Native Advertising: could it save the fate of traditional display?

With an ever changing digital advertising ecosystem, it can be difficult to navigate and stay abreast with the latest trends and developments within this exciting environment.  One such advance that has seen increasing growth over the last couple of years is that of native advertising.

The online ad-space, that began with traditional display banners has seen phenomenal growth but become increasingly cluttered; with brands facing the constant challenge to deliver clever and innovative content, in order to make their ad’s stand out from the crowd.  Testament to this, is the fact that back in the year 2000 the average CTR for display banners was 9%, but in 2012 with ad-weary consumers this had fallen to a mere 0.2%.  With such a sharp decline, and many questioning the effectiveness of standard display banners, the medium demanded a game changer that could once again deliver stand out performance; even perhaps native advertising.

Native advertising, simply put are ad’s that match the style, form, function and voice of the online environment in which they appear.  This provides many benefits, not the least of which is that it attempts to deliver relevant content within the context of the user experience; filling the void between brand publishing and banner adverts.  This is the major difference between standard display banners and native ad’s; whereas display banners are limited to being hosted within an ad exchange and disappear once they have been served, native ad’s live on forever alongside the plethora of online content.

This provides a great opportunity for brands to be creative, entertaining and even disruptive, in delivering content where target audiences are already actively looking for it; adding a layer of credibility.  The matching of visual design simply enhances the UX by responding to the device being used, including mobile, desktop and tablet, resulting in no two placements being alike  Popular current examples include: promoted tweets, sponsored stories on Facebook, videos and ad’s that appear within the content streams of popular media sites, such as Buzzfeed, and ‘More from around the web’ suggested articles.  With a consistent user experience, coupled with brands focused on providing entertaining content to qualified target audiences, this has the potential to boost the shareability and ultimate success of campaigns.

There are numerous examples and case studies of brands who have achieved great success; often through publisher partnerships.  In 2012, Buzzfeed and Mini collaborated to launch a series of custom social posts to drive broad awareness and emotional engagement with the brand.  The campaign was highly effective, with over a million engagements; two thirds of which came via social sharing and a follow up brand effect study found that exposed participants had improved brand perception and consideration.  By integrating the brand’s personality and voice with the highly engaged audience, it allowed for a seamless content experience.  Similarly, GE have continued to invest in an award winning content partnership with ‘The Economist’ in the form of a blog entitled ‘Look Ahead’, providing a daily look at innovations that are transforming business from around the globe.  This provides great credibility for the brand, by delivering high quality insight to an audience of key global decision makers.

Further support for native advertising can be found in a recent study by Sharethrough and IPG Media labs that found on average consumers looked at native ad’s 53% more frequently; with native ad’s registering an 18% higher lift in purchase intent than standard display ad’s.  Whilst this research was US based, the results are likely to be consistent across the globe and can therefore be applied to other key regions, including Europe

Whilst the results achieved to date have been impressive, native advertising should not become the stand alone online advertising format but rather a key tactic within the total digital media mix.  There is still a place for standard display banners in many environments to deliver scale and cost effective reach for brands.  By adding a layer of native advertising such as partnerships with publishers or editorial articles, it can provide much needed credibility for brands, whilst delivering a first class user experience.  The key for even greater success is to partner with publishers that have the highest affinity towards a brands audience; but with the caveat that it will be meaningless unless the content is compelling and relevant to them.

With publishers needing to further boost revenue streams as print continues to decline, and brands on the other hand looking to further enhance their communications platforms, the future looks bright for native advertising.  The exponential growth seen over the last couple of years is forecast to continue, with native ad revenue expected to reach $21 billion in 2018, up 347% vs $4.7 billion in 2013.  Whilst some critics have written off traditional display advertising, labelling it a medium of the past, others see the promise that native advertising brings as a evolution towards its future survival.

Reverse mentoring? What a good idea…..

