Native advertising: A brave new marketing frontier?

Native advertising is now a mainstream marketing tactic, with 83 per cent of UK agencies including it in their media plans.

Research by Adyoulike has underlined how prominent the measure is, as it is expected to account for 15 per cent of display budgets by 2015. However, despite its growing importance, only 77 per cent of agencies are confident they can properly explain the concept to clients.

What is native advertising?

Native advertising is the practice of creating content that is placed in publications to build trust and engagement with would-be customers. It typically takes the form of sponsored articles, where papers or magazines display the content in return for a fee.

The Guardian and the New York Times are among the publications to have adopted the practice as they seek to boost their marketing budgets. The big plus for marketers is that it provides them with an authentic opportunity to speak to an audience about an issue or topic that relates to their brand. For example, Dell sponsored a series of posts about modern day staff and flexible working.

It is a useful strategy, as a study by IPG media lab discovered native ads are typically viewed for the same amount of time as editorial content. At the heart of native advertising is the fact companies are creating content that has the potential to go viral.

Native advertising growth

While native advertising currently accounts for 9.2 per cent of digital display spend, this figure looks set to rise significantly in the future. For example, all of the agencies that are not currently using native advertising are planning to do so as they turn their backs on display advertising, a practice many view as ineffective.

When asked about what they are hoping to get out of native advertising, awareness, brand engagement and consumer education were the top three answers.

Francis Turner, managing director of Adyoulike UK, said marketers are "fully engaged" with the medium.
"Native advertising offers engagement, a clear voice and opportunities for brands that traditional display cannot compete with; it also works across platforms - tablet and mobile - that other digital advertising types simply cannot do," he added.

Top tips for native advertising success

Of course, there is no point in committing budget to native advertising unless the money is going to be used effectively. Brands need to make sure any content they produce for this medium is relevant, as customers will see straight through self-serving promotional material.

Instead, companies should be looking to create content that can provide insights into topical issues, educate individuals about their industry in order to create a greater level of interest, or provides tips to help professionals to be better at their jobs.

They should also be accompanied by rich visuals, as people will respond better to content that comes with high-quality images. Marketers should also be analysing the success of each native ad to see if there are any patterns. For example, they might find that list-based content has the highest rate of engagement, or that negative headlines have a higher visit rate.