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Native Advertising can scare both publishers and marketers, but shouldn’t

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 02 Jul, 2015
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3 techniques to make Native Advertising more effective

Following the move made by many other online publishers in recent years, the picture-hosting site Imgur recently announced its plan to roll out native ads. The site bootstrapped for most of the past six years and built a loyal community, but — like most publishers — it has the need for a consistent revenue stream.

More publishers are riding the native advertising (definition and example) tide to monetize their platforms. For advertisers, native ads are a natural and effective way to boost engagement. In fact, Yahoo reported that, on average, users give native ads three times more attention than display ads.

But like all innovation, native advertising (definition and example) also follows an S-curve cycle of adoption and maturation. From display to search to video ads, each cycle inevitably brings a unique set of challenges and risks. And as native advertising matures, the issues advertisers and publishers face will also evolve.

native Ads

The Growth of Native Advertising

By now, most people are familiar with native advertising on social media in the form of promoted posts, tweets, pins, and pictures.

According to new research from the Online Publishers Association and Radar Research, nearly 75 percent of American publishers now leverage native advertising, and 90 percent have at least considered it.

Choosing the Right Ad Format

Publishers have endless options for offering native ads to supplement their original content. But having too many options isn’t always a luxury.

Consider a photo-sharing application, for example. Showing branded messages in the form of promoted photos might seem like the most obvious route. However, because this app likely has search functionality, it can also introduce native search ads and ask advertisers to bid on certain keywords so its branded photos appear in those search results.

Maximising Revenue Potential

While most publishers have a native ad strategy, getting direct-sold campaigns is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Working with multiple demand sources also comes at a cost.

We work with many publishers that deal with several ad networks and demand sources while building their direct sales strategy to secure immediate revenue. For every ad network, publishers need to integrate their software development kits, tags, APIs, etc., to display their ads. They also have to manage their priorities and fallbacks, visit several dashboards, and run spreadsheet calculations to understand the revenue native generates, which can quickly eat up valuable time.

Preserving Ethics and Trust

Given the potentially deceptive nature of native advertising, issues with trust will inevitably persist. To address these concerns, the FTC conducted a workshop last year to educate brands on best practices for disclosure.

Publishers have to worry about alienating their audiences with undisclosed or annoying ads and potentially misleading them with branded content. To avoid deceiving audiences, they need to follow these best practices, openly disclose branded content, and only work with brands that value their unique voice and audience. It’s a fine line to walk — one that some publishers are unwilling to attempt.

How Marketers Can Pave the Way

Despite the concerns with native advertising, it still has the potential to produce enormous engagement for advertisers and publishers. As you work with publishers on native ad buys, there are a few things you can do to simplify their jobs — and make your ads more effective:

  1. Focus on Quality

Most publishers are intent on upholding quality standards in their native ads. Imgur even strives to offer promoted posts that entertain and inspire like its original content.

As a marketer, you need to focus on delivering high-quality content. Your copy should be flawless, and each creative element needs to be well-executed. This will help publishers safeguard trust with readers and increase engagement with your ads.

  1. Test Relentlessly

The modern marketing adage should be “always be testing.” Constantly experiment with different elements in your ads. Try combinations of headlines, images, videos, and copy until you find the perfect fit.

Also test different forms of disclosures with your native ads, and measure their performance. If you’re executing a photo ad, for example, determine whether the statement “promoted photo,” “sponsored photo,” or simply “ad” elicits the most engagement, and stick with that approach. Publishers want your ads to succeed, so go the extra mile to test everything.

You’ll also need to shift your gaze from impressions, clicks, and click-through rates — which are great for bottom-of-the-funnel direct response campaigns — toward more appropriate metrics for evaluating native ad campaigns across the funnel.

  1. Design Ad Units Based on the ‘Native Advertising Playbook’

The look and feel of every platform will vary slightly, so be aware of the ad unit. Most publishers follow the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s “Native Advertising Playbook” to design native ad units for their properties.

Reference this playbook when designing your ad creative to maintain a seamless design. You can also consider working with a supply-side or advertising automation platform to help streamline the design process.

Native advertising is still in its early stages, and publishers and marketers stand to learn valuable lessons to make this new wave of advertising a success. By prioritizing quality, a seamless design, and transparency with audiences, both sides can start reaping the financial rewards of native ads.

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