In a recent survey conducted by Contently it was found that native ads are often seen in a better light than actual content on a site. Native ads are sponsored content where the owner of a site gets paid to publish something about a product, service or company. The content is made to appear similar to other content on the site so that it adds a level of trust and authenticity. Due to regulations and business practices, however, native ads need to have some sort of disclaimer in or around them to let people know that they are advertisements.
Even with this disclaimer, however, many readers mistake native ads for real content. The survey was given to 509 consumers. In the survey they were asked to review a brand sponsored piece of content in either The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Onion, BuzzFeed or Forbes. In addition, they read an actual article that was published in Fortune.
Once done, they were asked to say whether the piece was an ad or an article. In all but two of the samples the readers thought that the native ad was actually a real article. The results were as follows:
- New York Times – 29% Ad, 71% Article
- Wall Street Journal – 20% Ad, 80% Article
- Atlantic – 53% Ad, 47% Article
- The Onion – 71% Ad, 29% Article
- BuzzFeed – 29% Ad, 71% Article
- Forbes – 35% Ad, 65% Article
- Fortune – 31% Ad, 69% Article (note that this one was actually a real article)
As you can see, even in The Onion, 29% of people still thought that the native ad was a real article and that is the lowest rating of the bunch. For other publications a large majority of readers were thinking that native ads were actually real articles. In some cases they thought this at rates higher than the actual real article published in Fortune.
This is an important study for several reasons. First, regulatory organizations like the FTC and others may look at this information and decide that more needs to be done to let people know when they are viewing an ad. It has been a while since updates to the disclaimers on these types of ads were made, so it may be time for some changes (or at least the regulatory agencies may think that).
Second, and more importantly for marketers, it shows that native ads are an extremely effective way to put a message out to potential customers. When customers read them they think it is real content written by the site. This lends the ad additional trust and influence, which can lead to more sales, improved reputation and better recognition.
Using native ads is well known to be effective, but with the results of this survey it seems they are even better than most people have thought in the past. If you’re not using native ads as part of your overall marketing strategy already, it might be time to do so.