Radio Still Leads the Way in Native Advertising

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Vice President and Group Leader

A recent profile in New York magazine looked at Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti and his groundbreaking advertising strategy. Peretti, like many media experts, knows that these days people are slowly learning to tune out traditional ads.

With fast-forward available for most TV-viewers and an array of ad-blocking software for the web, it’s becoming harder for advertisers to break through. The solution that Buzzfeed’s Peretti found was simple: integrate paid advertising subtly within regular content.

BuzzFeed’s model, known in the industry as “native advertising,” has caused some trepidation among traditional ad agencies, which see its potential to cut out their intermediary role. It’s also the sort of intermingling of editorial content and business—“church and state”—that used to be considered heretical at any respectable journalism institution. But times change, revenue streams dry up, and now other publishers are watching with desperate interest. Prestigious publications like The Atlantic and the Washington Post are playing with strategies similar to BuzzFeed’s. Like a joyful scourge, Peretti is simultaneously fanning the flames that are disrupting the old media business model and promising that he has constructed a new, lucrative one.

But Peretti isn’t inventing anything new. Native advertising has and continues to be a staple in radio advertising. Peretti is reinventing a time-tested marketing technique for a digital era. Every time morning talk show hosts mention a brand new gadget or experience at a local business, native advertising is at work.

As a matter of fact, radio is the unparalleled medium for native advertising. The Altitude Group is incredibly successful at building brand stories that are contextually relevant for brands like Wendy’s and Bank of America. Take a look at this speech given last year by Altitude Group President Rich Lobel for an example of integrated native advertising through the case study of Allstate.

As you can tell, Native advertising needn’t sound like an ad at all. Marketers know that word of mouth is often more effective than the interruptive messaging. Because radio hosts build strong relationships of trust within their local communities, a story about a great meal in a restaurant often entices consumers more effectively than traditional spots.

But this isn’t the era of The Dinah Shore Chevy Show or the Texaco Star Theater. Effective native advertising consists of stories and messages that are seamlessly embedded into programming.

Radio marketers could certainly take a cue from Buzzfeed, whose native advertising strategy revolves around sponsored content that people actually want to read and share. So rather than the news and weather brought to you by Acme, focus on generating great compelling stories about Acme products. Your consumers will appreciate it, and so will your boss when they see the return on your investment.

And any good native advertising campaign will work across different platforms. Even Buzzfeed’s native advertising is delivered through a one-two punch. Users might read an article about Virgin Mobile and then later on see a display ad on Facebook. And radio isn’t the only arrow in CBS’ quiver of local media assets. Cross platform components like outdoor, digital, TV and Twitter conversations are critical parts of our arsenal.

So next time you hear buzz about “native” advertising, remember that when it comes to reaching consumers locally, nobody does it like CBS.