Native Advertising

The term, native advertising, refers to a wide range of interpretations. The basic concept is that the advertising blends into the content with which it is presented. The focus of native advertising is to create ads that blend into their surroundings instead of being the main focus. They exist within the content of the page. A formal definition from the native advertising company Sharethrough: a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed. They go on to state that the native ads match the visual design of the paired content and behave like the natural content on the page.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau addressed the issue in their 2013 The Native Advertising Playbook to provide a framework for native advertising in an attempt to eliminate confusion by providing clarity for terminology and practice.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital advertising or marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, it develops technical standards and best practices. IAB and the IAB Education Foundation are committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., IAB advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. There are 43 IABs licensed to operate in nations around the world and one regional IAB, in Europe. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City and has a San Francisco office.

They identified six core types of native ads: in-feed; paid search; recommendation widgets; promoted listings; in-ad; and a “custom” or ad-hoc category. Some of the elements they recommend for marketers’ consideration are: the ad’s fit with the overall design; the same type of content experience as other elements on the page; that the behaviors of the ad match those of surrounding content; and a clear and prominent disclosure that the content is an ad, sponsored, promoted, etc.

Click here for more from the IAB for their 2018 Branded Content Creation and Distribution Guide.

eMarketer has estimated that nearly 60% of ad spending this year in the U.S. will be native advertising. It has also been estimated that by 2021, native advertising will reach revenues of almost 75% of the U.S. advertising market. This type of ad creates a more pleasant user experience than traditional sales pitch ads. Customer trust and loyalty are nurtured when a brand’s advertising is assimilated into the viewer’s existing user experience. Native advertising should align with the style and tone of the publication and provide the type of information the publisher’s audience would typically expect.

The combination of native ads with user-generated content such as reviews, comments, survey results, etc. provides even more social proof and builds trust. It was found that almost half of consumers have no idea what native advertising is but the honeymoon period will end when more people figure out what is really being presented. Tricks and deception will eventually break down the trust levels of those consumers.

As consumers evolve, marketers will learn to change their tactics to better engage viewers. Native ads (should) subtly offer a product or service compatible with the content being viewed and are most successful when they present themselves as a solution or answer to whatever the user was looking for versus presenting as a flat-out money-making attempt. Native advertisements are less overbearing than banners and other types of outright brand advertising. They are a form of non-disruptive advertising.

Studies have shown that native advertising captures more attention than traditional ads. In fact,  consumers look at native ads 53% more than other ads which is important when you consider that the average person spends less than one second looking at a digital ad. They have higher viewing rates, increased engagement, and a greater number of conversions. Sharethrough and Nielsen utilized eye tracking technology to study how consumers visually process ads. Their study found that 25% more consumers looked at in-feed ads vs. standard banners.

Native advertising dominates social media, it’s around 96% of social advertising, as it appears more authentically to viewers on those platforms. And when you consider that 68% of adults use Facebook and over 60% of Instagram users log into their accounts daily, it is a sensible use of resources. While social platforms are earning a great deal of revenue from native ads, the publishing industry is not far behind in their efforts to integrate native ads into their desktop and mobile offerings. Native ads have widely been found to offer increased click through rates and leads. Many brands have also experienced an increase in their number of followers as a result of their native advertising efforts.

The general public is fascinated with video and native advertising videos are rapidly becoming a go-to format. Mobile video advertising is expected to grow to almost $10 billion this year which will encourage continued development of new video options like 360 video, vertical video, etc. Approximately 77% of mobile ads are currently native and that statistic is expected to continue to grow as we move forward.

Native advertising requires that individual ads be created for each platform or publisher to narrow in on the targeted demographic of that channel. In addition, channel specific strategies are important. Facebook is best suited for shorter videos with no sound and subtitles whereas YouTube is a fabulous setting for longer videos with audio. Instagram is the place for promoted stories ads and the use of influencers to promote brands. A note of caution when utilizing influencers – there are guidelines that mandate disclosure to consumers that the influencer is being compensated for making a sales pitch, regardless of how organic the endorsement appears to be.

86% of readers say they are okay with native ads that are clearly labeled as advertisements. There are some, however, who feel that native advertising is unsustainable. They believe that consumers will come to realize the ads for what they are, a sales pitch, and that the practice will lower the sense of trustworthiness towards the brand and publisher. Naysayers also think that ad blockers will become more sophisticated and thereby impede the reach of native ads. And there is a belief that the industry is restricted in that the ratio of content to ads is finite before the ads being to interfere with the original content on the page. There are concessions made, however, that a native advertising strategy will work when presented as an integrated buying opportunity or when the advertising content is presented without being overly promotional.

Another challenge for native advertising is that it can be interpreted as deceptive or unethical. Both the brand and publisher can become targets for unhappy consumers who feel tricked. One strategy that can, however, help the brand and publisher combat this issue is to utilize ads that open on the same website instead of transporting the reader to another site.

All ads should provide additional, value-added information to the content being displayed on the page. The best results are achieved when native ads create organic interest. This happens when brands utilize channels their target audience is already using and acknowledge that high-quality content builds long-term relationships with high-quality customers. Low-quality content just comes across as a hard sell or click-bait and will offend consumers. Not to mention it isn’t a good idea to violate FTC rules regarding deceptive advertising.

Whether it is a sponsored post on a social platform or an entire article sponsored on a news website, native ads are likely to continue to grow in popularity and effectiveness. To learn more about how you can make this marketing approach work for your brand, contact Strategy Driven Marketing