Within the parlance of digital publishing, four prominent pillars have solidified their long-term presence. These include:
- Display ads
- Video ads
- Social ads
- Native ads
Despite being a relatively new phenomenon, native ads have emerged as the third most popular publishing strategy, along with video ads, as per a poll conducted by Salesforce encompassing 4,000 marketers. Native advertising has become an important component of most major brands’ marketing repertoire with a growth in the number of native advertising platforms.
As a case in point, about 90 percent of Daily Beast’s ad revenue is attributed to native advertising. Publishers and advertisers are pouring in millions of dollars in developing intelligent platforms that refuse to comply with the standards of conventional media.
Facebook and Twitter: Shining examples of native advertising success
Feed-based advertising is the most efficient means of native advertising. This has been exemplified by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, which are increasingly maneuvering their platforms proactively to ensure top-quality user experience while doing away with the visceral rigidity of these platforms.
Apart from heralding one of the most hard-hitting forms of advertising, this move has also revolutionized mobile advertising in that native ads have catapulted the monetization experience for the entire mobile media industry.
This also means that practically every marketing endeavor can be benchmarked against feed-based ads of Facebook and Twitter. In addition to supplementing conventional metrics such as engagement, analytics, and click-throughs, native ads pave the way for a more insightful analysis of critical business metrics as they unlock ad-specific information about every single user.
Despite its immense potential, there are a few challenges confronting native ads. For instance, the development of localized, custom content can restrict the scalability of digital marketing efforts. Regardless of how creative or effective these ads are, the fact remains that most (if not all) consumer brands must eventually touch a large audience base to maximize cost-efficiency.
Striking the balance between and the marketer’s audience-specific message and editorial standards constitute another challenge to the growth of native ads. To that end, advertisers must always remember that the core essence of native ads is to provide a decisively seamless experience to users, and not to hoodwink them.
The way forward: Clear labeling is rule, not an exception
Native advertising bears a striking similarity with advertorials, which were a huge hit with the print media a few decades back. In many cases, it becomes difficult to distinguish between native ads and advertorials in terms of style, design, and functionality.
When that happens, consumers can be confronted with some tough but legitimate questions. Do they feel betrayed that they were led to the content of a particular brand? Are they able to accurately identify the sponsor? Will they repose their faith in the publisher?
While some critics of native advertising assert that brands can benefit from consumers reading an informative article about them without figuring out that it’s actually sponsored, clear labeling goes a long way in reinforcing credibility in the minds of readers. People wouldn’t mind reading content about a sponsor if they know that it belongs to that sponsor and can benefit them in some way or another.
Clear labeling removes ambivalence on the part of consumers because legitimate brands should want to display their logos atop native ads if they shape up well and deliver a potentially monetization-inducing experience.
Package your brand as a story
Contrary to popular notion, consumers are not always averse to accessing content that is inherently brand-centric, as long as it tells them a story they can relate to. For instance, the native ad on The New York Times promoting the freshness and quality Wendy’s food proves this point poignantly. The native ad was as brand-focused as it gets, which was apparent by its tagline “Fresh Food Fast: From Farm to Fork.”
Interestingly, it was the sheer directness of this native ad that piqued the curiosity of even reluctant consumers because it was warped in the form of an interesting story that encouraged them to give it a shot anyways and make informed purchase decisions.
In the near future, native ads might end up resembling traditional forms of advertising such as TV commercials, where the brand remains the focal point of the ‘bigger picture’ (yes, story). Consumers are no longer deluded by self-promotional, news-like content that masquerades as a concept that builds an emotional connect.
Appropriate distribution and pertinent targeting
In contrast to the initial phase of native advertising when ads were mainly distributed via promotional units on blogs, article pages or a specific home page, a major chunk of the traffic via native ads is attributed to sponsored posts on Facebooks.
This works well because there has not been any discernible impact on the ad’s efficacy using this mode of distribution. It also encourages publishers to improve their CPCs while promoting a specific brand’s content on Facebook on their behalf. For that to ensure seamlessly, though advertisers would do well to prioritize transparency from the publisher and prevent them from making impetuous traffic purchase decisions based solely on financial considerations.
Mobile Messaging – Opportunities Galore
Traditional platforms of digital advertising have not had a lot of success on mobile phones, which have emerged as the go-to source for news/content reading. It is here that native advertising can really strike gold. This is because it is in the mobile message domain where brands and consumers are interacting and engaging in new, exciting ways.
While it would be imprudent to prevaricate and preempt the scope of native ads on mobile messaging, chat platforms like Snapchat and Kik have started to trial some rather intriguing brand integrations with encouraging results.
Over the next 2-3 years, the native advertising industry is expected to clean up the gray area surrounding branded content through the cohesive participation of brands, publishers, and social media.
By Scott Richter