What is Native Advertising?
As the old saying goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do. Native advertising is all about adverts blending in with their surrounds. The advert no longer becomes the main focus of the content; however this does not make the advertising message any less powerful. You may be familiar with sponsored posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, to name a few. These sponsored posts are great examples of native advertising. It is important to remember that native advertising relies on the content being natural (native) and for people to see it more content based rather than advert based.
Plain and simple, native advertising is paid for advertising which is placed within content, thus bypassing a number of factors which would otherwise mean the advert would not be seen (i.e. adblocking ad-ons, and apps). The main thing to remember with native adverts is that they offer a guaranteed way of promoting your content without being disturbed. Native advertising fits into the form of the content it is placed into so as not to distort and infringe on the user experience.
How does Native Advertising work?
Native advertising is one of the cleverest forms of advertising out there, but how exactly does it work? Well the answer is simple … by pretending it is something that it’s not. The most important thing to remember with native advertising is that content is king. Our friends over at Facebook know this better than anyone. I present to you my very own Facebook newsfeed.
Right here nestled neatly between an update from Other Voices, and a Happy Birthday wish to one of my Facebook friends we have a nice example of sponsored content (one of the main tools of native marketing). Note how the ad beautifully blends in with its surroundings. Note how it completely distances itself from the other adverts on the site. Note how, as you scroll through your social media newsfeed, you don’t even need to glance to the side in order to be advertised to.
The fact of the matter is that these adverts appear throughout your social media newsfeed on a very regular basis, and you probably don’t even bat an eye lid. Why would you, it blends in with its surroundings so well, and as a result you will be joining the other 49% of consumers who have never heard of native advertising.
The IAB categorises native advertising into three categories. Firstly, discovery/recommendation units, where the content is effectively sponsored in the form of a short tag below it, normally stating “sponsored by, recommended by…” Here the advert is integrated into the webpage, however it does not go into stealth mode and hide among the actual editorial content. Secondly, we have the adverts which are mixed in with the rest of the content. These adverts do not link off the page in which they are on, but rather advertise through the content they are putting forward. These ads come in two categories. Paid for content/sponsored content, and sponsored content area. The only difference between these two is that paid for content/sponsored content is written in a partnership between the advertiser and the publisher, and sponsored content area can be written by either. Thirdly, in feed – advertiser controlled. My Facebook screenshot from above is a great example of this, and this type of advertising generally links to a new page.
Who uses Native Advertising and why?
Native advertising is used by all companies big and small. As ad blockers, and other consumer habits begin to infringe on the impact of banner adverts, native advertising is powering ahead. In actual fact, consumers are 25% more likely to look at a native advert than they are a banner, and they are 53% more likely to engage with the advert. They also check native adverts out 4.1 times per session compared to 2.1 times for banner ads.
Consumers are also considerably more likely to share a native advert than they are a banner advert (32% versus 19%) and showed 18% more purchase intent after viewing them. With this in mind the real question isn’t who uses native advertising, but rather who should be using native advertising, and the answer is any company wanting to increase their market reach.
Further to the increased engagement that we can see from the figures above, there is also a lot to be said for the “stealth-like” approach with which native adverts conduct themselves. This “stealth-like” approach is actually so good that some 49% of consumers have never even heard of native adverts, with only a meagre 3% claiming to be very knowledgeable on the topic. The less people are viewing content as advertising, the more powerful, and valuable the content is.
How has Native Advertising worked for advertisers?
As native advertising begins to take center stage the big question that needs to be asked is to what extent this type of advertising actually works. There are numerous statistics on what both marketers and consumer think about native advertising, however in reality the only true mark of whether or not, or rather to what extent, native advertising works is through cold, hard facts. So here they are:
- On average 65% of media agencies produce between 1 to 10 native advertising campaigns per month for each of their clients.
- Content marketing costs largely relate to the scope of the project being produced.
