We’ve heard the hysteria surrounding the native advertising ecosystem, and within that hysteria is a litany of mistruths and misconceptions about how native advertising works and why it is effective.
In time for Halloween, we would like to explore five of those native advertising “horror stories” to help set the record straight.
1. Native advertising is not just another buzzword and fad
When video streaming was introduced, there were serious doubts about its necessity and relevancy. Critics thought that no one would want to watch television on small screens. However, video streaming transformed the entertainment industry.
Today, you can hardly find a person who doesn’t watch their favorite show on smartphones or tablets.
Soon, the act of presenting interesting ads in a convenient and natural way also will become a standard. Native advertising will evolve to integrate into our everyday lives.
This is not merely an opinion. OneSpot and digital media consultancy firm 614 Group surveyed 487 US marketing professionals about content marketing recently and found that 22% of marketers believe native advertising is where all online advertising is headed and 69% believe it’s a valuable advertising niche.
2. Native advertising does not mislead the end user
During native advertising’s infancy back around 2008 through 2010, vendors tried to mask ads to look like editorial content. Some less scrupulous groups focused on trying to bait users (without providing disclosure or relevant content) into clicking ads.
Today, the industry is moving toward standardization of native advertising, both in best-practices and ethics.
A native advertising taskforce within the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is working hard with advertising vendors all over the world to develop those standards. The studies already done (Native Advertising Playbook and Consumer’s View on Sponsored Content) reveal the industry’s intention for clarity, improvement, and consumer comfort.
The next important IAB meeting in regards to native advertising soon will take place in New York, and its primary focus will be on disclosure and relevancy. So, we can see that the industry is working together toward clarity and consumer comfort.
Problems with transparency occur with a minority of vendors that are not focused on the consumer experience. The problems are created by individual publishers or vendors operating outside of the way the industry as a whole behaves.
In regards to users, they value what’s relevant and interesting to them, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s website’s content or native recommendation.
According to IAB, three criteria should be observed when talking about native format: relevancy, authenticity, and authority. If those are respected, the native form benefits the entire ecosystem and provides 100% transparency.
3. Native advertising does not just repurpose old content
Native advertising uses content from qualitative suppliers that are with huge media companies, such as Conde Naste, Hearst, and Time Warner. Those companies have heavily invested into creating top-notch content and publish it on their websites and then distribute through the native advertising vendor networks. That practice provides quality, up-to-date content for visitors of other sites to enjoy.
Moreover, native ad networks can provide relevance and benefit to the end user, through matching the content with the right user with their powerful targeting mechanisms.
New content usually will generate more traffic than old content organically does. So if old content is still appearing, it is because it survived the competition and is highly valued content that earned the right to be there. All participants in the market collectively have to continue to develop the education, standardization, and high ethical criteria that will earn credibility with the consumer.
4. Native advertising is different from display ads
Unlike display ads, native advertising is delivered in a format that uses a completely different principle. Native advertising is designed to integrate into the website itself, fitting a specific website’s look and feel to complement the site’s editorial vision.
Another important point is that native advertising selects content consistent with the platform’s behavior to integrate with (instead of disrupt) the user’s experience.
Good native advertising is perceived as a recommendation, not advertising. When chosen correctly, the visitor sees it not as a disruption but rather as a relevant suggestion.
Traditional display ad units are distracting and outdated. Stats show that 99.8% of banner ads are ignored. Native advertising is a breath of fresh air for the consumer, who is thirsty for relevant and interesting content. The native advertising trend is working toward transforming the entire online advertising industry from distracting a consumer to interacting with the consumer.
According to a “State of Native Advertising” survey 84% of publishers, 81% of agencies, and 78% of brands thought that native advertising adds value for consumers.
5. Native advertising is not the same thing as advertorial
Native advertising is not a synonym for advertorials. Advertorials are advertising presented as editorial. Native advertising clearly signals that it is advertising but is integrated into a publisher’s website, so it does not disrupt the user experience.
The goal of a native ad is to offer relevant content to the user within the framework of the publisher’s business model. Advertising can be called native if it correlates with website’s editorial vision and its visitors’ interests, so that there is an organic interest in exploring it. As Michael Rayman says, “By definition, native ads must be as much user-driven as the rest of the content on the page.”
* * *
Native advertising is nothing to fear. It is evolving into the perfect mash-up between the needs of advertisers, publishers, and consumers in a package that is non-intrusive and interesting. As long as ads are consistent with a publisher’s editorial vision, ethically disclosed to the consumer, and generate real engagement even after the user clicked through to the advertiser’s website, native advertising can be an effective way to reach audiences.