If you work in marketing and advertising, you’re familiar with the term ‘native advertising’. It’s one of 2015’s (most overused) buzzwords and is set to expand in significance to overall marketing strategies in 2016. So why all the hype? In short, native advertising works and it works well.
First let’s get into what native advertising is…and isn’t.
Native advertising is still pay-for-play. It is not an interchangeable term with content marketing. It is a subset of content marketing and is a strategy for increasing your distribution and reach.
Native advertising is a piece of content — article, video, infographic — that is distributed to an audience through a publisher platform in a way that does not disrupt the native user experience of that platform.
According to Hexagram’s State of Native Advertising Report, the most popular forms of native are sponsored blog posts (65%), sponsored articles (63%) and Facebook sponsored updates (56%). The sponsored content offers the viewing audience helpful or entertaining information that encourages engagement and at it’s best, sharing.
So why do native ads work? Here are five reasons to include native in your next marketing plan.
(1) People Engage With Native Ads
You’ve probably heard the term banner ad blindness. It’s the propensity of internet users to block out and essentially not see banner ads on a website. Marketers have tried to combat this with creative that flashes and moves and interacts with the user’s mouse. Publishers have allowed this and even participated in the degradation of the user experience by giving advertisers access to intrusive pop-ups, interstitials, sliding billboards and other ads that are obnoxious but, for better or worse, do grab a user’s attention. I will confess to selling these ads (it’s all about transparency right?) but as a publisher, we understand that using these ads comes at a price. That price is user experience.
Because native ads look and feel like the flow of content on our sites, publishers love the native ad unit. Advertisers love it because users not only see native ads, they engage with them. Click through rates tend to be much higher on native units and if you are really working with the publisher and customizing to their audience, you can get earned impressions on top of your paid impressions with shares on social media. Sharethrough and IPG recently found that 32% of consumers would share a native ad with someone they know.
(2) Native Ads Are Viewed As Much As Editorial
If native ads are placed in the flow of content on a website or social media feed, it matters then how the ads stack up against editorial content. Surprisingly, on some publishers like Upworthy, native content receives 3.5x more views, 3x more shares and 2.9x more attention than editorial pieces. This is not the case for every publisher. PIX11, similar to other publishers like the New York Times and Forbes, report that our sponsored articles perform as well as the rest of our editorial. In fact, I would be suspect of claims that your native ad will drastically outperform a publisher’s own content.
(3) Native Ads Are Great For Branding
According to a Contently study of native advertising perceptions among readers, consumers who read native ads that they identified as high quality reported a significantly higher level of trust for the sponsoring brand. Native outperforms nearly every type of interruptive advertising in brand recall and brand trust when done well. Please note that final caveat. If native is done badly, it can have the opposite effect and also have a detrimental effect on the trust a user has for the publisher.
(4) Native Advertising Drives Purchases and Search
Purchase intent is a lower-funnel metric that has a real impact on your bottom line. Native ads register a 18% higher lift in purchase intent than banner ads. According to Yahoo, native ads also out-perform banner ads in driving subsequent search activity. In a study they conducted of their campaigns, there was a 204% improvement in branded search queries if the user had been served a native ad previously. In other words, native advertising plays well and seems to improve the performance of search campaigns.
(5) Social Media Advertising Is Native Advertising
The shareable nature of native advertising is the gold among the rocks for me. This is why social media advertising is one of the most effective forms of native advertising. The sharing mechanism is seamlessly integrated. If you connect with your consumer, a share is literally a click away.
Media companies like Facebook and Twitter have aggressively pursued native advertising dollars and have built their business models around them. At PIX11, we have seen our advertisers have tremendous success with Facebook video and link posts. These platforms allow you to precisely target in a way that even programmatic native through other publishers cannot. You want to only target people who are within a 1 mile radius of your store locations with an income level above $100k and a love of cats? You can do that (not that I would recommend those targeting parameters unless you had a very specific need and product!).
While we are on the subject of cats, you might have seen the Buzzfeed partner video “Dear Kitten” created for Friskies. To date, it has racked up over 24M views on YouTube but it first made an appearance on Facebook through the Buzzfeed Video Facebook page. It’s explosive success is a result of the increasing use of branded video content and the changing habits of media consumption.
The cat food is plugged in the video but it’s done in such a way that it is still entertaining and in the spirit of the rest of the video.
“The second kind is wet food. It is so special they keep it in little armored metal casings that no claw can penetrate. With no claws to speak off the humans can somehow open them. It’s like some dark magic.”
It’s a great example of how a high-quality, entertaining piece of content is embraced and shared by consumers. People who shared this video on their Facebook feeds, on Twitter did not care that it was a piece of advertising for Friskies cat food.
So, while native advertising is surely one of those terms that will continue to be overused in 2016, it is here to stay and for good reason. Native advertising, when done correctly, gives advertisers positive brand recall, drives branded search, and is arguably the most engaging form of advertising.