It can be tricky to pull off a great native advertising campaign. There are so many variables, and the internet at large is a saturated space, where ads and posts of all sorts fight for viewers’ attention.
But in a recent campaign running across Outbrain, Facebook and Instagram, the 4media team saw some sterling success, and we think we know why.
[If you need a refresher on native ads, or even online amplification at large, get caught up here.]
A Confluence of Traits: A Cool Event Meets Close Markets
One of the greatest attributes of native advertising, whether on social media or amplification platforms like Outbrain and Taboola, is that the geographic targeting is extensive and works really, really well.
Savvy marketers have been leveraging that for a long time, but the tool becomes even more powerful when you toss an awesome event into the mix and go after an audience that can easily make it to that event—I’m talking specifically about people within driving range.
In working with a national cycling company to bring a bike event to Bentonville, we were faced with the best way to garner more attendees. We turned immediately toward native advertising, and realized that there could be some serious power in going after people who could make a pretty quick decision that they want to get to Bentonville.
Some quick research can quickly build out a list of zip codes, towns or DMA’s within a driving radius. We chose to target anyone within a 500-mile radius, and set out to designing the creative elements.
For a cycling event, the need to target interests is pretty clear. Facebook and Instagram make it easy, and Outbrain recently introduced interest targeting as well. Though not nearly as expansive as the social giants, it’s comforting to know your Outbrain ads aren’t impressing upon people who don’t care at all.
In interest targeting, it’s important to remember that you can make converts of people. What I mean here is that it would be a mistake to just target people who like bikes. You need to target people who like entire sorts of things, like being outside, engaging in action sports, hiking, or even traveling.
The proof in the value of this strategy lies in organic shares. Our first Facebook post was shared quite a bit—that means people were genuinely interested in the information and wanted their network to have access to it, despite the fact it was sponsored. If you can build content that drives interest to that level, something is working well.
Creative Design: Information as a Catalyst for Action
It can be easy to get caught up in making sure the creative element of your ad or post is the best part. But it’s a mistake to let your main goal out of site when it comes to creative engagement.
In this case, research revealed that members of our target audience still had some confusion about the event we were trying to get them to attend. So we used the creative elements of our campaign to address that confusion.
Image Choice: For a cycling event, choice of imagery seems pretty evident, right? In one sense, the answer is yes—show bikes. But we learned throughout the campaign that there are those who are intimidated by the level of riding often on display in Bentonville. That information informed our creative decisions in a major way.
Instead of showing images of people jumping off things in full-face helmets, we allowed our imagery to speak to the beginner-friendly options that exist all over Bentonville, highlighting riders of all ages on terrain of all types.
Image choice is huge in these instances, because people are going to make up their minds so quickly about whether or not something is in their skill level or looks fun. But the greater lesson here is to pay intense attention to your choice of imagery, so as never to prime your viewers to expect something they can’t handle or that seems unrealistic. Ads have been ruined since the beginning of advertising because creatives get too taken with great shots, and forget that people need to be able to picture themselves doing something.
Headline Writing and Copy Creation: Nearly as important as your choice of image is how you write headlines and body copy. This is another place where the geotargeting can become really valuable.
In headline writing, if you really want to grab people from a specific market, then run a campaign in that market alone and make your headlines specific to those individuals. So if you know that Dallas doesn’t have a fabulous downhill park, or there are no places to practice technical riding, call that out to engage people through their interest.
The same advice stands for copy creation.
We wanted to make sure that prospective event attendees knew Northwest Arkansas has approachable riding, and that people of all skill levels would be welcome at our event. So we created a series of blog posts to address the confusion our previous research had revealed.
First, we got the word out about the event through campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and Outbrain. Then we drafted blogs that explained the event. Finally, we drafted another blog post welcoming riders of all skill levels and providing an inside view of biking in Bentonville.
The results were a truly coordinated native advertising campaign, which engaged potential attendees, answered their questions in full, and comforted any concerns they may have had about visiting Bentonville.
Graph Courtesy of Wordstream
The Proof Is in the Clicks
Research, intentional geographic targeting, more planning and creative execution are the necessary parts of a good campaign—but that campaign is only good in theory until the results start rolling in.
We saw some of our greatest performances to date, where our first explanatory piece received an overall click through rate of around 7 percent on Facebook and a little over 3 percent on Instagram. In social media CTR, any whole number is high, and these ones are astronomical. Here are some more metrics:
The Outbrain performance has been exciting as well, where a relatively small spend on driving- distance markets has produced a CTR of 0.14 percent out of 334,000 impressions—meaning people are interested in learning more, and understanding what we’re offering. An average CTR on Outbrain, for reference, hovers between 0.10 and 0.25 percent.
In the End, Research, Closeness, Creativity Win Out
This campaign has proven the extreme value in research, and intentional targeting of location and interests. That’s why targeting the driving distance markets was so key—instead of going to a national market, we targeted people who could make a quick decision and then make the drive, which has driven our click through rate through the roof, and given everyone confidence in future campaigns surrounding events.
Want to work with us on a native advertising campaign? We’d love to help. All you have to do is reach out.
As SVP of Digital Marketing & Media, Alex strives to develop and deliver shareable media impressions. "Cut through the clutter and create memorable content with the potential to go viral!" That was his mantra during his nearly two decades as a broadcaster for CBS Radio, iHeartMedia and ESPN Radio in major markets including Washington DC, Atlanta and Tampa, Florida. Alex has been featured in the New York Post, PR Daily and numerous other publications. He was WFLA (NBC) News Channel 8’s on-air social media expert in Tampa Bay on afternoon and evening newscasts. The Dallas native graduated from Texas Tech University and lives in Bentonville, AR with his wife Jeni and their two children.