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Native advertising success: less talk about you, more talk about the needs of your customer

As more platforms arise enabling further native advertising options and iterations, marketers need to get more active and educate themselves on the value and opportunity it presents. By Vijay Solanki.

The explosion of content consumption across multiple devices has meant that although there are more opportunities for advertisers to connect with their target audience, there is much less tolerance of interruptive and intrusive formats. This has led to the rise of native which, when well-executed, offers brands the opportunity to give already engaged consumers a more relevant brand experience – and it’s taken off strongly to become one of the fastest growing forms of digital advertising.

Business Insider’s research division BI Intelligence has predicted that by 2021, 74% of all ads in the US market will be native. Companies like LinkedIn are getting in on the act with the launch of its Native Advertising Network in September, and as I write this, one of the first storytelling platforms, Israel-based Playbuzz, has just raised $35 million in series three funding (including investment by Disney).

We’ve come a long way since the early iterations of native advertising which were too tied to product, too jarring and too self-conscious – and as a result totally missed the mark. Yet despite advances, the industry still has a long way to go in terms of maturity and understanding, so I recently caught up with Susie Bayes, brand partnerships director at Guardian Australia and Sarah Wyse, CRO at Allure Media to get their top tips for marketers before they present at the inaugural IAB MeasureUp conference in Sydney next week.

According to Guardian’s Susie Bayes, native advertising in Australia is flourishing and has come a long way since its infancy; particularly in terms of transparency. “Transparency is an absolutely core requirement for native content – as it is with any advertising. Not only is it absolutely detrimental to trick consumers but research shows that consumers are more receptive to content marketing when brand involvement is fully transparent.”

Bayes believes that poor native advertising and content experiences are no different to any other poor customer experience and these often come when a company puts its own needs those of its consumers. “Like everywhere else in our ecosystem, customers’ power to reject things that don’t work for them has catalysed the customer-centricity revolution and you ignore their needs at your peril.”

Her key piece of advice to marketers is to “stop and think about the consumer’s experience of what you’re creating – if you’re not being useful or relevant, if you are talking about your product not their need, they simply won’t engage.”

Allure’s Sarah Wyse has a particularly keen interest in exploring the need for brands to develop new ways of assessing native advertising, believing that understanding how native content works and is measured is going to be key for its continued evolution. She neatly summarised that “click-measured, ‘performance’ digital media has lost its way for brand advertisers who want to connect with consumers in a more meaningful way.”

Wyse is adamant that engagement should be the key metric when looking at the success of native content and is concerned that it is often still bought on the basis of ‘views’ which is another variation of clicks – and often driven by buying large audiences across the big platforms. “Blasting out large volumes of native posts on social platforms in a bid to drive clicks is discounting the very benefit to a brand of running branded content.”

So what should marketers be measuring? Wyse notes that “a cost per engaged view would be a step in the right direction, if we are going to look at ways of improving the ecosystem,” but notes that with this, new expectations will need to be set around scale.

For my money, I can see a one size fits all approach working neither for the form of native advertising nor in how we measure it, because as new technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and new platforms like driverless cars become more common, there will be many different native advertising options and iterations. Indeed one of the current ‘masters’ of native advertising, Vice Media, has experimented with its own beer, named after its brand-owned London pub (Old Blue Last) and describes it as ‘a piece of native advertising in a can’.

What is clear is that as native continues to increase its share of the digital advertising pie, we will see much more rigour and innovation in how we measure its true value. And marketers will need to take an active interest in the process, ensuring they are well educated and clear on both the value and opportunity that native presents.

by Vijay Solanki
source: Marketing Mag