As digital content becomes more beautiful and compelling for readers, advertisers must find new ways to attract attention and engage their audiences. Native advertising has become one very popular solution. By integrating relevant content into beautiful editorial experiences, native ads can significantly increase the engagement and effectiveness of a marketer’s campaigns. But for marketers, there are still many open questions about how native ads work and what makes them so effective.
To answer these questions, researchers from Yahoo teamed up with the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Future of Advertising (WFoA) Program to identify the fundamentals that marketers should keep in mind when they create a native ad campaign. By assembling and analyzing empirical research on native ads, primary research from Yahoo, and insights from the WFoA Advertising 2020 project, the WFoA team was able to develop a conceptual model that was then vetted, refined, and validated in a series of working sessions with industry practitioners and thought leaders.
Out of this process, three fundamentals emerged as critical to a successful native ad campaign. They include:
- Ad Integration: The way a native ad is integrated into content is extremely important. Native ads must be presented in the same way as associated content, personalized for the viewer, optimized for the device, and related to the context of the page or article. Marketers should seek out publishers that incorporate ads directly into their content stream, rather than on the right rail or bottom of their pages, and they should ensure these publishers provide targeting and optimization. In separate studies Yahoo has conducted, highly visual ads that were integrated into content streams in this way benefited from 31 percent greater time spent on the ad.
- Aligned Objectives: Native ads must also deliver content relevant to the consumer in the moment. Native advertising is best when publisher and advertiser objectives are aligned. For example, a publisher of a food and cooking site may want to inspire readers to be creative with food. The best native ads for this site would be from advertisers that also want to inspire consumers to find creative new ways to use their product. Research on Yahoo native campaigns found that branded searches see 3.6 times the lift when ads are integrated within an editorial feed compared to standard display.
- Ad Transparency: Critical to native advertising is earning and maintaining the trust of consumers. Ads should be clearly identified as sponsored content. The goal should be to create information that readers want to see, so they don’t care whether it’s sponsored or editorial. Ensuring transparency will increase user trust and campaign performance.
Marketers should seek out partners who will offer the right ad placement on the page, good targeting, and transparency. Once those fundamentals are in place, they can develop the creative to match the offer to the consumer and engage their audience.
“Brands should be proud of their thought leadership, not try to disguise it. Native ads must match the look and feel of the medium, suit their environments, take into account the specific audience, and capitalize on the characteristics of the device experience,” explained Wharton professor Jerry Wind, Ph.D., about the research. “Our findings indicated that for advertising to be effective in the age of empowered consumers, it should be RAVES: Relevant and Respectful, Actionable, Valued, and provide an exceptional Experience and Story delivered through all touch points.”
With these simple but effective fundamentals in place, native ads can help marketers more effectively connect with their consumers. Ultimately, that’s what will drive emotional recall and create a strong path to purchase.
For more information on native ads from Yahoo, and our partners at the Mobile Marketing Association and BBDO, check out our webinar “The Native Advertising Frontier,” on Thursday, November 20 at 11 a.m. PT.
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