Native is a term we’ve been hearing more and more in the marketing world over the past couple of years. In reality it’s nothing new to us, but rather goes by yet another new name. Call it sponsored content, advertorial, contextual advertising, or simply a subset of content marketing. Whichever name you choose to apply, it represents the opportunity for marketers to interact with consumers in a more personalized and streamlined format.
Marketers need to be sure to not discount the rising popularity of native advertising. Research shows an estimated $7.9 billion spent on native ads in 2014, with that figure growing by 150% to $21 billion in 2018 (IAB/BI Intelligence). Considering that kind of growth, let’s recap where we stand with our understanding of native advertising and break down a few reasons that represent its importance.
A Native Advertising Refresher
IAB describes native advertising as paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong. At its foundation, native advertising is intended to be just that: native to the audience’s online experience. This form of advertising has been described as seamless, relevant, natural, and – above all – non-disruptive.
Native ads appear on a web page as though they are another piece of content, working to build trust and drive greater engagement with your brand. IAB outlines six core native ad units:
- In-Feed Units (Facebook, Twitter, Forbes)
- Paid Search Units (Google, Yahoo, Bing)
- Recommendation Widgets (Disqus, Gravity)
- Promoted Listings (Etsy, Amazon)
- In-Ad with Native Element Units (Appssavvy, Onespot)
- Custom/ Can’t Be Contained (Flipboard, Tumblr, Pandora)
Where Are We Currently Seeing Native Ads?
As seen in the list above, two main places marketers take advantage of native advertising are through publishers and social media. These forums make sense for native ads: while there are display opportunities, because we are beginning to consume more information via feeds, there are also opportunities to incorporate brand messages in a more fluid and natural way.
But won’t this kind of advertising annoy audiences? Not necessarily. While some people may view it as exploitative, native advertising doesn’t have to be when it’s executed in the correct way. The key is keeping the user experience in mind at all times: ensure you are as transparent as possible and do not crowd them with native ads.
When done with balance and sophistication, there are a number of reasons why we should consider including native ads as part of our marketing strategies.
Reason #1: Reduces Ad Clutter
Because native advertising appears as part of the content a user is already consuming, it does not stand out as prominently as display advertising does, reducing the opportunity for people to tune out standard advertising they have grown accustomed to seeing.
Reason #2: Provides a Seamless Experience
As we begin to consume more and more of our content in the form of feeds a la Twitter, BuzzFeed, or Flipboard, it only makes sense to integrate brand messaging in the same visual flow in which we interact with the information. People are not distracted by outlying advertising and are more likely to see your brand message.
Reason #3: Creates Personalization
Native advertising can be targeted similarly to display advertising, but the difference lies in the degree to which native ads take context into account for audiences. Traditional targeting combined with Reasons #1 and #2 above creates a seamless online experience that drives more relevance for our audiences.
Reason #4: Drives Greater Engagement
As a result of their more cohesive and relevant nature, it is proven that native ads drive stronger engagement from audiences. IPG Media Lab found that:
- Consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than display ads.
- Respondents were more likely to share native ads with friends or family (32% of respondents versus 19% for display advertising).
Reason #5: Powers Mobile Interaction
Social media is arguably the largest reason behind why we’ve begun to engage more with feeds, and the popularity of BuzzFeed stems from our desire to consume content in a quick, easy-to-digest format. Feeds are especially suited for the way we use our mobile devices. In an age of smaller screens, information needs to be easy to process: enter feeds and a growing opportunity to integrate native advertising into our overall mobile experience.
Are There Future Implications?
As long as we keep in mind transparency and do not crowd our audience, including native ads in our future marketing plans should be straightforward. Beyond that, as mobile traffic continues to overtake desktop traffic, mobile devices will significantly impact the future of native advertising. Not only in the way we use feeds to consume content, as previously mentioned, but also in the way we connect with businesses – by using our smartphones as a phone. At that point, it will be critical to be able to track calls driven to your business from your marketing (including native advertising).
For more tips on how to generate more leads and improve ROI from social marketing, check out our white paper, B2B Lead Generation for Social Media: Tips for Generating and Tracking Phone Leads.