When Ads go Native
There is nothing particularly new about the concept of native advertising, in fact the word ‘advertorial’ is celebrating it’s 70th birthday this year. What has changed however is how and where this native advertising is being delivered.
Put simply, a native ad is a piece of content that looks and feels like an editorial or ‘organic’ article. Thanks to advanced algorithms advertisers are able to dynamically position their native ads next to targeted content on the web.
And it’s big business. As the click through rates for display advertising fall, marketers are increasingly turning to native. According to BI Intelligence Forecasts, native advertising will account for 74 percent of total display ad revenues by 2021, up from 56 percent in 2016.
Outbrain, a big player in the native advertising and content delivery space, describes native advertising as “any paid content that is "in-feed" and inherently non-disruptive.” So let’s break that down for a moment.
As I scroll through Facebook my eyes slide past an in-feed post which looks and feels similar to the organic posts that it is nestled between. My only real clue that it is paid-for, is the subtle ‘Sponsored’ that appears under the brand name. When I dip into Stuff.co.nz, below the article that I’m reading, there is a block of related news headlines. But these are wolves in sheep’s clothing that will link me out to advertisers’ websites.
In an industry that has so long seen disruption as its raison d’être, the idea of being non-disruptive might be a profoundly difficult message for some marketers to absorb. However don’t confuse a lack of disruption with a lack of engagement. From a design and form perspective the idea may be to blend in with the surroundings, but in terms of content the goal is to stand-out, to engage, to attract clicks.
The result of all this is content competition. Both the organic and the sponsored clamouring for the reader’s attention, often boxed into no more than a headline and a featured image. This drive for more clicks has given rise to the concept of clickbait; eye-catching, but misleading headlines, that promise one thing but deliver something quite different. Clickbait has begun to dominate the native ad sector to such an extent that in some quarters sponsored content is as disliked as banner ads.
But let’s concentrate on the opportunities. Brand integrity alone should make marketers steer clear of click baiting. The ability to disseminate great, branded content to a targeted audience is compelling and also helps advertisers to get around those tricksy ad-blockers.