Postmedia’s Montreal Gazette partnered with the local Concordia University to create a robust native advertising campaign about the future of the city, including urban development, gentrification around subway lines, city planning, economy, and parks planning for the green and blue spaces of Montreal Island.

The “Showcase Concordia” campaign demonstrates the quintessential formula for successful native advertising:

  1. Tailor made for advertisers who want brand rub-off for in-depth and impactful coverage of engaging topics.
  2. Liberal use of multiple media: video, graphics, text, and social media.
  3. Well-researched and written content.
  4. Thoroughly labeled as sponsored when Postmedia writers create the content; labeled as advertising when advertisers create the content.

Concordia University’s main goal was to change the perception of the school from a fine arts school to a university with leading researchers and experts, by showcasing its researchers and explaining how their research impacts the daily lives of Montrealers.

An effective native advertising campaign never loses sight of the interests of its audience, and provides content that is useful to readers.
An effective native advertising campaign never loses sight of the interests of its audience, and provides content that is useful to readers.

The campaign exceeded expectations of usership and shareability because it tapped into citizens’ interests around the Je Vois Montréal/Future of Montreal debate and the 375th anniversary of the city, according to one of its producers.

“We try to achieve that from all campaigns. We want [a campaign] to be entertaining, enlightening, and useful,” says Olivia Collette, native advertising producer for Postmedia, who wrote the campaign’s 10 articles about the future of Montreal. “The challenge is always to find the story angle that will be useful to the reader.”

Collette is a part of Content Works, the native advertising department at Postmedia, which launched in 2014. The department has grown its permanent staff, and brought on hundreds of freelance writers, videographers, and designers.

The “Showcase Concordia” campaign comprised a five-part, 10-week print, tablet, Web, and video series in 2016. It won first place in INMA’s Global Media Awards in May 2016.

In addition to the articles, the campaign included five infographics and five videos tied into the future of Montreal theme. The elements were used to drive traffic through social media channels. The content met or exceeded its usership objectives:

  • Targeted, sponsored content page views set at 10,000, but reached 14,333 pages, 40% over the target.
  • More than 347 hours of reading were spent on Concordia sponsored content stories among the 11,488 unique visitors to those pages.
  • A combined 65 hours of video was consumed over 3,666 video views.
  • Average social media engagement was more than 1.2%, surpassing the target of 1% engagement.
  • Content was retweeted even by peers at competing universities.
  • The click-through rateon client brand ads within sponsored pages was four times the rate of those same ads outside the sponsored pages (or the Internet average CTR of .08%).
  • Concordia visibility online reached 1,761,000 impressions (brand, co-brand, touch points and social media).
  • Print reach totaled 2,350,000 gross impressions (Montreal Gazette average daily readership times ad frequency).

The engagement and interest are no accident, Collette says. The content has been carefully prepared by seasoned journalists.

“To put it bluntly, I think for native advertising to be interesting, it needs a journalist’s touch,” Collette says. “It has to be overseen by a producer who understands how to make the videos and graphics interesting to the reader. We are thinking of the reader all the time, the experience they are having with their content. We are trying to not make it too sales-y. We have that experience. We have that sensibility.”

Native advertising producers are a special hybrid, able to navigate both advertising and editorial expectations and objectives, she says.

“I am on the sales floor,” she adds. “This makes me privy to the realities of the sales floor. I can help deliver story ideas. I can help them orient their strategies and create content that is enlightening and entertaining.”

INMA members: Click here to download released a strategic report, “Native Advertising Trends 2016: The News Media Industry.”