Deconstructing the Hype around Native Media
It was May 2013 when MediaRadar first sponsored a conference about native advertising. At the time, most publishers saw native as little different than the old advertorial concept repackaged and wired for the dotcom market. Fast forward just a year later and Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo, was opening up in Cannes (June '14) singing the virtues of native ads (stating that viewers of native ads are 3.6 times more likely to perform a branded search than viewers of traditional display ads).
Why has native advertising spread so fast? Native offers additional benefits to add to the marketing mix, including a more sophisticated way to increase engagement, as well as branding. It allows advertisers to become part of the editorial and helps tell their stories persuasively. Display can be successful in building brand awareness, but advertisers are also looking for ad formats that deliver a message without interrupting the consumer as they are reading, watching, and listening to the content they value.
As people grow up consuming vast amounts of digital content on a daily basis, they also develop blinders that mentally block out the numerous display ads begging for their attention, marking the demand for ads that engage audiences in addition to building awareness. Clients will often ask me questions about native advertising and so I wanted to summarize some of what we've learned.
- How many brands place native ads? In just the last 6 months, we've observed 3,248 brands placing native ads in consumer media. In September, we saw a leap of 25% over August! So yes, native advertising is growing quickly. We can't ascribe all of this to the typical fall market boost.
- Native advertising is not just for large consumer media like BuzzFeed. It's already infused in regional, enthusiast, and B2B media. Everyone from Farm Journal to Truckin' have programs running native ads.
- Native advertising is not as widespread as it may seem. The way it's covered in the press (including John Oliver, who tastefully eviscerated native adverting on HBO), you might think native is everywhere. This is especially true after BuzzFeed's recent $50 million funding. But it's just not the case. After a careful review of thousands of websites, we found evidence of any flavor of native in just 11% of ad-supported sites. So don't feel like you're left behind in you're just getting started! There is still a great opportunity for brands and publishers to be early adopters.
- Native has no defined set of rules. The IAB released comprehensive guidelines for defining native, but the truth is that, today, almost anything goes. We're tracking 41 separate ways of implementing native advertising. This includes many formats, including clever integration into video. Yes, many high profile publishers like The New York Times, Forbes, BuzzFeed, and The Atlantic have very defined rules, but this is not the case in the broader market.
- We're still figuring it out. MediaRadar's tracking of native advertising has revealed that best practices are still being "learned." The most prestigious brands, including the first native advertiser on BuzzFeed, GE, do a lot of testing. In fact, we see the most sophisticated campaigns, such as Revlon's recent campaign in Elle, will run dozens of creative executions. They'll then evaluate to see which are most effective.
Todd Krizelman is the co-founder and CEO of MediaRadar, a provider of advertising sales insights and intelligence.
Todd Krizelman (@ToddKrizelman) is Co-Founder and CEO of MediaRadar (@MediaRadar), the ad sales intelligence platform used by more than 1,600 publishers, including BuzzFeed, A+E and The New York Times. Growing up near the epicenter of technological innovation in Palo Alto, California encouraged him to become an entrepreneur and co-found of one of the world’s first social media sites, theGlobe.com. Krizelman also held leadership positions at Bertelsmann’s Gruner + Jahr and Random House. With his expertise in ad sales and innovation, Krizelman joined veteran web architect, Jesse Keller, to found MediaRadar in 2007.