Is Native Advertising The Holy Grail for Marketers?


By Johnathan Markey

10 April, 2017


In the past 2 years, there’s been a lot of talk about a new rising form of advertising called “native advertising” that is growing so fast today, it is being offered by most media channels and preferred by marketers over other forms of ads, and referred to as the next big thing in online advertising.

However, some may not grasp the idea behind native advertising, and the reasons for its growth and popularity. This might be due to the fact that there is no fixed shape, size or format for native ads.

Native advertising means ads that are delivered within the natural flow of the content of a certain site. They mimic the site’s look and feel, to the point it becomes part of the site. It simply becomes native.

You are probably exposed to tons of Native ads everyday on Facebook (sponsored posts), Twitter (sponsored tweets), Linkedin (sponsored updates), News sites (sponsored content from the web, In-Feed Native ads), and virtually every other ad supported media channel.

So why is native advertising sometime referred to as the Holy Grail for marketers and what’s all that fuss about? And what about the traditional banners that have been used successfully for a long time?

Why do publishers have to disguise ads and why do marketers love it?

AD-BLINDNESS

The key reason has to do with the fact that the Internet is getting cluttered with ads. The average online user today is exposed to a huge number of ads every day and his or her attention span is getting shorter. Users are adapting to the ad clutter and developing ad-blindness, that is consciously or subconsciously ignoring ad banners or ads that are too obvious.

Add to that the research that shows most online users are annoyed by online ads which apparently resulted in a surge in ad blocker use. All this contributed to lower viewability, engagement and very low click-through rates.

Hence, brands and advertisers are switching to native advertising, mainly because the click-through rates and user engagement tend to be much higher than typical ad banners. By being “native” those ads blend with the aesthetics of the site and the page content, making them largely unmissable, and non-disruptive to the user’s experience.

According to an IPG labs study, Native advertising helps brands achieve a 53 per cent increase in user engagement compared to other traditional ad formats.

WIN-WIN SITUATION

Additionally, native advertising, if done right, might bring more to the table than just more visibility and higher user engagement.

Imagine having the ability to dive right into the trust, credibility and authority of another site and leverage all that promotional juice for your own brand. Your product matches, the audience is receptive to your message, and everybody is a winner.

Brands that can work with media channels to create innovative native advertising can achieve ROIs beyond their targets.

It is not surprising then that, according to a Business Insider (BI) Report, native ads will drive 74 per cent of all ad revenue by 2021 as more publishers adopt it and more marketers assign budgets towards it. BI data further suggests that spending on native advertising in the U.S. could reach $21 billion by 2018.

My prediction is that native advertising will keep evolving and become the norm in the next few years as media channels and ad networks develop and implement native advertising at scale.

NATIVE ADS VS CONTENT MARKETING

If you’ve read a lot about native adverts, then you must have heard about content marketing as well, as the two are mentioned interchangeably. So how is content marketing different from native advertising?

Native advertising can be used in creative ways to promote various types of content and promotional material. It’s simply a more effective way to promote or distribute content.

On the other hand, content marketing itself is the process of creating and distributing high-quality, valuable content to attract, inform, and engage an audience, while also promoting your brand or business. The content created can be published online directly on niche sites, company websites, or promoted using media channels like social, search, display, native ads, etc.

Think of it this way: Native advertising is like sprinting. Content marketing is like running the marathon.

You can run a native advertising campaign for a week and reach a large targeted audience within a short time frame and you might be able to achieve high social engagement and brand-lift.

However, content marketing is a longer and more comprehensive process. Useful and valuable content must be continuously created and in different forms (article, videos, guides, infographics, etc) and then published and distributed on various channels. This can have a positive effect on brand awareness and sales.

Content that makes it to top publisher sites can create inbound high authority backlinks that might improve your search rankings and generate leads.

Today, the vast majority of marketers are using content marketing in one way or another. In fact, it is used by many large brands in the world, and some are finding smart ways to provide useful content to their audience while building their brand in the process.

A good example of content marketing would be a food brand publishing their own cooking recipes and tips on a dedicated cooking site and having a top chef contribute regularly and suggesting the 1000 different ways you can use their products to create irresistible deserts.

Another instance would be an IT security organisation offering their latest successful client case study to interested users or offering a free how-to guide to educate their followers on how to secure their organisation’s systems from online threats, perhaps with the help of their advanced security tools.

According to Shareaholic, 70 per cent of people want to learn about products through content, rather than through traditional advertising.

WHICH IS MORE EFFECTIVE?

Yet now that we know the difference, one might wonder, which is more effective, native advertising or content marketing, and what should your organisation be focusing on?

To answer this question, let’s take a look at the goals of native advertising and content marketing:

Native advertising goals are brand awareness, social engagement, and site traffic, while content marketing goals are search engine rankings, brand awareness, and conversions.

Based on this, organisations must first set its their goals according to what they aim to achieve with their marketing and what budget are they allocating towards that.

If your priority is to quickly reach a large number of your target users within a limited time-frame then native advertising would be a good solution for you, and can be done either directly with a single premium publisher or social network, or via a content recommendation network that allows you to reach 100s of premium publishers.

On the other hand, if your organization aims to build a more solid and long term presence, create authority back-links, teach users about your services or products, generate leads and sales, and build its brand awareness over the longer run, then content marketing would definitely be where you should be spending your marketing budgets.

Basel Sayaf is the founder and Digital Director at Jubna, a content recommendation network based in Dubai.