Making the Case for Native Advertising

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Article Takeaways

  • What a native ad is and why they cause confusion in the consumer journey.
  • Some examples of when you should use native advertising in your campaigns.
  • How to test, learn and improve the efficiency of your native advertising efforts.

Consumers see native ad units all the time. A native ad is paid content disguised as editorial content, called ‘native’ because it appears to be a natural part of the page it’s on. So, you can be scrolling down your favorite news site and see what appears to be another story, but it has a “sponsored” note in the corner. Or underneath an article you’re reading, you may see small images with attention-grabbing titles encouraging you to click. Even ads we see in Facebook feeds are native.

These ads can spark interest and lead consumers down a rabbit hole of information, but they can also make consumers wary that they’re spam. And we can all agree there’s nothing worse than clickbait that brings you to a site you didn’t want to go to. So, what’s the case for native advertising?

With no clear place along the consumer journey, it’s the channel we love to hate (and hate to love). It’s also one that advertisers dove into before they knew what to use it for.

When native ads gained popularity, advertisers saw it as a great way to drive site visits. Native networks offered ease of execution with a low price point, boasting an ability to drive visitors to your site or provide specific written content about your products. In other words, it was finally another channel intended to drive clicks besides paid search, and at a low cost per contact to boot.

Drive clicks, yes. But drive last-click conversions? Not the case.

Native can be powerful if you’re using it for the right thing, but unfortunately, a last-click conversion is not one of those things. People clicking on native ads aren’t normally in the mindset of making a purchase – instead, they’re more likely looking for information on a particular topic. So even if your ad targeting is right on and you get in front of a user who would value your content, don’t expect them to stop what they’re doing and convert. Expecting this is like expecting someone who sees a banner ad to immediately click and purchase a product. It’s just not how the tool works.

But approached correctly, native has its place. Here are examples of when to use it:

Awareness, Education & Consideration

Native is great for achieving high-funnel goals related to awareness, education, and consideration. Using content to inform people about a topic and subtly introduce a brand as either a thought leader or a solution is native’s true superpower. Because of this, it should be measured as a high-funnel tactic and not seen as a failure if it doesn’t drive last-click conversions.

And because it can be used to efficiently drive users to your website (again, to visit, not convert), it’s a great way to add new users to your retargeting pool. If an individual is interested enough to click to read your content, you’d be remiss not to message them again to increase consideration and be top of mind when they’re later looking to convert.

Test & Learn

Native is also a great way to test and learn. Flexibility with written copy and imagery allows you to learn not only which ‘reasons to believe’ your audience find most compelling, but also which copy and image combinations spark the most interest. Findings from tests like this can then inform larger, more costly ad units.

To maximize success, be sure to take the following into account:

  • Have a variety of copy and images available for rotating and testing. Use these learnings to inform your other channels, and vice versa.
  • Ensure ads drive to rich content that informs, educates, or entertains; this content should not be geared toward driving a hard sale.
  • If you aren’t using your agency’s internal trading desk for placing media, make sure the partner you’re purchasing ad space through uses websites/placements/creative that align with your goals. Some partners are known for a spammy, widget, bottom-of-page placements, while others offer quality in-feed placements. It’s crucial to remember that not all native is a good native.
  • Use engagement metrics to measure performance and gauge success (for example, how much time users are spending immersed in your content?). Native is a channel that introduces and educates and should be measured as such.

At the end of the day, there are many benefits to running native ads – as long as the channel is planned and measured correctly. With the right implementation and management, native ads can introduce precisely targeted audiences to the benefits of your product or business, begin a relationship with new prospects, and offer a wealth of knowledge that can be used to optimize your overall media mix.

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