- When looking at Buzzfeed’s (a forerunner in native) campaign for Intel, it produced 12,481 social shares.
- In 2016 the spend on native advertising is expected to be 13.9 billion US dollars up from 10.7 billion in 2015.
The output figures for native advertising campaigns are high, but as the old saying goes, you get out what you put in and larger budgets inevitably result in a larger return.
On top of a massive reach, a native advertising campaign can also align a company with the right image. When a company aligns itself with a social media “influencer” this can result in a certain image being evoked. Depending on your preference, your brand image can change for the better with the right newspaper, celebrity, or internet blogger promoting it.
Here are ways that your business, too, can benefit from incorporating native ads into its marketing strategy:
Capture consumer attention
In marketing and advertising, performance metrics are important – they guide marketing efforts – and native advertising offers higher visibility. If your company uses native ads to share content, the engagement with your audience can be significantly higher than any other form of advertising.
Subset of content marketing
The content in native ads should offer useful information or advice on a specific product or service, and not function as just a vehicle for the sponsored message.
The sponsored post should blend into the site without distracting the reader, and should entice a clickthrough with a powerful yet attractive message.
Since native advertising can be disguised as valuable content, the consumer is more likely to share that content with their friends or followers on social networks or email, amplifying a brand’s content and special offers.
Better engagement and higher shareability creates opportunities for businesses to build relationships with consumers through interaction. When businesses connect their native ad with the media outlet and its target audience, they improve their chances of their content being shared.
Native advertising works well on mobile devices as text links, promoted videos or editorial content. Sponsored posts are hosted on a website’s main content area, and consumers experience it the same way as any other content viewed. It can be deployed across any technological platform – desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
Businesses are not constrained by small text requirements and limited graphics; native advertising allows for a far deeper and richer level of engagement and innovation. With native advertising, there is more opportunity to cover all of the areas of a specific campaign, brand or product launch.
Native ads work best when placed on social media platforms and aggregated news sites – platforms that are built around content. Businesses must be innovative and different in order to attract inquisitive consumers to a brand message.
Pros of Native Advertising
Better customer targeting. The fact that the ads run only where similar content is seen means that the people who click through to your content are better targeted and more likely to find your information helpful. Also, the targeting options you can choose from are becoming increasingly more sophisticated as we share so much about our lives on social media.
Less expensive. Compared to other forms of more traditional display advertising and banner ads, this is a much less expensive form of advertising. It offers a lower barrier to entry so that many different types of businesses can take advantage of it.
Bypasses ad blind customers. Most consumers today are blind to most traditional advertising. The way that native advertising appears is less intrusive and doesn’t always look like an ad.
Enhances content. Having more information similar to that a reader is already interested in is a good way to attract them based on their interests.
Increases targeted followers. Since the promoted information only appears with similar information, it will be more likely to attract more targeted readers.
Cons of Native Advertising
Can seem deceptive. Many people who use it add tricky or misleading headlines, and when the consumer clicks through they’re not happy. This makes it harder for honest publishers to use native advertising.
Seen as unethical.Due to the dishonest headlines, the ads can seem unethical to some readers.
Publishers receive backlash. Often when a publisher allows native ads to appear on their website their traffic goes down, even as their revenue goes up.
Too advertorial. Sometimes people misuse native ads as if they’re like the old-fashioned advertorials that appear in print magazines. This is not a good use for native advertising.
Google may penalise native advertising. However, Google is actually getting in on the native advertising game so this may not be true.
The fact is that all forms of advertising have problems to overcome. People are prone to dislike all advertising, even when it ends up helping them. After all, how would anyone find out about products that help them without advertising? Your job is to provide excellent material so that your audience can find the solutions it needs.
In order to overcome the stigma of advertising of all kinds, it’s important for small business owners not to be misleading with headlines. You need to be straightforward about what’s going to be in the content, and to provide informative content that is helpful to your audience. If you always aim to under promise and over deliver, your readers will never be disappointed.