ADOTAS — While the trend of native advertising has the ad world abuzz, actual native advertising is as old as the soap operas. The ideal of advertising is to seamlessly integrate branding and brand storytelling into content or entertainment so that it enhances the consumer experience rather than detracts from it.
Native ads won’t mean the death of journalism because consumers value quality editorial-driven content. So, native is a powerful tool marketers are adding to their broader marketing mix to deliver authentic consumer attention and engagement across devices and platforms.
Unfortunately, some executions served under the name of native are anything but native.
Native Finally Defined
There’s fuss over what native is and isn’t. My take? Native is the ability to inject a brand’s storytelling, either text or video or both, directly within a publisher’s editorial content well, clearly disclaimed and perfectly matched to the design, look and feel of the site and surrounding editorial content. When users select a true native ad, they stay within the publisher site to consume the content. This is seamless, fully integrated and completely native to the site experience. That is the definition of true native advertising, and the execution that delivers the maximum impact, effectiveness and value to brand marketer efforts.
A Growing Trend
How big is native? Marketers spent $43.9 billion on custom content production and distribution in 2012, and the OPA reports that 90 percent of publishers plan to offer some form of native advertising product by the end of the year. Who’s doing it? Who’s not?
Well-established publications like Forbes, Buzzfeed, WebMD, CNN Money, AOL, Entrepreneur, Source Interlink, Maxim, Reader’s Digest, and The New York Times have responded to increased advertiser demand for native. This follows social networks like Facebook and Twitter offering Sponsored Posts and Promoted Tweets. Even LinkedIn launched Sponsored Updates, Pinterest is launching Promoted Pins, and Instagram will likely go native as well.
Solving the Problem of Scale
Executing native campaigns seamlessly across multiple publications, cross platform and cross device, remains a problem for marketers. At MSLGROUP we work mainly with the foremost experts doing native at scale, a company called Nativo, so our campaign operation workflow is simple, automated, and puts us in complete control of our native initiatives.
We have access to Nativo’s more than 1,500 publisher publications, our content creative auto-optimizes based on user response, and real-time data analytics show us what’s resonating so we can adapt our broader marketing initiatives on the fly. Transparency and targeting round out our must-haves.
The Promise of Native
Native is a fantastic tool to drive upper funnel metrics like awareness, preference and favorability. IPG Media Lab has seen brand lift and purchase intent metrics rise 40% to 50% using native campaigns. E-marketer found that this was especially true of bullish mobile marketers: “Nearly all respondents reported that native ads were very or somewhat effective at achieving these goals.”
Our experience backs this up: Our native campaigns have performed 5x-20x industry norms for banner ad click rates and delivered powerful engagement metrics and brand KPIs.
Brands may remarket to consumers through various channels to capitalize on the increased recall and consideration native provides — and native is especially effective across mobile.
Dos and Don’ts
Of course, brands need to know several things to do native right. First, native cannot happen in a banner. Second, clearly disclaim your content because disclosure and transparency are critical to maintaining authenticity and user trust. Third, look sharp. Make sure your content matches the look/feel of the publisher environments you’re integrating into, and most importantly behaves like the surrounding editorial content.
Fourth, meet users where they are, on their terms, and make sure your content is fully integrated and consumed within the publisher site. Some advertisers think their goal should be to immediately drive consumers to an external brand site or microsite. That couldn’t be more wrong. Hijacking users to an external site annoys them and makes them feel misled. Most native offerings lack this critical component, but fully leveraging the value of a publisher’s brand equity is proven to deliver amazing campaign performance and a much higher quality of users who choose to dive deeper and visit a brand site, on their terms.
Last, re-evaluate your values. In today’s ecosystem, attention is the most valuable currency. CTR metrics and many KPIs are antiquated.
Native will go from publisher to more brand voice as brands and agencies build out their content-creation pipelines and align their internal resources to create more and more content. YouTube and Facebook are already pushing brands that way. More brand content means more distribution demand. Basically, native is the ying to content’s yang.
And native is coming of age during a time of technological change, so the future will be mobile. Forty-one percent of Facebook’s $1.6 billion revenue in the most recent quarter came from mobile ads — which, amazingly, didn’t exist just a year ago.