Posted May 6, 2013 4:53 pm by with 3 comments

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sharethrough native ad liftYou’re skimming your favorite tech website and settle on an article about ways to save money on your cell phone bill. This is good information so you read it without noticing the notation that says it’s a sponsored story from T-Mobile. Or more accurately, you don’t realize that you’ve noticed. Your brain caught it, processed it and now associates T-Mobile with saving money on your phone bill.

Ah, the insidious power of the native ad. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. . I’m saying, it’s a thing and it explains why native ads are more effective than banner ads.

Native ads make natural connections – banner ads are disjointed connections. Which one is the brain more likely to latch on to?

Last week, IPG Media Lab and Sharethrough presented an infographic that showed how much more effective native ads are over banner ads. It’s interesting because in addition to survey questions, they also used eye tracking to collect data.

The main takeaway:

Consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than display ads.

Again, not surprising, since native ads are tucked into the data stream while banner ads appear outside the stream. It’s kind of like pointing out (as one of my Twitter followers noted on a previous article of mine) that more than 90% of all moms have had children. Actually, I’m surprised that the native ad number wasn’t higher. If you’re scanning your Facebook or Twitter feed, you can’t help but look at the ads that show up between posts from your friends and family.

But the effectiveness of native ads goes beyond prime placement. Good native ads continue the conversation. If I’m on a tech site, I probably own a mobile phone and I’m probably paying a lot for the service – thus, an article about how to go mobile on a budget makes perfect sense. And it sounds like an article a reporter for the site would write anyway. That’s the real key to native – you could take the word sponsored off it and it blends seamlessly with everything around it.

Native ads are so informative and / or fun 32% of readers said they’d be likely to share them with friends.

sharethrough native ad sharing

Native ads are more effective than banner ads. Hardly anyone would disagree with that. Great. So why don’t we all just forget banner ads and go native? Because native ads take manpower. They take effort. They take massive amounts of creativity and artistry and that means that they’re out of reach for the average business. Let me amend that – out of reach on a regular basis. Any company can afford to pay a blogger for a sponsored post. If you choose the right blogger, that’s totally native. If you create your own branded videos and they show up in your subscriber’s playlist, that’s native, too.  But on a large scale? It’s not going to happen any time soon.

There’s one other issue keeping native down and that’s the fine line between content and advertising. Content doesn’t have too many restrictions, but advertising has to follow rules or you might incur the wrath of the FTC. Or worse, the wrath of Google! Google doesn’t like sponsored content. If their little bots decide that your carefully crafted advertorial is more ad than. . . torial (?), they could hit you with a strike that will cost you more in traffic than you’ll gain in brand lift.

There’s no doubt that native advertising is the way to go, we just need to be careful about how we make the transition from here to there.

  • Native ads are of course almost as old as advertising and have been with us for at least a century It always bemuses me how many in the online space think any of this is actually new or innovative.

  • I don’t totally buy the “native takes more manpower” argument. Truly native ads would be created within a publication’s existing CMS – a task that can be performed by one reasonably competent blogger. Banners require designers, animators, PMs, AMs, and traffickers. I think given the higher returns on native, we’ll start to see ROI measurements in the future that indicate native is actually more time- and cost-effective than banners.

  • smartone2

    I think Native Ads and Banner Advertising go hand in hand . Banners can get users to the Native Ad content and also reinforce the Native Ad in other sections of a site (or network) .