spend time in our channels. Viewed in this context, native advertising is a way to build both awareness and an audience for our work with content marketing.

A lot of the content used for both content marketing and native advertising can be created at the same time, and from the same source. We can also integrate earned media (PR) in this, since that also to a great extent is centered around storytelling and an outside-in view of what we do. By doing so we not only create a better and more efficient process, we take a huge step towards a fully converged way of working with media.

Strategy is a must

In order to succeed with both content marketing and native advertising a coherent strategy is a must. For a number of reasons.

In the strategy you can identify target groups, your company’s goals and messaging, channels and a range of other important points. This is crucial in order to create the right content

You can define the content creation process and also how to adapt and adjust content for different channels and purposes. By doing so you ensure efficiency that in the end will save both time and money.

You can define tonality and visual guidelines both for owned and paid media – something that otherwise can create problems in native advertising. Your brand will be present in everything you do, but when you work with native ads you also have to take into account what works on each media site.

And you can identify metrics for both content marketing and native advertising. This is something a lot of companies appear to be struggling with today, both coming up with business related KPIs and understanding the metrics they get from media sites. In content marketing we need both business oriented metrics, like increased conversion and successful lead generation, as well as content oriented metrics, providing us with insights on formats, channels and so on. In native advertising we have to interpret both what the metrics we get from media sites, like clicks, time spent etc, mean and also look at how much traffic we drive to our own channels. In addition, we need to look at how our native content does compared to editorial content on the media site.

Without a coherent and documented strategy you will not be able to sustain a long-term content marketing effort. And you will not have any success with native advertising either. Success in native demands, if possible, an even greater understanding of what is relevant and interesting to your target audience.


We can use native advertising to attract an audience to our own channels, as previously stated. However, this makes it even more important that we have relevant and valuable content on our own sites, in other words that we are really good at content marketing. Simply drawing attention to something, which is what you can accomplish with native, doesn’t mean that your customer is ready to make a purchase decision. It’s more likely that if you manage to persuade them to visit your sites, that’s when you can start the real work of providing more in-depth content that will guide them through the purchase process.

In other words, successful native advertising requires that you’re already hard at work with content marketing in your own channels. And this is why the whole idea of pitting content marketing and native advertising against each other becomes so absurd. There is no war, no conflict of interest. If you want to build an audience for your content marketing you can use native advertising as a way of achieving this more quickly. But there is no point in investing in native ads if you don’t have great content in place when your target audience shows up for a visit.

And in order to succeed with both you need to start with creating a coherent strategy.

Over to you

What’s your take, is there a conflict between native advertising and content marketing? Or do they in fact complement each other? Share your view in the comments.

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About Pontus Staunstrup

Pontus Staunstrup an experienced strategist, focusing on digital/content strategy, content marketing, social media, native advertising and digital transformation. He has worked in Communications and Marketing for close to 25 years for a number of global companies in management and consulting roles. You can visit Pontus's website here and connect with him on LinkedIn.


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