How Native Advertising came to be
We don’t want to sum up the whole history of native advertising but rather explain what led media companies to invent the concept. Defining it as a non-intrusive advertising format that blends into the editorial environment of a publisher and adapts to every kind of media environment (TV, radio, print magazines, etc.), but our focus will be on digital advertising.
Change in Internet use
The Internet changed the way people sought and consumed content along with the evolution of technology (we’re thinking smartphones here). How this technology has made it possible to give access to an infinite number of content no matter where people are.
This has forced us to adapt to the way we consume advertising content and how we react to it. We have learned to recognize it, to differentiate it from genuine editorial content, and to select the information we consider relevant for us. All of this in a matter of seconds.
Microsoft conducted a study* on attention span and online media consumption (ok, only in Canada, but there is no reason it would be an exception, right?). The main finding is that our attention capacity has overall declined: in average, while we were capable to focus on one task without being distracted during 12 seconds in 2000, it is only 8 seconds in 2015. The study also distinguishes 3 different types of attention:
- Sustained attention: if our general attention capacity has declined, we experience higher and more frequent peaks, with a more efficient memory encoding.
- Selective attention: this is the capacity to assess a huge amount of information in a short period of time and just pick and memorize what we consider relevant. This one has improved over time and it still is.
- Alternating attention: The digital lifestyle and foremost multi-screen usage has improved our capacity to switch from one task to another.
In this context, native advertising is a solution for a non-intrusive yet effective advertising format. Since it is fully integrated into the publisher’s editorial environment, the user is not disturbed, nor misled, since they can make the difference between sponsored content and an article. The user is free to click and knows what they will find behind that click. This format appeals to the selective attention type we mentioned before.
Native advertising from a publisher’s perspective
After the quality of the content in a publisher’s site, the user experience might be the second most important selection criteria for a user when browsing through a website. Native is precisely the advertising format that offers the best UX possible. The non-disruptive experience it provides is largely adopted by major publishers and accepted by users. So much that the results they provide both in terms of branding and performance are now higher than any other online advertising format.
In terms of results, publishers can calculate their revenues based on several metrics: CPM and RPM most of the time. However, there is an essential condition: ads have to been seen. This is the biggest advantage that publishers who use native advertising have: their ads are seen plus they are able to bypass adblockers and therefore maximize additional revenues. According to a report from PageFair**, ad blockers usage rose by 30% in 2016: about 615 million devices are equipped with such a feature, 62% of them being mobile. So not only is native advertising a way to maximize revenue thanks to better acceptance from web users, but it also allows publishers to win back revenues that are lost due to ad-blockers.
Advertisers have to adapt to new marketing trends
For advertisers, native advertising has been a necessary evolution because of the rise of new marketing techniques. The traditional marketing mix is now less effective and brands tend to turn towards content marketing to address their audience. Therefore new ways of distributing this content had to be found. Native advertising is one of the most, if not the most effective today.
Part of creating a good user experience is to provide the right content to the right person at the right time. Native Advertising is capable of doing so, thanks to the many targeting possibilities it offers; among them is semantic matching. This feature allows advertisers to target users according to what they read and consume on the internet: an algorithm scans the publishers’ editorial content to highlight keywords. These keywords are then used to determine what ad must be shown to this specific user. This partly explains the higher CTR, the lower CPL/CPA of native ads and eventually the better ROI for advertisers.
What’s next ?
As always in the digital industry, native advertising is in constant move. The newest technological improvement is programmatic which allows to combine the fine targeting possibilities of native with the scalability of automated processes. With this, advertisers are fully autonomous in their native campaign management and have better control on their KPIs. Also Native Advertising is one of the most advantageous formats for mobile advertising. Mobile has now surpassed desktop devices as first web browsing platforms (51.3% of visits through mobile devices against 48.7% through desktops according to StatCounter***). Thus, mobile native networks are getting more powerful every day to offer advertisers the largest market coverage possible and for publishers to deliver a browsing experience that sticks to what people want. These are only two of the major current native advertising trends.