ADOTAS — Pop quiz: For the images below, can you tell promoted content from original content?
“Featured,” “sponsored,” “promoted,” “allied” and “presented” – these are just a sample of the terms used to describe native advertisements on publisher pages.
With users becoming more sophisticated and blind to ad placements on pages or apps they view, advertisers must find alternative ways to capture attention.
Native advertising is intended to present promoted content in an unobtrusive and positive way – ideally giving the user free content they want and in return providing positive exposure for the brand.
The advertiser benefits from higher user attention, brand awareness and, in some cases, conversions – all without the negative after-taste that disruptive ads can leave with users. That’s likely why a recent study by eMarketer reveals that 73% of publishers offer native advertising on their sites and predicts that number will increase.
The new optimization
Content, and especially native content, is increasingly being curated to match user behavior on the publisher’s page. In fact, native advertising is ripe for dynamic content optimization – as a way to deliver relevant content in the form of an article, or a video report recommended specifically for the user based on habits, interests and consumption preferences (i.e. articles vs. videos vs. mobile).
Without standards to native ad formats, ‘ads’ can be in any form – from an image to an article or even a video. As a result, native advertising is evolving into every media form, from product placements and mentions in TV shows and feature films to what Mercedes Benz did last summer. Mercedes picked 5 top-followed Instagram photographers and handed them a brand new CLA Benz for a week, asking them to document and share their experiences via Instagram. The photographer with the most ‘likes’ could keep the car for three years. Thus Mercedes brand photos were embedded in feeds of popular Instagram users – native advertising in disguise.
To create effective advertising in this environment, agencies will need to bump up their skill set from rich media content creation to copywriting in order to legitimize native content and even increase the likelihood of positive objective reviews by popular bloggers or reviewers.
Adding to the challenge is that there are no standard benchmarks for this form of advertising because formats and final ads are fragmented in design, features and content. Ads also require tailoring of content to the publisher (unlike display ad campaigns where the same ad can run across multiple publishers). Measurement is complex, too. It’s easier to compare the performance of a 300×250 ad across multiple publishers with different content types than to compare a native article ad to a native image ad on tumblr.
The publisher viewpoint
Looking at native advertising from a Publisher’s perspective, there’s value in providing content that is relevant to the user and to utilizing less disruptive ad formats. The key is for advertisers and publishers to partner in the creation of innovative, tailored content that seems natural and entertaining to the user.
CTRs have dropped from 9% to 0.2% average in 10 years, with users becoming less tolerant of display ads and more likely to ignore them. The move towards native advertising is a sensible one, and even the biggest social networks already adapted this monetization model, as Twitter offers ‘Promoted Tweets,” and Facebook offers “Sponsored Stories.”
Innovation in native advertising is a joint mission for both publishers and advertisers, to find the right balance of user-relevant content, non-disruptive brand ads and ROI for both parties.