Native advertising is, for the foreseeable future, the next major online ad type. Based on the flurry of recent activity, it’s clear that companies are getting serious about standardizing and refining their native ad offerings:
Google announced that DoubleClick for Publishers will support individual outlets’ native ad products, “underscoring native as just another format”
The IAB rounded out the week announcing a new Native Advertising Task Force
All of this comes one week after Hearst made its decision to cut the number of native ad units it offers from 40 to five, and create a ‘dedicated product portfolio.’
Standardization is a good thing. Even if we haven’t established industrywide standards, it’s encouraging to see major players standardizing internally. It begs the question though: why now?
Reader acceptance is part of it. A study released last month by Sharethrough and the IPG Media Lab showed that, “study subjects were 25% more likely to look at a native ad than they were at a banner, and they looked at them 53% more frequently.” The success of Buzzfeed’s ads have shown us that native advertising and sponsored content can work when it’s done the right way. As more of these ads make their way into the marketplace, brands and publishers are becoming more aware of what that right way is, hence this trend toward standardization.
The other more urgent need is for an improved business plan. The price paid for banner advertising continues to shrink, along with media spending overall. Publishers are working to find new ways to monetize and replace the lost revenue from shrinking CPMs, ad pages, and TV ads.
Until recently, native ads were often given for free by publishers to large advertisers. This could be in the form of content written specially for an advertiser, contests, sponsored Q&As, or any number of value-adds given along with a large buy. But demand for native ad campaigns is picking up, and ad sales teams are transitioning to fill that need.
The resulting evolution of native ads is following a similar trajectory to that of other Internet ad types: search ads, banner ads, page takeovers, pre-rolls, geo-targeted ads, sponsored links, etc. Just as each of these once seemed intrusive, all of them are now commonplace, but also potentially ignorable. Gawker Media laments that we may already be headed down that path. If native ads aren’t handled carefully they could suffer the fate of being as invisible as other ads.
The last five years have given publishers and brands significant ‘user testing’ for native ads, what works, and what doesn’t. Now companies can begin formalizing product offerings around what is effective and create the most engaging user experience.
We see this firsthand as many of our clients at Condé Nast collaborate on their best native ad techniques, and institute them across the company. Brands and readers will see the results of these efforts in action rolling out all summer long, starting with the Father’s Day contest on the Details Network. Through this work, we’re developing new content-driven native ad types and applying our expertise to help more brands and publishers standardize.
Native ads are the future of online advertising, and if done right they will make publisher and brand efforts more effective without detracting from the user experience. This has always been the goal, and with new standards and a more strategic approach in place this goal may just be realized sooner rather than later.
Feel free to reach out if you'd like to learn more about our solutions for native ads, and my take on the subject.