Think native and get creative

With nearly 3 in 4 people finding online advertising annoying and click-through rates remaining below 1%, the online advertising industry is looking for less intrusive formats that blend with the user online experience and better engage with consumers. ‘Native advertising’ is a new model that goes beyond traditional display formats. Native ads integrate branded content such as pictures, videos or articles directly into the site experience, usually in a form that matches the site content, instead of just placing ads framing the content.

I am very excited about native ads and the opportunities they offer for online creative, a refreshing change from annoying pop-up ads, aimed to be more visually appealing and less interruptive. Native ads force us to think outside the banner box, looking for content that fits the site and creative executions that are part of the online experience. In other words, developing branded content that delivers a message and tells a story, without it feeling and looking like an ad. 

There is no need for advertisements to look like advertisements. If you make them look like editorial pages, you will attract about 50 per cent more readers. 

David Ogilvy

The main social media platforms have embraced the native ad format: Facebook sponsored stories, Twitter promoted tweets, promoted videos on YouTube and even promoted playlists on Spotify. Publishers like Forbes, The Huffington Post, The Atlantic or Rolling Stone are also jumping on the bandwagon and experimenting with this content-based model.

Twitter promoted tweet

More brands are falling in love with it because it allows their content to become part of the user experience.  Twitter is a great example – we use Twitter to read and post tweets, so promoted tweets enable a brand to be part of our twitter feed.

We are already seeing great examples of native advertising. Last summer adidas launched its football Tumblr blog just before the 2012 UEFA European Championship, promoting the site through paid placements in Tumblr’s “Radar” slot on the user dashboard. The Radar section highlights the most popular posts from across Tumblr, and adidas messages were featured alongside these. The result was a well-integrated campaign that was visually appealing, leveraging the sleek look of the platform.

Curated video galleries like Devour also offer a great canvas for native advertising. The grid layout of Devour allows for visual integration of brand content that fits the voice of the site. Can you spot the ad in here?

Devour native advertising

Devour sifts out the best videos from YouTube and posts the well-curated collection every weekday, picking the most relevant and interesting content to engage users. That is exactly the same principle that will make native advertising a success, the brands which produce the best content for the native medium will generate the biggest efficiencies.

However, not all the grass is green and native advertising can face some limitations. The main issue for marketers is that they need to work with every publisher independently, since each publisher will need their own creative in a format that fits with fabric of the website. Brands must deliver content that provides value for users, speaks the language of the brand and is created in real-time, which can require a large amount of resources and investment.

Consumers are asking for less intrusive ads and are hungry for discovering meaningful content. Native advertising has a huge potential and if executed well, it can increase the chances of capturing the attention of your audience and interact with them. With all the new platforms and tools emerging in the digital world, we expect to see more and more online advertising going native.

Ines Nadal is a research manager at Ipsos ASI, the advertising research specialists. Follow her on Twitter @inesnadal

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