The Native Ad Opportunity: The Do’s and Don’ts of Strategy

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In our series, the Native Ad Opportunity, we’ve talked a great deal about the benefits of native advertising and the importance of Content Discovery Networks. By now we should be in agreement: native advertising has and will continue to revolutionize the digital advertising landscape.

In fact according to Patrick Albano, Head of Solutions EMEA at Yahoo, we’re seeing “a renaissance underway in digital advertising that is driving brands, publishers and consumers to communicate with each other in more personal and natural ways.” He adds, “Native advertising is an important piece of this evolution.”

To help you figure out how to best position yourself and start incorporating native ads into your media buying, we’ve compiled a list of what to do and what not to do when it comes to your native advertising strategy.

1. DO remember that form and function go hand in hand
Ask yourself how will your ads ‘fit’ with the general design of the page and website that it will appear on? Have you thought about your ad’s behaviour and how audiences will engage with it? Does its behaviour match that of the publisher your ad is being served on, and will the viewer’s experience be enhanced or disrupted?

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DO remember this Venn diagram

If you’re planning on running sponsored or editorial content, make sure your ad matches the medium of the publisher’s content.  If the ad will appear on a news publisher, ensure you ad matches this theme.

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For example: Netflix partnered with the Atlantic to promote the streaming network’s new season of House of Cards. The sponsored content produced was an in-depth political history news story about real-life First Couples like Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor. The sponsored native ad matches the publisher’s theme by functioning as a news-story and is highly educational. But it also effectively parallels the fictional political rise of Frank and Claire Underwood in the show.

But if your ad is being served on mobile rather than desktop, make sure ads are well integrated for mobile viewing.

yahoo.For example: Telus has served a native ad that fits in-feed with Yahoo news’ other articles and is appropriate for mobile viewing. Note how it is similar in size and format, but the ad is clearly labeled as sponsored. As readers scroll through their news, they’ll also take note of the “smashingly good deals.”

Ensure that your ad seamlessly fit in with its contextual surroundings with relevant content so that it is viewed, digested, and engaged in in the same way as non-advertising content. This way your ads will receive true attention from viewers and CTRs are more likely to spike. If it doesn’t fit, then it’s not a good native ad. This leads us to our next point …

2. DON’T forget your audience’s needs
If your audience is looking for in-depth knowledge, try creating editorial content. If your brand’s content adds value – it’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s educational – viewers will take notice. They’re also more likely to share your ad. Make sure your placement channel fulfills your audience’s needs.

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For example: The popular lifestyle/social content/news publisher BuzzFeed which gets nearly 1, 175,000 visits per day in Canada alone, caters to both males and females but have more female readers with a range of education levels, according to Quantcast and Alexa. But readers enjoy the site because of its entertaining listicles and viral articles. So Holiday Inn Express partnered with BuzzFeed to give readers travel advice and quiz them on their travel smarts.

If your audience is more interested in pure entertainment or you’re concerned with brand engagement, audiences might find customized use of social media channels to be more appealing.

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For example: The in-feed unit by Forever 21 above highlights the brand and is looking for socially aware and active viewers to recognize the brand, engage with it socially and complete its CTA – ‘Shop Now’.

Or, perhaps your audience already have something specific in mind and they’re actively searching for it – in this case, promoted listings might be your go-to medium.

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For example: Etsy is an online marketplace where consumers and designers connect to buy, sell, and make one-of-a-kind goods. According to the site, in 2014 Etsy’s gross merchandise sales was over $1.9 billion with visitors from around the globe. Understanding that Etsy facilitates the sale of unique goods, we therefore also know that its audience visits the site with the purpose of searching for and buying something special. Sponsored listings on Etsy keeps advertisers’ unique pieces front-of-the-line so visitors are more likely to see them.

The bottom line? Think about how your audiences will behave and interact on specific ad channels and tailor your native ads to each of those channels.

3. DO be completely honest
Make sure you’re fully transparent with your ads and explicitly label them as sponsored content. For advertisers and businesses, there is nothing worse than lying to the consumer. Ad transparency is beneficial because deceiving the viewer (not establishing an ad as an ad) leads to distrust of the brand and the company which hurts your bottom line in the long run.

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For example, The Wall Street Journal is a trusted and well respected publisher of financial news that caters to business savvy readers. Which means when they have sponsored content on their site, they are careful to clearly label it as such – twice if necessary.