I heard this term whilst watching a video from the Drum from their recent Digital convergence conference.  One of the key points being discussed was the struggle seasoned marketers, often in top leadership positions (CMO’s) have with modern technology and the fast paced digital shift.  Mark Cody, at Tesco Mobile shared how they have introduced ‘reverse mentoring’ into their business where the senior folk take time to sit down with the young grads, who mentor them on the latest digital trends such as Snapchat for example.

What a brilliant idea, and how great to empower the younger marketing generation that have grown up in the digital age to share their knowledge and experience with those who have been around the block a little longer.  So many organisations are crying out for something like this, as they continue to hold on to traditional methods; knowing the need to embrace digital but not knowing where to begin. I love Einsteins definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

Andy Mihalop, Industry Head at Google hits the nail on the head when suggesting that marketers need to be become, marketing technologists.  This new breed will have the ability to bridge the gap between the creativity/brand values and the big data/technology, and offer a truly customer-centric experience.

I’d like to see more and more companies implementing reverse mentoring programs; but even better, have the bravery to do something different and reap the rewards of doing so.

Continuous Commerce by @ogilvydo

Video

I stumbled upon this brilliant video today from Ogilvy so thought I’d share – this perfectly captures, the exciting opportunities and necessities for marketers to meet the ever growing expectations of continuous/connected consumers! I really want one of those mirrors when I wake up in the morning 🙂

An always on society – #squaredonline Module One Reflections

We’re in the middle of a digital revolution that shows no signs of letting up.  The pace of change is an exciting one, and over the past few weeks whilst studying module one of squared online the digital marketing qualification from Google, my mind has been racing with ideas and reflections about how digital has changed my life.  The more you know, the more you realise you don’t know – and what you do know now, will be out dated/have evolved within a few months.  Crazy huh?

As a marketer, the time to broaden digital skills and knowledge is paramount to understanding consumer behaviour and to try and adapt and keep up with them.  Brian Solis suggests that this era of ‘Digital Darwinism‘ is the natural selection process wherein businesses will either adapt and change with society and technology or risk being left behind and at the mercy of the environment they play in.  There are numerous examples of businesses that didn’t adapt: Kodak, Blockbuster, HMV, for example – where digital came along and ate them for lunch.  I remember the days of getting Kodak films developed, hiring a video from Blockbuster for the weekend and buying CD’s from HMV to listen to on the school bus.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I went into an HMV store, and Lovefilm and Netflix mean I don’t even have to leave the sofa and movies are a couple of clicks away.

Consumers now have a wealth of technology and information to hand to guide them in their journey along the path of purchase and now on average consult 10.4 sources before purchase – the Zero Moment of Truth as Google have coined it.  As a consumer, I love this, but as a marketer I recognise now more than ever that we must add value at every touch point in order to remain in contention during purchase consideration.

I was recently at a conference and heard an interesting phrase ‘smart boredom’.  With a smart phone always to hand, there are very few instances where we are unproductive or not being entertained.  When we’re waiting in queue’s or commuting on a train our phone keeps us occupied and entertained to pass the boredom.  The challenge is that we’ve become so accustomed and addicted to our phones that this ‘always on’ behaviour amongst society often overlaps and interferes with our inter-human relationships.

One of the most thought provoking videos I’ve seen recently is the ‘I Forgot My Phone‘ showcasing numerous occasions where rather than being in the human moment, we often ignore friends and family and pay more attention to our phones.  A fellow square, Chris Michaeloudis on the course posed the question in her own blog ‘Surfing the net or snogging….what would you rather be doing‘ – it was a fantastic read and shared the thought that the always on society has replaced the need for human engagement and intimacy.  I’m going to try really hard to make sure I am always in the moment, and that the smartphone comes second to friends and family and would challenge all of us to do the same.

This always on society, like everything has it’s pro’s and con’s – but I’m an advocate of this digital revolution and the opportunities it creates particularly for marketers.  I’m excited for what’s round the corner, and it promises to be mind blowing!

Bring on Module 2!

And here is that ‘I Forgot My Phone’ video: