The Native Advertising Trend

In shopper marketing, we always look for effective ways to deliver targeted and relevant messages to consumers. Meanwhile, the rapid expansion of digital, social and mobile technologies creates more complexity in how consumers move along the path-to-purchase.

Many marketers find themselves engrossed in a whirlwind of articles with catchy headlines, or playing buzzword bingo at conferences—all to find out that shiny new objects like omnichannel are really nothing new. (That’s right, I said it.)

Amidst the whirlwinds and games, I’d like to share another trend that is getting a lot of attention this year—one that resonates in our world of shopper marketing.  I’ll try to keep the buzzwords to a minimum as I briefly go into what native advertising is and where I see it going in the coming months.

What is Native Advertising?

Inc Magazine said it best below.

Native advertising is simply advertising that follows the format, style, and voice of whatever platform it appears in. The goal is for someone browsing a site to see the advertising as something integral to, rather than an intrusion on, his or her overall experience of the site.

Several months ago, I set a Google Alert on “native advertising” and not a week has passed without dozens of hits. If you don’t already have a perspective on native advertising’s quick growth, here’s a chart with lines going up that further validates my case.

Google trends native advertising

The chart above is from Google and represents search interest over time. As you can see, it’s growing rapidly but not necessarily due to popularity.

Google is seeing many searches about native advertising because there’s curiosity as well as a concern about consumer protection. The FTC hasn’t taken a stance on native advertising yet either. It’s likely that some level of regulation will come down on web publishers to hold them accountable to the transparency of content. Essentially, what is advertising, what is not, and how native advertising is disclosed to the consumer.

For example, when we are watching TV and it goes to commercial, most of us are aware that we are seeing an advertisement. The same thing goes for various other medias. Consumers are quick to pick up on whether or not they are being marketed to. But with native advertising, publishers are making it much more difficult. We’ve all had the same experience, once or twice, after reading an advertorial. We get that feeling that we’ve been duped a little. If done strategically and ethically, the right blend of brand sponsored messaging is a desirable and will provide relevant content that consumers actually enjoy and share.

The interruptive banners, boxes and buttons experienced through standard display advertising have contributed to now what is called “banner blindness”, to which the industry average click-through rate is 0.2%. For context, they used to be around 9% back in 2000.

Studies have shown that humans subconsciously block out these standard forms of display advertising tactics when trying to read. Sure, video and rich media will boost CTRs and interactions, but with free ad blocking software on the rise, these ad units will decline.

native ad framework

So, here comes native advertising to the rescue, right? Not so fast.

What’s next for Native?

Before native advertising can truly become mainstream, two key initiatives need to progress, and one extremely important component needs to be understood.

  1. FTC must define how it is to be regulated.
    On Dec 4th, the FTC is hosting a workshop to define what native advertising is and how should it be regulated. Once the FTC decides how to handle this new tactic, we expect to see another spike in activity from marketers and publishers alike to ramp up resources and support this new trend.
  2. Co-op content begins with marketers and publishers.
    Mainstream web publishers must define the role they want to play, how they’ll staff up to support brand marketers, and how to develop native ad solutions for their platform(s).
  3. Marketers, don’t ruin this one, ok?
    Shiny objects that aren’t rooted in a strong foundation come and go. QR codes and daily deals started as shiny objects, but soon wore off their welcome with consumers. They were simply a rush to tactics vs. solving a problem with a strong understanding and relevant activation along the path-to-purchase.

It’s very interesting to see how native advertising is disrupting the relationship between marketers and publishers. As shopper marketers, we must learn and understand how this trend affects the media relationship between brands and retailers. Stay tuned…

by: Jason Prance

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