I'm getting more and more used to the term native advertising.
The term 'content' has always struck me as so nondescript and dull. Like 'stuff'.
If we see the predicted rise in content marketing, expect to see plenty more forgettable branded words and pictures for audiences to scroll right past and ignore.
I'm sure there will brands trying to reach the heights of Red Bull's Stratos project too. But these impersonators will undoubtedly fall short.
The brands that will really get noticed are the true content natives. These are the brands that obsess about appealing to an audience first and then the customer second.
To get noticed, brands can't just tag themselves onto a category interest piece. Or dip their toe in the water of publishing.
They need to contribute to the story in a more meaningful way. They need to have the inspiration and commitment to try to become a lead protagonist - or at the very least a great sidekick.
Just like authors imagine characters in a story, brands need to find their motivation: to go back to their DNA and to be clear about their purpose in shaping events.
Some brands are treading new ground in this space - becoming so 'at one with' the story, that the dividing lines between business, services, brand, advertising and entertainment are blurring.
Intel Creators Project with Vice media has been running since 2010, collaborating with more than 500 creators across the world. This was no one-off and they have proved themselves a genuine contributor to innovation. And the story has just taken an interesting twist with the 'Make it wearable' challenge. This programme sets out to find and support the best thinkers across the world in the wearable tech space. This project puts storytelling at the heart of a very real business challenge and who knows where it will lead? I know I'll be following where it goes with Intel.
Red Bull is so far ahead in this space it's dizzying. Their collaborations with athletes, filmmakers, event organizers and even N.A.S.A are pushing the limits of what we know sports and entertainment to be. This is no traditional sponsorship set-up. They are not just buying their way into this. You get a very real sense that these guys are helping dream all this crazy stuff up and make it happen. They've definitely been on the Red Bull.
And closer to home; Go Think Big, O2's collaboration with Bauer, is more than a content media buy. It's a joint commitment that delivered 9,334 work skills experiences for young people in the UK in one year. It created a content platform for young people to learn what it takes to get ahead in the world of work. The website serves 155,000 monthly visitors. O2 brings the digital know-how to the partnership. This is good experience for young people and good for the credibility of the brand as it wants to be known as more than a traditional Telecomms business. The collaboration is also creating interesting tie-ups with music artists, another brand passion, which resulted in a unique video for Rizzle Kicks made with the help of work experiencers.
Just a few examples of how authentic native advertisers go about their business, blending corporate (with a small c) agendas, really tapping into their audiences and collaborating with parters in a dynamic way to create projects that are turning out to be stand-out brand stories for our times.
Stay tuned for more in 2014.