Native Advertising: A guide of native advertising in Singapore

 This was a sponsored post by The Smart Local under the Master Report series. 

It’s hard to reconcile that it’s only been 10 years since Singaporeans used Teletext to check movie timings, and students tuned to radio stations while burning the midnight oil for their O-Levels. Then the internet came along and completely disrupted the media industry. And, in turn, the world of advertising.

Those who failed to adapt quickly enough became the Kodak and Toys“R”Us cautionary tales we know today. But let’s look closer to home.

The paradigm shift in Singapore’s media landscape

The first breakthrough dawned in the early 2000s when content began appearing online. Ever since, households have been ditching newspaper and magazine subscriptions, culminating in this year’s closure of TODAY’s newspaper print edition and SPH’s retrenchments making headlines.

As the Thomas Edisons of our time invented Facebook and YouTube, the diversity of content types exploded. Back then, a train breakdown in Singapore would have been followed up with a report in the national paper the next morning. Today, memes and gifs infiltrate our Facebook timelines within minutes. It’s old news by the time the paper reaches your doorstep.

Before consumers and brands could buckle down properly, a second breakthrough was catalysed by a serendipitous blessing for Singaporeans – a price war among the telcos. Data grew affordable and people consumed content over 3G networks with less restraint. Now, we could watch videos on the MRT without holding out for Wi-Fi. It was the advent of videos on social media.

In tandem, these developments paved the way for a new phenomenon. How do advertisers get noticed by consumers who had the world’s library of content at their fingertips? The answer: Native advertising.

Why it's tough to be a digital marketer in 2017

Any brand can hop onto the bandwagon – it takes only minutes to create a Facebook page and start posting – but chances are, this content will go straight into the internet’s clutter that Facebook’s algorithm is specifically designed to filter away.

Marketers react to poor performance by boosting their posts, not realising the harm in this “instinctive” call. Boosting good content that is already getting likes, shares and comments amplifies its existing results and raises your ROI. Boosting bad content is throwing marketing dollars away while perpetuating a mistake.

Marketers and publishers

This can be attributed to one thing – knowledge gaps. Companies attempting digital marketing for the first time lack understanding, and in the process of learning, burn tens of thousands of dollars and even jeopardise their brand’s reputation. Content remains a big question mark to them.

Digital marketing is intuitive for publishers. It is their bread and butter to escape the clutter every single day of the year. The best creators in Singapore can reach more than 100,000 people organically with each post, and perceptive marketers have learnt to trust them with content creation while focusing on improving their core product.

Getting started with native advertising: The future of selling things

  1. Understand what “good” content is

“Good” content may be subjective to individuals, but Facebook’s algorithm has a definitive verdict and identifies the posts people are sharing as “good” content. Audience is king. This favours publishers who consistently deliver a product the king loves, and publishers with a solid track record of high engagement do just that.

  1. Seek endorsement from respected publishers

Imagine choosing a movie to watch for the weekend. After watching the trailer, the “research” for a second opinion continues on IMDb. Why? Because every marketing team will tell you its film is the “blockbuster of the year”.

Native advertising is the second opinion. An influential publisher shares an affinity with readers that brands cannot replicate, because consumers perceive their social media pages as an “ownself say ownself” sales pitch. But when publishers lend their narratives to brands, magic happens. People start to listen. Advertisements become persuasive.

Marketers must realise they are not just paying for words and footage, but also an invisible stamp of approval that only credible publications can provide.

  1. Understand the different platforms

Good marketers look at numbers. Great marketers understand the quality of these numbers.

A YouTube vlog and a Facebook video may accumulate 100,000 views each, but they differ greatly in quality. In a closed network such as YouTube, viewers actively choose to stay subscribed, and make conscious decisions to watch videos. An eight-minute video can easily obtain an average watch time of six minutes.

On the other hand, Facebook counts three seconds of a video being watched as one view, and this is easily clocked even as you scroll through your feed. The average watch time is a mere 10 seconds. Would you fork out the same amount for 10-second and six-minute views?

Not all videos are meant to be short, and while Facebook videos are still an effective marketing tool, due consideration has to be given based on marketing objectives. Editorial, YouTube and Instagram are also relevant in Singapore’s digital sphere, and it’s ideal to work with publishers that utilise a medley of platforms.

  1. Prioritise brand alignment

The final step is weaving your advertising efforts into content the publisher creates every day, so they effectively become the regular articles and videos its audience enjoys. Only publishers that are highly skilled in ideation can execute this soft-sell strategy naturally, and marketers can spot them by looking at their track records.

Most importantly, the advertiser’s brand values must align with the publisher’s. A credit card wanting to promote travel booking benefits should approach a publication known as an authority in travel, and the same principle applies to other verticals such as parenting and beauty. Again, you do not just want engagement. You want quality engagement.

The evolution has only just begun

It’s not the strongest or most intelligent who survive, but the most adaptable to change. Digital marketers must be quick at learning and unlearning – whether it’s a tweak in Facebook’s algorithm or a new disruption. Evolve or become obsolete.

And right now, the future of marketing is here – native advertising. Start a native advertising campaign for your brand today. Reach out to us at

This writer is Joyce Yang, senior content strategist, The Smart Local.

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