Publishers Tap Into the Power of Native Ads

Jun 05, 2013

Article ImageWhen it comes to online advertising, the natives are getting restless-but less so when native ads are used instead of banner ads, apparently. Consumers visually engage more often with native ads than traditional banner ads and in a manner comparable to editorial content, according to the results of a recent study conducted by Sharethrough, in conjuction with IPG Media Lab.

The study, which used state-of-the-art eye-tracking technology to gauge the attention of 200 consumers and also surveyed 4,770 consumers, determined that:

  • Consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than banner ads.
  • Native ads drive higher brand lift (18% and 9% higher for purchase intent and brand affinity responses, respectively) than banner ads, with 32% of respondents being more likely to share a native ad with a family member or friend vs. 19% for banner ads.
  • A slightly higher percentage of consumers viewed native ads than original editorial content (26% vs. 24%, respectively).

The study's findings should make digital publishers and electronic content providers sit up and take notice, says Chris Schreiber, vice president of marketing and communications for Sharethrough in San Francisco.

"Native ads fit into the natural content experience of a particular website. Whether it is a feed-based layout, such as Facebook, or a content grid like Thought Catalog, people are accustomed to finding content within those visual constructs, and native ads allow the brand message to flow into that experience," Schreiber says.

"Plus, native ads tell a story," adds Schreiber. "Rather than the very brief, one-way message you see in typical banner ads, native ads regularly include images and copy that are consumed in a similar way to editorial content. Banner ads both sit outside the native content experience of a site and are typically designed in a one-size-fits-all style that causes them to be less integrated into the site."

native ads infographic

Publishers have as much of a responsibility for solving the "banner ad blindness dilemma" as advertisers do, says Ophir Tanz, founder/CEO of GumGum in Santa Monica, Calif.

"This study proves that native ads have resonance with consumers, so (publishers) need to begin exploring how this emerging format will perform within the content of their own sites," Tanz says. "When done well and without misleading consumers, incorporating relevant marketing messages into the natural flow of how people consume content is a win for all stakeholders in the advertising ecosystem."

On the creative side, Schreiber says he's observed many publishers across different verticals partnering with brands in much deeper ways to create branded content that can better connect with audiences.

"And on the media side, publishers are re-thinking their layouts to provide new native ad inventory that offers brands a more direct way to engage with their audience," says Schreiber. "Mobile is one of the biggest new opportunities for publishers; native ads fit seamlessly within the typical mobile feed or grid-based layouts, and there are now plug-and-play solutions to enable publishers to easily create and monetize this type of inventory."

Tony Mamone, CEO/cofounder of Livingly Media, Inc., in San Carlos, Calif., says, he's always thinking carefully as a publisher about striking the right balance between delighting readers and advertisers alike.

"We think it's critical that the native advertising experience be truly compelling for a reader," says Mamone. "Also, native ad placements can shine a spotlight on your rich media or content, but then it's up to you to make sure that the ad experience is top-notch and really builds brand affinity. Digital publishers can learn a lot from traditional print magazines in this respect."

For example, most fashion magazines are filled with hundreds of pages of native ads "that are right in the flow of someone flipping through the book," Mamone says. "These ads work because readers love them and they have high production value. That's the type of experience we strive for with native ads online."

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)