Native Advertising is no longer just a buzz in the marketing space, in fact, it is now one of the default advertising methods. As this natural and non-disruptive form of advertising has gained popularity, even giants like Netflix have jumped on the bandwagon to leave us some valuable lessons. eMarketer estimates that Native advertising will account for 95.6% of social media digital display ad spend in 2019.
How exactly do we define Native Advertising?
There are a gazillion ways experts try to define Native advertising. The simplest way to understand it is to focus on the term itself. Native means being closely associated with a place. It signifies a place to which we belong. In the same vein, Native advertising is when a brand uses a platform such as Facebook, for example, to advertise itself in a way that the ad feels as if it truly belongs to the platform.
To determine precisely whether an ad is native or not the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has developed some broad guidelines. To summarize them, the 4 key dimensions to look for in a native ad are:
1. Design of the Ad: Does the ad look like other contents of the page? Is it visually the same as them? A native advert must thoroughly blend into the overall design of the platform.
2. Location of the Ad: Does the ad appear in viewers streaming space or out of it? If the site of the ad is not entirely synced with other contents of the page, it is not a native ad
3. The behaviour of the Ad: Does the ad function in the same way as the rest of the content on the platform? For example, if all the listings on a webpage take you to content within the website, then the native ad must also behave in the same manner and direct you somewhere within the website only.
4. Disclosure: It is crucial that native ads are clearly marked as sponsored content. This is a simple check to ensure fair use of native advertising. As long as the content is relevant to the readers, it is sponsored won’t make much difference to them.
How is Native Advertising different from Content Marketing?
Native Advertising is a tiny subset of the broader content marketing strategy of a brand. Content Marketing is a long term strategy of a brand which includes newsletters, videos, blog posts etc. Native advertising is also one of these tools. Most brands divide their Content Marketing strategy into different stages of the buying process. Native Advertising Institute’s trends report for 2018 shows 73% of advertisers use Native Advertising during the awareness stage of the buying process. 63% use it during the consideration stage, and only 31% use it during the decision stage.
Is Native Advertising actually all that big?
As per the Native advertising trends report published by Native Advertising Institute, Native advertising is now a full-fledged part of the business models of most media companies and brands. A total of 150 executives from 41 countries were surveyed to get insights about Native Advertising. Some interesting findings were:
1. 80% of respondents said they hold positive feelings towards Native Advertising, with only 5% holding negative emotions.
2. 99% of respondents said they either already use Native Advertising or were likely to do it at some point.
3. 31% ad revenue for magazine publishers was from Native advertising. It is expected to climb up to 46% by 2021.
4. 84% of executives agreed that native ads add value to the readers and viewers experience.
The 4 Core forms of Native Advertising
Native advertising can take on many different shapes and forms. Some of the broad categories under which it falls are:
1. In-Feed Native Advertising
In-Feed Native advertising is a native ad embedded in a social feed such as Instagram or Facebook home page. Look at the examples of Netflix Asia and New York Times. Netflix Asia ad is in the form of a short, few-seconds long video clip, which is common on Instagram. New York Times ad is a still image post on Facebook, which again is a common format on the platform.
The in-feed ad can also be embedded in content feeds such as those of news publication websites like Yahoo and Forbes. Check out the ad from finq.com on Yahoo’s feed, which is exactly like the surrounding content on the page but directs you to an external URL outside the website. This ad may not be considered genuinely native because all the other content leads you to URLs within the website only. An ad-blocker which has not been given permission to direct towards external links from the Yahoo website will not allow the user to open this ad If some of the other content had also been behaving in the same way, then chances were that user had already given permission to the ad blocker to direct towards external links, but in this case, the ad fails to be genuinely native in nature.
The In-feed category also includes ads for products in retail sites like Amazon and eBay. Check out the Amazon ad ‘Shop related products’ feature is the one through which advertisers place native advertisements on Amazon.
2. In-content Native Advertising
In-content native advertising is an ad appearing in between articles on different publication websites and blogs. These ads match the colours, layout and the overall look and feel of the news article itself. However, there are disclaimers and visual cues added to clarify their commercial nature. Take a look at the New York Times article where the ad for University if New Castle is placed in between article paragraphs. An ad of this type, however, can be detected and blocked by modern versions of ad-blockers.
3. Recommended Content Native Advertising
Recommended content native advertising is the recommendation of any product, service, article, video, blog etc. placed either alongside or below the publisher’s own content. Clicking on the link usually takes you to the URL for your selection. Look at ‘promoted links from around the web’ section at the Guardian webpage. This content is placed below an article on Guardian and is highlighted and marked as recommended content which takes you to paid URLs on Guardian’s own website.
4. Branded Content Native Advertising
In this type of native advertising, the brand creates a native ad in conjunction with the publisher’s own team in the exact same format as of the publisher’s own content. Church of Scientology’s native ad in the Atlantic is the example of a very famous and very controversial branded native ad The ad received backlash because it was not relevant to the audience of the Atlantic. So even though it was branded content, it was not exactly native. This ad is an excellent example of what not to do in your branded content native advertising.
Why is Native Advertising growing so much?
As per a report by statista.com on average, 27% of people worldwide blocked ads through ad blockers. This percentage went up to over 40% in countries like Greece. This is great news for readers and viewers, but for advertisers, it has a different implication. What this means for advertisers is that now they will not be able to show ads that people don’t want to see. The only way around for them is to design ads in a way that people don’t mind seeing them.
