Don't Create Advertisements, Create Experiences

by Chelsea Perino, Big Spaceship

The goal is to create an experience that is more organic and (in theory) optimized per channel. The challenge that brands face, however, is how to make that experience truly authentic.


Embedded marketing was the precursor to native advertising, but the development of digital media has forced brands to reexamine how they bring their ethos to life, and mere product placements are no longer sufficient. Consumers are more sensitive to “being advertised to” than ever before - the combination of these two things has led to what we call native advertising, where a brand message is designed to exist in coherence with the other media that appears on the platform. The goal is to create an experience that is more organic and (in theory) optimized per channel. The challenge that brands face, however, is how to make that experience truly authentic.

How can we utilize the technological formats at our disposal to develop creative that tells our brand story in a way that is authentic to our heritage, but also doesn’t interrupt the user experience on the channel? It comes down to three key factors.

First, it is essential to understand the nuances of each channel. How does consumer behavior differ for each and what kind of experience is most valuable? Understanding how consumers’ expectations differ per channel and what technology they are using to engage with content (is it mobile first or TV, desktop or out of home) should be a key insight that informs the creative approach. But it’s not just about delivering the right kind of content to the right group of people. It’s about creating an organic experience that delivers a valuable content experience in a way that doesn’t interrupt consumers’ natural behavior.

Second, being flexible is essential in creating authentic-feeling content. Consumers expect brands to act like people and messaging that does not reflect the context of its environment creates an inauthentic experience. Being able to adapt your content to conversations taking place in real time will make your message more meaningful and less disruptive.

The last point is all about collaboration. The creative won’t succeed if the medium is not correct, and the brand story won’t be relevant if the targeting is misaligned. Maintaining open communications with cross-functional teams will ensure that the content is optimized per channel and target demo, and that as the digital environment changes, that the content form, messaging, and delivery method adapts accordingly.

When digital advertising first emerged, the ability to not only target different audiences, but actually deliver different kinds of content to each of those audiences based on their behaviors was a challenge. That has dramatically changed in recent years, and there are multiple ad units that help brands deliver their message in the most authentic and non-intrusive manner.

In a recent campaign for a global client, we were tasked with developing a holistic digital content strategy aimed at delivering a consistent brand message to multiple markets through both pre-created and real-time content in various formats. For our message to be relevant in the dynamic digital environment within which this campaign existed, we needed to react immediately, developing content that capitalized on real-time conversations and then placing that content within ad units where it would be most meaningful. The real-time collaboration between the content creation, paid media, and analytic teams allowed us to post hyper-relevant social content, funnel it into dynamic media units, monitor consumer responses, and optimize accordingly within a small-time window. As a result, even though paid media ensured the content reached the right audience on the right channels, that content actually improved consumers’ natural experience as opposed to interfering, thus building brand credibility and adding authenticity to the campaign messaging.

Ultimately, consumers are always going to be sensitive to “advertising”, regardless of the format. When advertising is most successful is when it feels authentic, both to the brand ethos and the manner though which it is experienced.

Chelsea Perino, Big Spaceship

Chelsea Perino, Big Spaceship

About the Author: With an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Linguistics from NYU and after a four-year solo trip around the world, Chelsea Perino first discovered her love for advertising in Cape Town, South Africa. She spent two years as marketing and advertising lead for an experiential marketing start-up, only to return to NYC to pursue her MA in Public and Organizational Relations. Now she’s the Head of Strategy at the Seoul office of an NYC-based advertising agency, focusing on the digital strategy for a global mobile communications brand.