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Having touched on the topic of native advertising a couple of months ago, I’d now like to turn to… well, native advertising.

The trend continues to rise and the case studies accumulate, and it’s hitting more and more of a nerve with consumers fed up of traditional, interruptive ads. So let’s dig a little deeper into what’s causing the upsurge, and how businesses can make the most of it.

 

 

Don’t do this

Cast your mind back to 1994. More specifically, 27th October 1994, when the first banner ad went live on hotwire.com and 44% of those who saw it clicked on it. Fast forward to today and banner ads are ineffective and, frankly, downright annoying; nowadays you’re lucky to get a CTR of more than 0.1%.

Intrusive ads just aren’t the way into consumers’ hearts. During our usual bedtime browse, we’re increasingly resentful of those annoying onscreen popups that obscure content, or even the whole page; background takeovers; ‘suggested content’; and the much-hated banner ad.

As we spend more and more time online and the ‘second screen’ becomes the ‘first screen’ (3 hours and 41 minutes are spent online per day, that’s 26 minutes more than we spent watching TV), not being interrupted is becoming incredibly important.

And that’s where native comes in. What makes something native? What are the rules? And more importantly, how can it be measured? The answers are a work in progress, but marketers are swimming in a sea of opportunity, which is both exciting and scary for all involved.

Consumers are tired of being shouted at. They’ve had it for the last 100 years, and it’s time marketers became smarter. Indeed, the IAB found 60% of consumers prefer digital advertising that focuses on a story rather than selling a product, highlighting the importance of storytelling in advertising and the power of emotional connections.

The key issue here is one of transparency. When it’s not so obvious consumers are being advertised to, marketers run the risk of leaving the consumer feeling misled and eroding brand trust. In the same IAB report, 41% of those surveyed recognised native material as advertising. This is a big issue for brands and marketers.

Last time, I shared a piece of great native advertising on the New York Times website for Orange is the New Black, but in many cases it doesn’t take such a considered approach. Have a look at The Atlantic’s native ad for The Church of Scientology for an example of how not to do native.

This ‘advertorial’ unashamedly peddled the achievements the controversial church had witnessed that year. The issue here, other than the brash nature of the article itself, is that there was no distinction between The Atlantic’s standard editorials and the sponsored article.

For other examples of good native ads one need only look to BuzzFeed – the vanguard of click bait articles. As a purveyor of the much-loved listicle, BuzzFeed is the perfect platform for nondescript articles for brands to express themselves and tell a story rather than sell a product (see Hellmann’s 17 hacks That Will Make Your BBQ Awesome or Oasis’ The 11 Most Irritating Types Of People On Instagram).

In short, we’re going to see a lot more of native advertising. It’s certain to evolve into something that is different to what we’re seeing today, but the similarities will be one of discretion and, for the format to survive, one of transparency and trust.

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