Native advertising has the promise to replace traditional display advertising. This is a pretty bold statement, but we’re seeing a great deal of evidence as to why this might one day come to fruition. Native is certainly touted by many premium publishers to be an important future digital revenue source. Studies have shown that native advertising drives key marketer objectives – achieving greater brand favourability and higher purchase intent than banner advertising. eMarketer predicts that by 2015 native advertising spending on social media alone will be larger than display.1
What is Native Advertising?
If you ask several people how they define native advertising, chances are you will get several different answers – everything from advertorial to branded entertainment to content marketing. From my perspective, there are a couple of very important characteristics that make an advertisement truly native. It has “sponsor” identification such as “advertisement”, “sponsored” or “paid post”, to ensure the reader is aware of its origin. It also has the look and feel of the website’s content within which it appears such that is not jarring or out of place. This means that unlike banner ads, a native advertisement fits into the flow of editorial content, whether on desktop or mobile. Take Facebook’s Suggested Post or a Promoted Tweet on Twitter for instance; these feel intuitively native and fit into the structure of other posts with the exception that they are labelled as being sponsored.
Where can you find Native Advertising?
But what does native look like on a more traditional news publication or magazine publisher’s website? For many premium publishers, native advertising appears in an article feed that has to be clicked on to reveal the branded content (i.e., an article, video, etc.) like any other piece of content on the publisher’s website, but with full transparency that it is sponsored.
Publishers leading in the native advertising space are typically those with high quality content. They work with marketers and freelance writers to ensure the content produced has the same quality that their audience is accustomed to seeing. With full transparency, it puts the audience in the driver’s seat to make their own informed decision as to whether they wish to consume the content or not.
Are consumers buying in?
The good news for marketers is that consumers are engaging with native placements. Several publishers have acknowledged considerable lift in page views, time spent and unique visitors due to native advertising. According to The New York Times executive vice president of advertising Meredith Levien, “readers are spending as much time on native ad posts as they are on editorial content”. And, according to Mashable’s branded content editor, Lauren Drell, “branded content drives time spent (+50%) and higher click-through rates on banner ads surrounding such content (2x higher) than average article pages”. Buzzfeed case studies also show that brand lift increases upwards of 350% as a result of sponsored content campaigns.
What’s next for native?
With native advertising, publishers and marketers objectives are aligned – they both want to produce great content that readers find valuable. Native advertising will continue to blossom as marketers turn to premium publishers for their high-quality content which can enhance the audience experience and increase engagement levels. Continued success will be contingent on native ads offering value without distracting from the user experience.
As native advertising grows, I expect that publishers will build out teams dedicated to producing “branded content”. These teams will be staffed with full-time content strategists to ensure best practises are adhered to across all digital platforms (i.e. advertisement disclosure, content alignment, etc.) as well as ensure that all learnings from past campaigns are applied to ensure optimal experience for both the marketer and the publisher’s audience.
As for marketers, they will also become more sophisticated and continue to invest in content that speaks to their audience, enabling them to build trust and engagement and ultimately greater brand affinity.
- BIA/Kelsey, “US Local Media Forecast, 2013-2018, Social Advertising Edition”; eMarketer calculations, May 15, 2014 (includes desktop and mobile platforms and local and national spending; excludes social marketing/measurement platforms and services, social commerce and virtual currency