If you’ve read Buzzfeed, Mashable, Forbes, The Atlantic or even The New Yorker lately, you’ve seen them. “Native ads” are the hottest trend in media marketing, and are basically promotional material dressed in journalism’s clothing. For Buzzfeed, that might mean a “Top 10 Superhero Movies” list sponsored by Marvel. Forbes actually allows marketers to publish blog posts on its site through its BrandVoice program.
Native advertising may be working for some, but others are skeptical of how these ads blur the lines between editorial content and advertising. A recent report by MediaBrix found 66% of U.S. web users find advertorials that look like content to be misleading.
Now, two Canadian entrepreneurs want to flip the native ad proposition on its head: instead of making ads that look like content, they want to use content as ads. Brothers Peyman and Pirouz Nilforoush, who recently sold their online display ad network NetShelter, have now started inPowered. Their goal is to help brands use what experts, bloggers and journalists are already saying about them as ads. Marketers can choose from a collection of articles by influential sources, curated by inPowered’s algorithm, and then post a link to the piece in place of the usual online ad. Instead of an ad for the Chevy Volt, readers would see a headline and link to an article on electric cars from an established media source. “As more and more voices pile onto the Internet, it’s actually become more difficult for people to know who to listen to,” says Peyman. “We saw an opportunity for brands to help people break through the noise to find subject experts they can trust.”
A Marketing Evolution study commissioned by inPowered late last year found that when consumers read something positive about a product or brand from a credible source, it increases purchase intent by 50%.
So far, inPowered has about 50 employees across offices in Silicon Valley, Toronto and New York, and an impressive client list that includes Chevy, Samsung, Verizon, Microsoft, LG and Sprint.
“It’s more honest, sincere and transparent way to promote your products,” says Peyman. “When people read an article that comes from a source they trust, it shapes their opinion much more than any ad possibly can.”