4. DON’T forget to establish key metrics to measure your success
Measuring native advertising success is definitely different from traditional display. Not to mention, there are so many varied approaches to native advertising that you can’t bring the same metrics to every campaign. But there are ways of measuring success accurately.

Hybrid_brand-engagementBrand engagement rate
How well are your ads building brand awareness? Are they assisting in creating an emotional or a rational relationship between consumers and your brand? There are numerous brand engagement metrics from measuring change in baseline brand loyalty, change in brand awareness, change in purchase intent and more.

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Brand Lift
This is the measurement of the change (increased/decreased) interaction with a brand due to shifts in customer awareness of a brand after a campaign. This metric is an important indicator of how well an individual campaign performed.

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Clickthrough rate (CTR)
CTR is the number of clicks your ads received divided by the number of ad impressions. According to an article by dazeinfo, 56% of brands, agencies, and publishers consider CTR to be the most important metric for measuring native advertising performance.
High CTRs indicates your ads are relevant to audience’s needs.

Hybrid_conversionConversion
But whatever the actions you want for your customers, whether it be new sign-ups or purchases, conversion rates are important to your bottom-line. So ensure you’re measuring each campaigns against your (historical) average conversion rate as well.

Other important metrics in a native campaign includes referral traffic, social shares, follows, and likes every campaign requires a different set of metrics that’s relevant to its objectives.

5. DO use competitive intelligence

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While it’s great to recognize that the industry is trending towards native, it’s equally important that you stay knowledgeable about what your competitors are doing with their native advertising strategies. This is where competitive intelligence tools like WhatRunsWhere can help you. With WhatRunsWhere you’re able to identify the top and bottom advertisers and publishers on major Content Discovery Networks like Taboola, Outbrain, and Disqus. Knowing the native ad inventory of high traffic publishers will help you figure out where the best opportunities lie so you can take advantage. Sign up for a trial today!

6. DO blend native advertising strategies with Direct Response Marketing
While native advertising strategies are well suited for growing brand awareness, you can also use native tactics for direct response marketing. Remember these ABCs:

a) Design and use creatives that entice viewers with shock and awe – with images of the grotesque or bizarre, of the beautiful or sexy, of the novel and scandalous. In other words, use creatives that exhibits viral characteristics and triggers the reader’s curiosity.

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trainers nevereaet cruisecontrol CaptureThe ads above are some great examples of direct response native ads.

Remember, when consumers are navigating online, they do so with their own goals and priorities in mind. Getting distracted by ads is not part of their plans. But native ads are great at winning CTRs because they tug at human curiosity to drive engagement. They fit the context of where they’re placed and properly flow in the reader’s online experience. In the case of direct response native ads, the brand awareness aspect of the campaign should be reduced.

b) Don’t just pitch your product or service, use long-form landing pages that adds value to the viewer’s experience. The beauty of native advertising strategy is that it maintains user engagement levels for a longer period of time. Therefore landing pages that are educational, fun or interesting to read, or entertaining will keep readers interested and are more likely to nurture them towards clicking that ‘sign up’ or ‘add to cart’ button.

lowermybillsFor example, the above landing page for LowerMyBills.com is in fact an article about how you can make serious changes to save on mortgage. The CTA asks that you participate in calculating your new house payment and sign up.

c) There are certain products and niches that work better with direct response native advertising. Some niches that WhatRunsWhere has identified that works well include diet/weight loss, fitness and health, beauty/cosmetics, credit/debit and loans services, and dating and relationships services. Properly assess your product and niche and consider how you can produce valuable content that truly engages your target audience.

And finally…

7. DO go mobile!
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In a recent study by InMobi those in the mobile apps vertical, particularly publishers, will be one of three verticals to profit most from native advertising (the other being entertainment/news and retail). Last year, 46% of total ad spend budgets were allocated to native advertising, but more significantly, approximately 20% of all ad spending was assigned to mobile native ads.

What does this mean for the future of native advertising?

According to the same study, 57% of brand marketers and agencies believe they’ll offer more native in the future. 60% of advertisers agree that native engages the audience better than traditional formats and most especially helps with brand awareness. 67% of publishers believe native offers a better user experience and that audiences simply like the look and feel of native ads.

The native ad opportunity is definitely still growing and it’s growing most especially on mobile. Native might just well be the future of digital advertising. Where will you stand in this changing landscape?

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  1. Pingback: 17 Key Takeaways from Native Advertising | Air Ad Promotions

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