Globe and Mail ups the ante on native advertising

Newspaper launches sponsored content program across its mobile and desktop sites

Jeff Fraser October 27, 2014

Adhering closely to editorial content style, GE's sponsored content will have adjacent display ads

Adhering closely to editorial content style, GE’s sponsored content will have adjacent display ads

After a successful pilot program with General Electric in April, The Globe and Mail has decided to launch a full-fledged sponsored content program across its mobile and desktop sites.

Sponsored content, developed collaboratively by the Globe‘s brand partnership division and creative agencies, will appear as native advertising on the its desktop and mobile sites.

The GE campaign featured written articles by the Globe staff, infographics and videos in the Report on Business. The net result was very strong, said the newspaper’s chief revenue officer Andrew Saunders.

“Inevitably we felt that if clients wanted to place high quality branded content alongside our award-winning editorial content, it would really provide a powerful context that would resonate with the consumer — and fundamentally, we have seen that,” he said.

Though he wouldn’t share details about the GE campaign’s performance, he said it scored much higher than industry benchmarks on click-through rates, referral traffic and average read time. The Globe used Polar’s MediaVoice platform to display and measure its content.

Canadian legacy publishers have looked to native advertising as a new revenue stream as print ad revenues have waned. Like the Globe, Postmedia and the Canadian Press both have divisions that focus on creating branded content.

“Some of [our clients] are striving to become publishers in their own right, to connect with the audience and drive engagement through content. We’ve seen an increase in interest, and we want to bring more and more value to our customer base,” said Saunders.

However, the rising popularity of native has also sparked backlash from some consumers concerned that publishers are compromising their editorial integrity by working so closely with advertisers. The critique was typified by a viral rant from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight in August.
Saunders said the key to successful native advertising is transparency. Native ads in the Globe are clearly labeled as sponsored content.

“You never want to mislead the reader, and you don’t ever want to impact the trust the reader has with the brand. That goes for both the advertiser and publisher,” he said. “If you deliver on [readers’] expectations, and you are transparent that it is sponsored content, consumers will engage with and participate in it. That’s what we took away from the GE product.”

He said while there are no current plans to expand The Globe and Mail‘s brand partnership division, its continuing success may make it a bigger focus for the company in the future.