I firmly believe the future of advertising is choice based — favoring user engagement over interruption.
Native advertising is all the rage in the PR and marketing world these days – whether you’re looking to enhance your content marketing strategy, expand your paid media efforts, or increase the ROI of your digital strategy, native advertising can play an important role.
Native advertising can be defined in a variety of ways, but it mostly refers to a form of paid media in which the ad experience matches the environment in which it is placed. The most important part of developing a native ad campaign is to craft content that add values to the user experience and compels your audience to take action.
Studies have shown that native ads are effective — let’s review the stats:
- Engagement rates are 20 to 60 percent higher on native ads than on banners and drive retention rates that are 3x higher.
- 70% of individuals want to learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertising.
- People view native ads 53% more than banner ads.
- Beeby Clark+Meyler led a native advertising campaign for GE which reached 5.1 million people and resulted in 416,000 clickthroughs — an astronomical >8% CTR.
- Compare that to traditional display ad CTRs, which have dropped from 9% in 2000 to 0.2% in 2012.
Measuring Native Advertising Success
Native advertising is most effective when executed as part of a strategic online marketing funnel. The below diagram illustrates how you should track the KPIs of your native advertising efforts so you can accurately measure ROI:
By nurturing your audience with a strategic sequence of content engagements through retargeting, you are in a much better position to optimize for conversion at the point of sale.
4 Opportunities for Native Ad Integration
Included below are four native advertising strategies that I utilize regularly for a world class portfolio of brands. Use these in conjunction with one another and you have a powerful formula for growing your brand (and sales) through native advertising.
1. Sponsored Editorials
Sponsored editorials are a form of paid media that have been around since the dawn of the printing press. (I know this because I have a newspaper from the 1600’s featuring a native ad hanging on the wall of my office). In the digital age, sponsored editorials come in many forms, and when executed correctly, can be highly effective at engaging readers and driving action. Since the native content is designed to match the ‘look and feel’ of regular editorial content, it also ensures a seamless user experience.
Many large publishers like the NY Times, Conde Nast and Forbes offer native editorial integrations, but these can get pricey without delivering great results since they are siphoned off from their regular content. Other boutique publishers like Conscious Connection offer native editorial opportunities for CSR related content which can then be amplified through an integrated paid media program. Regardless of how you choose to execute a sponsored editorial, user trust and engagement is paramount. Create content that makes sense for the environment and always seek to add value to the user experience.
2. Native Ad Networks
Native ad networks are another extremely effective form of native advertising for reaching your target audience at-scale. Native content in this instance still appears under a publishers masthead, but is distributed at-scale through an automated software program. The content is contextually aligned in the editorial feed, with brand content being consumed in each publication for maximum engagement.
Nativo & Sharethrough lead this space with their automated tools for syndicating brand content directly within editorial feeds. This type of distribution fosters much higher levels of engagement due to the reader’s focus centered on the text instead of a banner. It also helps to form positive brand associations in the reader’s mind, thereby influencing and strengthening brand perception. When crafting headlines, it’s important for marketers to be strategic in their word choice to ensure proper alignment with the brand and the editorial environment. It is advised to use key brand assets such as logos and thumbnails in these campaigns to strengthen the brand connection to the content.
3. Content Syndication
Content syndication is a favorite tactic of mine for amplifying both earned and owned media at-scale as well as for driving efficient customer acquisition. It works by distributing content across thousands of online premium publishers within recommendation widgets in contextually relevant environments. You can target by article keywords, website categories and user behavior. Content is also strategically formatted with headlines / thumbnails designed to attract your target reader and split test multiple variations for the most efficient performance.
Taboola & Outbrain make up the largest content syndication platforms in the United States and their recommendations reach 96% of the US online audience (approx. 300 Million Americans each month). A syndication program through these networks is most effective at driving customer acquisition when executed as part of a sequential retargeting campaign — in which content with a strong CTA is served to users who have already engaged with previous pieces of content geared towards brand awareness.
4. Video Syndication
Video syndication refers to targeted video distribution across the digital eco-system within relevant publisher environments, social games and the mobile web. The videos can be 100% choice-based (i.e. a user must hit play and choose to watch it) and in many instances you are only billed for completed 30-second video views. What’s more, the video views generated count directly towards the YouTube view counter – thereby increasing organic reach in YouTube search.
ViralGains & Virool lead this space with an in-feed video unit that requires users to opt-in to view. I typically prefer ViralGains for their choice-based environment that ensures you have a relevant viewer while optimizing against a DMP segment to further refine targeting. There is also built-in sharing widgets that encourage users to share the video with their social networks that can include pre-written social content such as a branded hashtag. What’s more, you can include a brand sentiment study or end screen CTA which sees great user response (upwards of 13%). You can then use these insights to inform future campaign initiatives.
Native advertising is a highly effective form of content marketing which can deliver engagement, add value to the user experience and achieve business objectives. Just be sure to ask yourself this one question: is this something I would want to watch, read or share?
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