Native Advertising — The Next Big Thing in Recruitment Advertising

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Jan 11, 2016
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

I have always encouraged recruiting leaders to borrow effective practices from the business side of the enterprise and to adapt them to the recruiting function. One current opportunity for borrowing is native advertising.

This is a powerful product advertising approach that has proven to be highly effective in engaging Internet and mobile phone users. In case you haven’t heard of it, native advertising is paid content that has the look and feel of the surrounding site so that the information presented does not appear at first glance to be advertising. These ads are called native because they blend in with the natural ambient content, style, and tone of the site.

If you’ve seen late-night infomercials that mimic TV magazine segments which are trying to help the audience member solve a common problem, you have been exposed to an early form of native advertising. The AdWords information that is found on the right-hand column of any Google search is also a form of native advertising. Forbes even allowed Fidelity to place a paid native subtly on the cover of its March 2, 2015, print edition.

Native advertising has become extremely popular on the business side and especially on the mobile platform because banner ads, pop-up ads, and even regular ads are increasingly blocked by technology or they are automatically ignored by the reader. Native ads are usually rich in information, so many of them look like articles, even though the content is focused and written by the sponsoring firm. These ads are placed on sites where the information that they contain are relevant to the visitor. They have great potential and promise in recruiting because they don’t appear to be recruiting ads, so they are more likely to be read by the so-called passive candidate who is not looking for a job. And because they actually do contain useful information, they have a high engagement level. And even after the reader discovers that they are paid content, they generally do not produce a negative reaction.

An Illustration Of A Native Recruiting Advertising

The following section contains an illustration of what a native ad in recruiting would look like. Because the ad is focused on recruiting engineers, it would be placed on a site that is frequented by engineers. A native “in-feed” ad that is described below would appear mixed in with other content. 

Title – 10 Action Steps For Becoming A Great Engineer

Sponsored by Googlebook 

  • Introduction
  • Step #1 through Step #10 descriptions
  • Conclusion

The native ad, in this case, is in an advertorial format (meaning it looks like standard editorial content) so it would describe the 10 action steps in a format that looked like other articles on the site. But within this “ad/article,” the firm Googlebook would be subtly highlighted, and the reader would find periodic quotes from Googlebook engineers and also best-practice examples of how the firm does engineering extremely well. And in addition, the phrase “sponsored by Googlebook” would appear at the beginning or the end of the content.

Immediately after the “article”, there might be what are known as “discover widgets”. These are options to continue learning on the same or related topics. These discover widgets might start with the title “Additional Related Material On The Web.” One of the four options offered might be a link to additional sponsored recruiting content with a title something like “The Best Engineering Firms To Work For.” Clicking on that link would, of course, take you to a site that contains content that highlighted what it’s like to work at Googlebook.

Why Native Advertising Would Be Effective In Recruiting

The reasons why native advertising is so effective in the product and branding areas are also true in recruiting. Those reasons include:

  • They won’t be avoided like a standard advertisement — because they are designed to blend in, they appear to be just another story, infographic, video, Tweet, or an article with an exciting title and relevant content. As a result, Sharethrough reports that native ads are 52 percent more likely to be read by consumers than banner ads.
  • They attract because they contain rich content — whether the native ad appears in the article, video, or infographic format, the majority of the content is valuable to the reader. This means that the reader will be significantly more engaged and they will spend more time viewing it than any other form of advertising.
  • Many will share the rich content — regular ads would likely never be shared with others. But the relevant, rich, and likable content of native ads have a high probability of being “liked” and then shared with others.
  • Their content means they will be read by employed people who are not looking for a job — if you’re not currently looking for a job, any form of job /employer brand advertising will likely be a turnoff. But information related to being more effective in your job will be read by the very best, and the targeted information will positively build the sponsoring firm’s employer brand.
  • They sell without hard selling — because the targeted content must be subtle and organic, these ads convince and persuade without any hard selling.
  • You may become their go-to information site — if readers find your content to be consistently helpful and credible, you may become a trusted source that they use again and again whenever they want to learn more.
  • Popular sites will accept them — because they bring in revenue and satisfy readers, native ads are generally accepted on popular sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Mashable, Forbes, Twitter, Google, the NY Times, and BuzzFeed.

There Are Many Weaknesses Associated With Traditional Recruiting Ads

You should start off questioning the value of standard recruiting advertising because historically there has been very little data proving that it actually results in attracting and hiring individuals who perform better on the job. Also, standard recruiting ads are at a disadvantage when it comes to convincing your target, because their mostly picture format only allows the ad to contain a few words. In addition, because these ads clearly contain 100 percent advertising content, they are often not viewed by the reader as being authentic and credible. And finally, remember that over 80 percent of the population that is not actively looking for a job simply won’t even glance at them, so traditional recruiting ads generally only work for active jobseekers.

Native Advertising Options

Most native ads fit into five basic categories, which include:

  • In-feeds — content that is usually in article, blog, or story format that mirrors or mimics the standard content on the site. In addition to placing in-feeds on sites controlled by others, native content can also be placed on your own corporate career pages.
  • Sponsored content — content that is clearly labeled as sponsored (i.e. sponsored tweets) in order to ensure that you can’t be accused of being overly deceptive.
  • Paid search — ads that appear during a standard search on the site. On Google, they appear in the right-hand column and on Yelp they appear first before the numbered entries.
  • Recommended widgets — options that appear at the end of a native ad that allows the reader to learn more by linking to other usually native advertising sites.
  • Mixed content — content that contains a mix of regular and native advertising.

But Aren’t Native Ads Deceptive?

By mimicking articles and other “pure content,” some have argued that native ads are deceptive. This obviously would be a major concern to the risk-adverse people in recruiting and HR. That argument certainly doesn’t hold up when you label the content as “sponsored.” When you’re using native advertising in recruiting, you are less intrusive because you are not attempting to take the reader’s money. And you might be surprised to learn that if you provide valuable content that is relevant and helpful to the reader, you’ll find that very few object to native advertising, even after they realize its paid content.

Also, remember that its growing popularity and proven effectiveness have made it a standard advertising practice on the business side at most large consumer-oriented firms.

Final Thoughts

You should test using native advertising in recruiting primarily because, in a world where most ads are never even viewed, they work. The fact is that native ads are actually viewed more frequently and their readers are more fully engaged when reading them because they contain useful information and only a subtle employer branding and recruiting push. As more recruiting leaders become aware of this approach, by the end of next year they will become mainstream in recruiting.

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
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