Native advertising is increasingly entering into the conversations of today's digital marketers. It is defined as an advertising unit designed to integrate seamlessly with a user's consumption experience. It is taking shape in the form of Sponsored Stories on Facebook, promoted content on Buzzfeed, and Paid Discovery on StumbleUpon, to name a few. Marketers are scrambling to better understand how to take advantage of this "new" form of advertising, yet they neglect to relate these platforms to their predecessors.
Native advertising isn't new. It has been around for more than a century, though it has evolved into more personal applications as time has passed. In today's digital world, we are hungry for brand interactions that are meaningful and turn into viral distribution. This is no different than the pioneers who built native advertising.
The brand that started the native advertising movement was Jell-O in the early 1900s. While heavily investing in the "traditional" media of the time, the flavored gelatin set itself apart by capturing a then non-traditional medium: the cookbook.
The First Jell-O Cookbook
Jell-O created 15 million recipe books highlighting celebrities' favorite gelatin concoctions, issued for free by salesmen across the country. The brand used these cookbooks to enhance the value of the consumer's desire to entertain, providing them with a means to an end while using the brand as the catalyst to reach that end.
The consumer was placed at the center of the brand experience, and Jell-O reaped the benefits. Within five years of the native advertising movement, Jell-O doubled its sales by tapping into consumers' desire to entertain in an emerging ecosystem in America. Regardless of the decade you are in, that's a result that will make your CEO happy.
Jell-O proved that creating a non-interruptive brand experience could guide sales. The challenge of reaching scale via salesmen, however, limited the reach with which Jell-O could thrive. Procter & Gamble evolved that strategy with a move into media that set the stage for today's digital landscape.
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