How to Do Native Advertising If You Don’t Support the Product
Solve the moral dilemma by staying true to yourself.
I do something which sounds boring but is extremely profitable — native advertising for the parenting industry. I write ads for cosmetics, toiletries, and baby equipment of major European brands for a large parenting portal. The happy commercial stuff with plump tots.
For those who may not know what native ads are, here is the explanation from Wikipedia:
“Native advertising is a type of advertising that matches the form and function of the platform upon which it appears […] These ads reduce a consumers’ ad recognition by blending the ad into the native content of the platform, using somewhat ambiguous language such as “sponsored” or “branded” content. They can be difficult to properly identify due to their ambiguous nature.”
As you can see, native ads can be the devil’s work. You hide from your readers the fact that the article is actually an ad. You praise something you haven’t even tried. Or you think it’s crap.
But they don’t need to be deceitful. Especially with vulnerable categories such as new moms.
Parenting industry is great for advertising, but I don’t “just do it”
Mothers fall for flowery prams with organic cotton inside. And a matching bag with it. Everything to make themselves feel special. Oh, yes, and to make their babies feel safe and the most beautiful in the world, too.
There is a multitude of aromas, colors, pastels, and whites to publicize, so infants look and smell like angels. Angels usually smell of vanilla or powder. Sometimes even a flowery meadow.
Consumer society shows its worst in buying high-priced brands that burping little ones use for a few months. Strollers are often too expensive, heavy, and wide for a city walk. But they look awesome, so baby equipment is the measure of your social status.
Me? I was a-bit-different-kind-of-mom.
My kids 2 strollers’ cost 100 euros in total. My daughter wore mainly blue until she was 2 because we dressed her in hand-me-downs. It’s ridiculous to make your child the star of a beauty pageant. The baby is going to stain most of the clothes anyway. And a babysitter, diapers, and cosmetics cost too much.
So, I was never a good candidate for the fancy baby stuff. However, I write ads for moms who like them. You feel special in your post-labor isolation if you have a lot of colorful new things around you.
And your babies need them, too (See how babies always come second?). Nowadays, children are treated as an asset. Their desires are our commands. There are so many toys which “improve your child’s cognitive skills”. And your kid needs them to have that precious headstart at 3 months of age.
Still, I don’t try to persuade women to buy-buy-buy. This is how I do it.
There are better rules for native advertising
These are the guidelines that help me advertise well but also keep my principles.
There is this unspoken rule for native ads: you are supposed to write about the products you tried yourself. Since I don’t test them, I don’t say I did.
Instead, I use phrases such as: “Take a look“, “Choose one for yourself“, or quote credible sources.
Make it clear this is an ad
The text is concise and fits into the publication.
Still, there is a conspicuous “sponsored by” in bold at the top and a CTA at a suitable place. I mention the distributor and provide a link to their website.
For each ad, I research the product thoroughly. I try to explain the benefits: what child psychologists say about children’s development, or why the ecological solution is better for both your baby and the planet.
But I don’t present it as super-awesome-great. I try to mention a shortcoming to make it more credible. BTW, nothing is perfect but your baby.
The post is also optimized for search engines.
Make it engaging, don’t advocate for it
It’s good to use stories because that’s how our brains accept new information better. But real stories: “There was this guy and he minded his own business, but then a war broke out.” People like to read stories about exceptional people who have challenges like all of us.
Once I wrote for an anniversary of a major Italian baby brand. I presented it as a hero’s journey: the founder grew up in poverty, motherless, during Mussolini and World War II. The chances were high he would become an underdog. Instead, he set the bars for all baby equipment. His family company is doing the same now. Their mission (the Why?) is still his mission from 60 years ago — he wanted to create better products for babies when he got his son.
The aim of a story is to send a message to the recipient — you make her identify with your main character. The character faces a challenge. By learning from it, the character becomes wiser. And your reader has similar challenges, so she sees how the character solved theirs. She identifies with the story’s figure and feels for the character. Empathy brings closeness and trust.
If you get to advertise something boring or something you would never use, you can always combine informative with entertaining. Fabric softeners can’t be that exciting, so write a quiz:
“Where does vanilla originate from?”
“How long does the flower that produces the vanilla bean last?”
Another example of the informative-entertaining mix: a quote from a folk song with another one from a reality show. There are plenty of ways to present a product and stay true to yourself even though you don’t use softeners at home.
Make it entertaining and let them decide, don’t advocate for it.
Why lies don’t go well
Sometimes the client expects me to cheer for the toy or use sentences such as “Collect them all“.
No, no, no.
No can do. Never promote buying. Instead, mention the pros of a product and address readers’ potential doubts.
In spite of all these “bad things I do to my client“, the ads go pretty well. With so much content on the internet, people have become quite suspicious of marketing.
They know an advertisement when they see it. They don’t trust infomercials. They know you are pressuring them with “The offer expires in 20 hours“. You can’t lie to a buyer because your name and the product will end up on the web in a rant.
After all, I don’t want to sell my soul for a few bucks.
The only ad that didn’t go well
They gave me an article about a plastic soldier in a frame made of small blocks. He fights other soldiers to get their frames. This isn’t a board game with rules. There is just this plastic action figure you get with blocks. You have to use imagination to get another frame from your playmate.
Children can make bigger constructions by joining frames. It’s a plastic little man with plastic little blocks. That’s all.
So, I get a request to write about why playing war is not such a bad thing after all.
I write about how playing war boosts imagination, makes boys more compassionate, and builds social skills. They can express their negative feelings freely, conquer their fears, and feel more powerful. All backed up by credible sources.
“This is not the direction we want. Focus on boys’ play. Instead of war, we should talk about a battle and collecting characters, building a fortress. The text makes people conclude we support the idea of war.“
The political correctness of a large corporation seeling plastic.
When you google “Why do boys play battle?“, you get “playfighting“, “war toys“ and some game where soldiers fight until extinction. But they didn’t google it.
What can you say but write another text? Again, I didn’t praise the product. I wrote about why all action figures are good for child development.
There is always a way to write an ad without lying to your audience. Make it very visible it is an advertisement. Don’t let them believe you tested the product if you didn’t.
Think about the benefits. Address the doubts. Give information from credible sources about its assets. Put a CTA but let them decide on their own.
Entertain. Write a story. Don’t push for the sale. You don’t have to say it is all awesome if you don’t stand behind a product. People will believe you more. Your ad will have real value.
If you‘d like to read more about writing and life, meet me at https://mariamilojkovic.com/.
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