While planning the media spend for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, ad agency Mediasmith turned to Distroscale, which allowed the team to leverage existing content to connect with readers about the hospital at scale.
“Native advertising had a key role to play in our plan,” said Greg Pomaro, SVP/media director at Mediasmith. “It has more real estate, and formats, from video to text. It gives us a chance to use the content pieces and case studies that the hospital produces to talk about various centers of excellence.”
Distroscale, a toddler-aged native ad tech company, has focused both on building the technology to display native posts across sites and on bringing supply and demand to these formats.
For the campaign, the hospital was able to use its existing content and distribute it through Distroscale. That saved the hospital the time and effort of creating new pieces for each individual publisher, since many publishers doing sponsored content create custom pieces specific to their properties.
The overall campaign was focused on strengthening the association between the hospital, a well-known facility in the Bay Area, and its parent, the Stanford University School of Medicine. “We’re trying to strengthen the brand association as they go through rebranding and to talk about Stanford Children’s Health. That’s not the easiest story to tell,”Pomaro said.
But the hospital had one thing on its side: its ability to tell emotionally engaging stories that “communicated the care they take with the kids” to make their hospital experience compassionate for fearful kids,Pomaro said. Native gave the hospital a chance to tell its story and emotionally connect with readers, through posts like “13-Year-Old’s Lungs Filled With Laughter after a Double Lung Transplant” and “A Novel Approach to Brain Surgery for Children.”
Those posts created by the medical center could then be distributed to a broader network of sites without having to strike a deal with each publisher.
Using Distroscale, Mediasmith geotargeted the campaign to the Bay Area to give the client the audience it wanted, a key feature that helped drive results.
Distroscale signed on local media outlets where Mediasmith wanted placement. The agency has insight into where the posts showed up, key for an advertiser who wanted brand safety.
“We’re going for a certain quality of environment. The ability to have tight controls over where message is displayed, and being able to choose brand-appropriate environments was important,”Pomaro said.
Mediasmith measured performance using Distroscale’s engagement metrics. The results matched up with the gut feelings many in the industry have about native.
“Native is less interruptive,”Pomaro said. “It’s self-directed, so if a user sees something that intrigues them, they can do deeper. Brands have a larger landscape in terms of telling a story.”
Roughly 10 times more people clicked from the preview to the full article compared to an average display ad click-through rate. Users who read the full article spent an average of 105 seconds on the page. And 86% scrolled through the content, which Distroscale uses as a measure of engagement.
To measure brand lift, Mediasmith uses brand tracker tools, as well as ones provided by Nielsen, to “gauge where we are gaining traction” with the brand, Pomaro said.
Distroscale’s reporting allows Mediasmith to see “which stories are resonating, and shift rotation of stories,”Pomaro said. The hospital is in the midst of its second big push for the yearlong campaign.
“We’re happy with the progress we’re making, we may make some changes in Q4 of this year, and increase our presence through partners like Distroscale, and putting more into native,”Pomaro said.
At Mediasmith, native is handled by the same digital team that plans everything from set-top boxes, mobile, video and social.Pomaro estimated about 4-5% of budgets are going to native across the agency. He said that number could double as the company moves into planning for 2015. Only video is experiencing similar growth.
He said he especially sees native as a way to reach people on mobile devices.
“There is more content being consumed on mobile platforms, and native gives us a chance to deliver a richer experience,”Pomaro said. “The desktop-style banners on mobile that you saw in the early days were not the best ad experience.”
But the benefits of native do not stop at mobile. “Native gives clients an opportunity for genuine storytelling,”Pomaro said.