Memo to brands and agencies: What will make people remember you – maybe even for decades or more?
New York Times (Times) executive vice president of advertising Meredith Kopit Levien gave a clue at a recent conference during Internet Week.
Levien began her presentation with a screening of what she believes was the first and best branded entertainment exercise: the ’70s global Coca-Cola songfest, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”
“The first song I ever loved was given to me and the world by a brand,” Levien emphasized. “It’s an ideal representation of native ads before such a term existed.”
Levien knows the score. As an exec at the Times, she has been involved in campaigns with creative teams that have produced sophisticated and savvy advertising for clients including Goldman Sachs and United Airlines. Her perspective on how to increase engagement directed at educated audiences is on point.
At Internet Week, Levien spoke about where native has been, where she thinks it should go, and what will get it there.
“Native advertising,” Levien said, “exploits the form, factor, discovery mechanism and production values of the surrounding content, taking the shape of the storytelling around it and aspiring to similar engagement.”
Digital advertising, she argued, hasn’t yet been aided by ads like the memorable Coke spot, as well as superior efforts on TV and in print that predate online marketing.
“I want to argue that in transition to digital advertising much has been gained, but something else, a key element has been lost,” she said. “Native has power to restore that.”
Levien suggested that the move to mobile (and hence the need for brands to have a new business model) is making native not just an option, but a necessity.
“The disruption being caused by the shift from desktop to mobile is far more dramatic than any disruption that we have seen in recent years, including from print to digital,” Levien posited. “There is no concept of adjacency in mobile. The message needs to be right there in that same stream.”
Levien suggested that seasoned editorial teams have tools that advertisers need: storytelling tools. That’s what made the Coke ad so memorable, after all.
In her talk, Levien offered advice to brands on how to engineer a successful native strategy, including:
- Same old, same old won’t work. Successful native ads will come up with something new, or a new way of looking at an old idea (like that Coke commercial — about harmony, not just soda pop).
- Reach used to be something advertisers bought. Now it’s both purchased and earned. “In the social world the burden for getting reach is harder, but a lot less expensive,” Levien said. Native advertisers will want to produce eminently share-able content.
- The story is the priority, and the brand is the subplot. Levien said it sounds easy, but it’s not. Consumers respond to good stories — and have more engagement with brands connected to them or which answer a need or concern represented by the brand.