ADOTAS — Native ads have been getting a lot of buzz lately as the next evolution of advertising, blurring the lines between promotional and editorial content. While online and mobile display is still witnessing double-digit annual growth, according to recent polls, consumers, and especially teens, are tuning out traditional banners as they read and interact with digital content online, especially on their mobile devices.
In a significant step towards the validation of native ad formats, the publishing powerhouse Hearst launched its mobile native ad program this week, unveiling five new “sponsored features” ad units that will let brands hock their products across all of its digital platforms, including video, mobile, websites, and even social networks.
Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, alluded to this move in an a May 10 interview with Ad Age.
“There’s a lot to come on the native side, and I’m glad the market is rallying around the idea,” said Young, “but really it’s a natural evolution of doing a couple of things: Making the advertising fit more elegantly in the content experience, and making it more interesting and removing the friction from consuming it, which was always the problem with legacy advertising experiences.”
Young goes on to say that every publisher is going to have to incorporate native ads in the future and the main obstacle is making them appealing to readers.
The native advertising solutions suite is comprised of five content options:
- Developing Story: A page that features evolving stories on a specific theme and can live on multiple sites across the network. Contextual content from an advertiser is paired with a specific developing story (see Esquire image above).
- Trend Collage: A brand-specific photo grid around a topic that resembles a pinboard, which may be curated by editors or built with advertiser images. This solution also enables ecommerce, allowing for click-to-buy transactions. (see Elle image below).
- Video Playgroup: This solution aggregates ultra-short form, themed video content into a single page, and includes videos developed by or for advertisers that can be served across multiple sites to optimize scale.
- Social Live Stream: This vibrant scroll integrates selected tweets, Pinterest pins and social media posts onto a sponsored page around a theme – fashion week, auto show, etc. Marketers may also integrate social media posts from their experts.
- Mobile Flipbook: An image-based mobile ad unit that highlights the top content on the site. Marketers receive placement in this unit, which drives traffic to a sponsored flipbook.
“These new solutions allows us to deliver real time opportunities for marketers in a way that is native and authentic to the user experience,” said Kristine Welker, CRO of Hearst Magazines Digital Media. “Native advertising is not new to Hearst. Our next-generation native solutions are multi-dimensional, work in conjunction with many platforms and scale across our brands and portfolio of sites, because to be truly native, you can’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”
Supporters of native advertising believe Hearst’s move is a step in the right direction.
“Hearst’s announcement today further validates the movement toward native advertising by major media companies and brand advertisers,” said Ken Willner, CEO of mobile native ad company Zumobi. “In particular, native advertising on the mobile platform is ideal because it provides brands with new possibilities to connect with their audiences in both content and context specific ways.”
“It’s no surprise to see a big name like Hearst make moves in native advertising, added Diaz Nesamoney, CEO of Jivox. “We are seeing editorial content and branded content blend together more than ever before, so native ads are not only a natural, but a smart, progression. Hearst is approaching the format the right way by ensuring their ads are scalable and can run seamlessly across platforms – a common challenge in native advertising.”