As per the data from Polar, the famous technology provider for branded content, the click-through (CTR) rates for native ads were 4X higher than the traditional non-native display ads in the US. This is mainly because ad blockers but also because people have developed banner blindness – the ability to ignore banner advertisements entirely upon viewing them. The last time Google’s Doubleclick published data for traditional online and banner ads CTR, it was just 0.05%, which means only 5 clicks per 10000 visits. This is the main reason why advertisers are now looking for alternative methods their message across to their audiences.
The last time Google’s Doubleclick published data for online and banner ads CTR, it was just 0.05%, which means only 5 clicks per 10000 visits
Why you should be using Native Advertising?
1. Higher Customer Engagement
As we just discussed, click-through rates are a reliable measure to tell whether your ad was actually seen by the viewer and not ignored or glanced over. Native ads hold a solid advantage over banner ads in this regard. With an average CTR of 0.2% vs 0.05% for banner ads, Native ads offer a much better deal to the advertisers. On smartphones, this rate can go as high as 0.38%.
2. Increased Brand Affinity
Brand Affinity is the feeling that a brand holds the same values as that of its customers. All advertisers want to look at brand affinity responses in addition to CTRs. Brand Affinity is a tool for advertisers to get a better idea of brand conversion potential. As per a report by Sharethrough native ads lead to 9% higher brand affinity responses as compared to banner ads. This is mainly because native ads allow advertisers to tell more engaging and appealing stories which audiences like better.
3. Higher Visual Engagement
Consumers look at Native Ads 53% more frequently as compared to banner ads. This means that visual engagement with native ads is much higher.
4. More Cost Effective
As CTRs and brand affinity scores increase, the overall cost of acquisition and conversion goes down. With more and more advertisers complaining about being unable to know their Social Media advertising effectiveness, native ads give advertisers the surety that they are a more valuable proposition than traditional advertising methods.
5. Higher Shareability
32% of people reported that they will share a native ad with their friends or family. The percentage for conventional banner ads was only 19%. The additional shareability potential for Native Ads makes them a desirable proposition. In general, people tend to trust a brand more if their friends and family tell them about it.
6. Enhanced User-experience
As many as 54% of people said they use an-blocker because the ads they see are disruptive. Native advertising eliminates that complain to a large extent. Native ads are designed to not disrupt the user experience. They look and feel exactly the same as their surrounding content. This is the reason why Native ads enhance user experience. Good user experience means people are likely to return to the media, which provides them with that.
7. Additional Credibility
Native advertising content looks and behaves exactly like the publisher’s own content. Due to this reason, the brand can borrow additional credibility from the media publisher for itself. People who like to enjoy content from the publisher will also enjoy the Native advertising content since it’ll be relevant to them.
What is the right way to do Native Advertising?
4 crucial steps to follow to do your Native Advertising the right way are:
1. Select the right advertising platform
It is crucial that the platform you select for your ad is relevant for your brand. The target audience of the brand must use that platform. For example, you cannot use a gaming website to promote your wedding food services. The audience on the gaming website will have a specialized focus on video games, and your ad can become a disruption for them. Make use of the user information provided by the platform to target demographics who are most likely to respond to your brand’s message. Social platforms can allow you to double down on this information to maximize the ROI on your native ad
2. Craft your content tailored to the platform
You have to ensure that the design, layout, mood, colours and behaviour of your native ad seamlessly blend with the surrounding material. Ensure that your native ad appears in the stream of the rest of the content and does not feel out of place. At the same time, also ensure that the native ad is consistent with your brand’s architecture and values To achieve this balance is a tricky job, but if you get this right, then the chances of ad’s success will increase.
3. Enhance the quality of your content
The best kind of content adds value to the viewer’s or reader’s experience. Consider this example of Hulu partnering with Apartment therapy for their famous show, The Mindy Project. Apartment Therapy is a home and lifestyle blog. Readers of the blog get ideas for home décor from the blog. In its native ad placement, Hulu allows readers of the Apartment Therapy to take a detailed look at the inside of Mindy’s apartment in a very creative way. This allows users of the blog to engage with The Mindy Project in not just a natural but also fun way, which makes it a pleasant experience for them.
4. Implement your Native ad and use A/B testing
Finally, as you roll out your native ad, make sure that it clearly declares its paid nature. This can be done in many ways. Some popular methods are writing ‘sponsored’ or ‘promoted’ with your ad You must also try to get the audience to take some action with regards to your ad by using a ‘buy now’ or ‘sign up’ button. Also, while implementing your native ad try to use A/B testing. A/B testing is a method for optimizing the ROI of your ad It allows you to show two different versions of your ad to each half of your target audience. With this activity, you can learn more about what works for your audience. In today’s age of smart technology, make sure you are using all the tools available to be as efficient as possible.
Final Word on Native Advertising
The future of Native Advertising seems bright with Advertisers now focusing more on the credibility and scalability of these ads. According to the New York Times APAC Regional Advertising Sales Manager Rica Bartlett,
“Native Advertising is still a one-to-one experience between advertisers and publishers, and it needs to be taken to the next level.”
The next level for Native Advertising lies to a large extent in the use of Al and Virtual Reality. With the use of Al technology, advertisers will be able to put the right ad in front of the right audience in a programmed manner. Right now, a lot of this work is being done manually. Doing this work manually not only takes up more resources but also slows down the pace and doesn’t result in perfection. With the use of Al technology, not only will this work be automated, but the placement of the ads will also improve with regards to audience, context and other factors. The use of Virtual Reality, on the other hand, will be useful for Native Ads on mobile phones. As per emarketer Native Advertising trends report, 88.8% of Native Ads will be mobile by 2020. This means that the bulk of Native Advertising spending will be directed towards Mobile Phone ads. The opportunity here will come from designing ads more suitable for Mobile devices utilizing features like 360-degree videos etc. to design small screen friendly ads.