With ban­ner blind­ness and ad-block­ing soft­ware on the rise, na­tive advertising is grow­ing rapidly. And while there are plenty of thorny is­sues, Ben Young thinks that’s a good thing for mar­keters.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents -

Ecom­merce is boom­ing. But Noah Maf­fitt says it’s only just get­ting started.

How many of us wake up in the morn­ing, roll over, pick up our phone, and look at our Face­book feed? An all too fa­mil­iar habit.

We’re see­ing that trend in the dig­i­tal land­scape, where con­tent is now pushed to you through feeds, whether it’s in Linkedin, Twit­ter or Face­book. And it’s all brought fresh to you, cu­rated and fil­tered.

And it’s this shift that has cre­ated the need for advertising to change. With users in­creas­ingly blind to the ban­ners around them, ads have moved into the feed.

This trend is called na­tive advertising; ads that fit the form and func­tion of the web­site or app that you are us­ing, rather than tak­ing over your screen. And there are a few dif­fer­ent types, such as in-feed units, paid search units, rec­om­men­da­tion wid­gets and pro­moted list­ings.

The most con­tro­ver­sial of these cat­e­gories is paid con­tent, which is com­mis­sioned by a brand and placed on a pub­lisher’s site. A great ex­am­ple is a re­cent piece on The New York Times for Airbnb, the peer-to-peer ac­com­mo­da­tion com­pany, which is presently bat­tling the New York lo­cal gov­ern­ment over what it be­lieves are an­ti­quated ho­tel laws.

The beau­ti­fully rich ar­ti­cle lays out a nar­ra­tive around how New York has al­ways been a bea­con of hope for im­mi­grants; how it has been the first stop for peo­ple ar­riv­ing and then spread­ing around the US. The crux of the ar­ti­cle is that the city is a global des­ti­na­tion and peo­ple would pre­fer to stay like the lo­cals, so they don’t feel like out­siders.

It works on a few lev­els. It has the reach of the ti­tle, the ge­o­graphic tar­get that Airbnb wants and it fits the tone of the pub­lisher. The ideal sit­u­a­tion for suc­cess.

What sur­prises some is how ef­fec­tive this kind of paid-for con­tent is. If it’s good enough, peo­ple will read it. And this is backed up by data from our Nudge an­a­lyt­ics plat­form. The av­er­age per­son is scrolling 70 per­cent and spend­ing 1.23 at­ten­tion min­utes with na­tive con­tent.

While na­tive grows in New Zealand— and the IAB es­ti­mates it will be worth $120 mil­lion by 2017—there are some hur­dles that will need to be over­come. How do jour­nal­ists bal­ance re­port­ing with work­ing for a brand? The so­lu­tion for many is to cre­ate a sep­a­rate stu­dio with ded­i­cated staff and writ­ers to pro­duce the con­tent.

Adam As­ton, the ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor of The New York Times T Brand Stu­dios, speaks to this. To do the job re­quires a unique set of skills. Pro­duc­ing branded con­tent in­volves many rounds of edit­ing and feed­back over an ex­tended pe­riod, be­cause the con­tent must con­form to advertising stan­dards as well as ed­i­to­rial stan­dards.

Dis­clo­sure is another oft-men­tioned is­sue. So do peo­ple rea­son­ably know that the con­tent is an ad? We con­ducted a study on this and found that the best dis­clo­sures are in the con­tent be­cause read­ers’ eyes go straight to the ar­ti­cle. This may seem counter-in­tu­tive. But the reader has clicked on an ar­ti­cle they want to read and, as long as it’s good, they will. Ef­fec­tive dis­clo­sure also means ef­fec­tive brand re­call.

Fuelling the growth of na­tive advertising is mo­bile, where na­tive has be­come the de­fault for­mat. As users flock to ad block­ing soft­ware—198 mil­lion ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Adobe study—the chal­lenge is for na­tive providers to con­tinue to add value to the end user ex­pe­ri­ence and avoid be­ing lumped in with the in­ter­rup­tive advertising that’s be­ing blocked.

So where does it fit strate­gi­cally? For those do­ing con­tent mar­ket­ing, na­tive is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion. Whether it’s pro­mot­ing your own con­tent, or us­ing an ed­i­to­rial voice to bring new peo­ple in to your fun­nel.

Where na­tive plays to its strengths is in in­tro­duc­ing your con­tent to new au­di­ences. If you’re find­ing your cur­rent mar­ket­ing ecosys­tem is get­ting a bit stale, na­tive helps put you in the right place at the right time. Let’s face it, not all your cus­tomers are on Face­book. And whether the fo­cus is brand lift or di­rect re­sponse, we’ve seen suc­cess in both.

Ben Young is a co-founder of Young & Shand and chief ex­ec­u­tive of na­tive an­a­lyt­ics com­pany Nudge. ben.young@young­s­

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