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Q&A: Mark Howard, CRO Forbes Media, on Creating Native Advertising Content

June 25, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy
Member Spotlight

This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights… If you want to learn more, keep an eye out on our site for more interviews. Today’s Three on Three interview is with Mark Howard, CRO Forbes Media on Creating Native Advertising Content.

Mark Howard HeadshotQ: Describe the importance of quality content in the Native Advertising value proposition:

A: As with editorial content, quality brand content is key for an advertiser to remain relevant and achieve credibility and impact. Some typical hallmarks of quality are, of course, accuracy, craftsmanship and usefulness to the audience. But it’s important to note that those characteristics can mean different things in different contexts. That’s why contextual relevance is also critical to a quality experience. What may work contextually in one environment, site, social media network or native ad placement may feel out of place−or not resonate as well−with the audience in another.

At Forbes, we review each potential partner’s content plan to determine whether that content would be relevant for the Forbes business journalism audience. We have guidelines for the nature of the content on our site. The content itself is not a place for marketers to promote products or services but rather a forum to provide domain expertise and insights and authentically engage with the Forbes.com audience. Members of our team work closely with our digital partners to share their years of expertise in the digital content landscape, and we share those lessons and collaborate with marketers to help them achieve success.

Q: Describe the way in which your organization handles the creation of Native Advertising content:

A: Forbes gives marketers a voice as experts in their fields to share their thought leadership and storytelling on Forbes.com and in Forbes magazine. Marketers have direct publishing access to Forbes.com. We first launched BrandVoice (then called AdVoice) in 2010, which emerged from a visionary philosophy that perceived the web and burgeoning social networks as great equalizer and merit-based information sharing systems. A variety of voices–whether it’s the voice of journalists, audience members or marketers–now has a chance to be heard. The audience “votes” through engagement.

In 2013, Forbes BrandVoice articles garnered more than 11 million page views. Partners have also seen benefits from their BrandVoice campaigns beyond article engagement. For example, a contributor from one of our partners received an invitation to advise government officials on her area of expertise–cloud computing−based on the exposure and credibility she earned via the Forbes BrandVoice platform.
Q: What types of marketing initiatives lend themselves best to leveraging Native Advertising and how can they be designed to better deliver on their objectives?

A: Brand content should serve the audience first. It should be useful to the audience in some way, it should be aligned with the marketer’s identity, and it should also make sense contextually within the environment where it’s being featured natively. Forbes readers expect authentic business thought leadership and storytelling aligned with a marketer’s expertise and ethos. On another site, the audience may expect, for example, entertainment or life science information.

Three pieces of advice for marketers for brand content programs:

  1.  Commit to and resource brand content as a permanent initiative for your brand, with an ever-growing body of work. This is especially key as social and smartphone usage continues to rise. Content commands attention on the smaller screens and on social media.
  2. Think and act like a publisher, information provider, journalist, storyteller and/or entertainer. If you don’t know how, hire or work with people who do.
  3. Consider your brand content program one important piece of your overall brand marketing and advertising strategy that aims to broaden reach, drive awareness and trust, and increase exposure. A great brand content program works in concert with—but is itself different—than other types of advertising and marketing within your brand universe.

And some advice for publishers would be:

  1.  First and foremost, be transparent and provide clear disclosure about the source of the content.
  2. Make your brand content programs truly native and contextually relevant to the spirit and goals of your environment, avoiding commoditized native advertising shortcuts that aren’t truly native, aren’t contextually relevant and aren’t useful to the audience.
  3. Teach your partners to become great publishers. Guide them strategically. Share metrics openly.

Mark Howard is Chief Revenue Officer at Forbes Media. In this role, he is responsible for the U.S. and European digital and print sales organization, marketing and advertising solutions. Previously, he was SVP of Digital Advertising Strategy. Howard also held the position of SVP and VP of Digital Advertising Sales for Forbes Media, overseeing the global sales team in its online sales efforts as well leading the Western Region team in its integrated sales efforts. Howard joined Forbes Media as a Regional Sales Manager in 2002. During his time at Forbes, he has also served as West Coast Digital Sales Director and Western Region Director of Integrated Sales. Prior to joining Forbes Media, Howard held sales positions at Inc. and Fast Company magazines, as well as E-Trade Financial. He began his career as a media planner at Anderson & Lembke.

Note: This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights.

Also in this series:

Q&A: Mike Kisseberth, Chief Revenue Officer of Purch, on Creating Native Advertising Content
Q&A: Edward Menicheschi, VP & publisher of Vanity Fair, on Creating Native Advertising Content

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