Cookies, Christmas Sweaters and Native Advertising

In the spirit of the holidays, try this analogy on for size:  Native ads are to publishers’ content as ugly Christmas sweaters are to holiday parties. (You might like them, you might not, but they’re always going to be there.)

Although IAB quips that “native is in the eye of the beholder,” we’ll define native advertising as sponsored content that matches the content format around it.

With our definition in place, let’s ask four questions of native advertising. This quiz should help us see how it stacks up as its own ad category.

Why Is Everyone Talking about Native Advertising?

Simply put, because they deliver better results than banner ads do.

  • Native ads are viewed 53% more than banner ads.
  • Purchase intent is 53% higher for users who click on native ads.
  • Native ads generate 82% more brand recognition.

This simple infographic from Dedicated Media will help illustrate native ad’s success and rapid adoption.

Is Native Advertising Deceiving?

Let’s play the Devil’s advocate for a moment. Because the truth is, not everyone loves native advertising.

John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight questions the integrity of native advertising and humorously makes the point that no one likes to be deceived: “In news, that is the model now. [Native] ads are baked into content like chocolate chips are baked into a cookie. Except, it’s more like raisins baked into a cookie because no one wants them there.”

Are native ads deceiving? If users don’t see the small print, which spells out “Promoted by” or “Sponsored by,” then yeah, it would seem deceptive. Some publishers work hard to minimize that small print as much as possible. And the lack of ad standards in this category is concerning. Of course, publishers like Buzzfeed would argue that if the content is tailored to readers’ interest and marked with “Sponsored by” then there should be no reason for users to feel deceived.

Heck, we’ve lived with advertorials for years in print publications, and some would argue that native advertising really dates back to Hallmark and it’s Hall of Fame TV series which began airing before most of us were born (that’s in the 1950s).

If transparency is important for your brand and values, then choose a platform or publisher who also holds those same values.

Which Native Advertising Platforms Are Available for B2B?

If you would be interested in a basic overview of all publishers who offer native advertising, check out the Native Adscape infographic presented by Sharethrough. Forbes, Business Insider, LinkedIn, Buzzfeed and many more online publishers offer native advertising options.

In my recent blog post B2B vs. B2C Can They Work Together? I mentioned native advertising as one of the ways B2B and B2C marketing are converging. And I’d like to take this chance to add to that idea. B2B is not only using native advertising (which was first embraced by B2C), but also sponsoring content on B2C platforms. For example, HP, GE and GoToMeeting have sponsored content on Buzzfeed – how much more proof of convergence do you need? Any of the publishers are fair game whether you are a B2B or B2C brand.

Marketers will continue to find more options available to them as this category grows. 34% of publishers say they are likely or very likely to add a native advertising option to their menu.

Online advertising, native ad, banner ad

Is Native Advertising Right for Me?

Without knowing your marketing strategy, I would say it depends.

But if I were sitting down with you personally, we would start by talking about your marketing strategy, then your digital marketing strategy, and finally how users want to experience your brand.

Brands often find that native ads are great for brand engagement because the user experience is so well aligned with the content. Sometimes it’s a match made in heaven. (Or by your marketing team.)

Don’t rule them out! Native ads might be the right direction for your 2015 advertising campaigns.

In conclusion, I’ll leave you and John Oliver with this thought: while banner ads could be compared to raisins in a cookie, native ads might be better compared to the brown sugar in a cookie – baked in so as to add to the experience.