While native advertising has had its challenges, it is definitely here to stay and will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021.
Although the term “native advertising” was coined only a few years ago in 2011, it has evolved a lot since then. Native advertising on the web is now commonplace, but People-based Marketing technologies are emerging to both open new channels, and improve efficiency and impact.
Publishers and brands can benefit from understanding native advertising in a historical context, and how People-based Marketing builds on prior concepts and successes in order to fulfill the promise of effective native advertising in the future.
Old School Native
Native advertising is not a new strategy, it is simply undergoing a digital transformation. Beginning in the early 1900s, brands began running “advertorials,” or ads that blended in with the surrounding editorial content in newspapers and magazines.
With the advent of radio and TV, they began crafting new native strategies. For example, P&G sponsored television drama series to market their soap, hence the term “soap opera” was born. Many brands also secured product placements in television shows and movies, so viewers would be exposed to their products in non-interruptive ways.
Search Engine Marketing: The First Digital Native Ads
The original native ads in the digital age were search engine marketing ads, which appeared above or alongside organic search results . Marketers could run campaigns to show ads at the precise moment a user searched for relevant keywords, or words that signaled an “intent” to purchase their brand’s product or service. As a result, Google began capturing a large share of marketing budgets.
Social Platforms Join The Party
In 2011, Facebook released “sponsored stories,” which blended in seamlessly with a user’s News Feed. Other social networks soon followed suit, including Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Brands embraced native-social ads for a number of reasons. Consumers log in frequently to social media throughout the day, often using mobile devices. Social platforms such as Facebook, can also track consumers across devices by using their social logins or email addresses, rather than cookies. This enables brands to reach consumers with ads that are integrated in the content they are engaging with, irrespective of device.
As a result, social platforms generate most of their revenue from native advertising, and have dominated overall native ad spend.
Publishers Develop Sponsored Content
At around the same time, digital media companies like Mashable and Buzzfeed began selling native ads to match the tone of editorial content. More recently, traditional news sources such as The New York Times and Forbes have created studios separate from editorial that are dedicated to crafting sponsored content and custom native ads.
Brands loved being able to place sponsored articles and videos as well as custom native ads which blend in with premium content from top publishers. By developing sponsored content on behalf of brands, publishers can compete with Facebook, Snapchat and other platforms that create native ad units.
The Programmatic Promise
Sponsored content requires a high level of customization which can be straining for both publishers and advertisers. The cost is high and inventory is limited. As a result, many publishers and advertisers are now experimenting with programmatic native on the web.
To run a programmatic native campaign, an advertiser must supply only one set of assets- such as headlines, images, and call-to-action copy. Those components are then configured into multiple formats in order to adapt to different screen sizes and content types from different publishers.
Programmatic native is a great opportunity, because it marries the benefits of customization and automation. Like sponsored content, programmatic native ads blend in with the surrounding content, and thus improve the user experience and increase engagement. Programmatic technology offers greatly improved efficiency and scale.
The Power Couple: Native Advertising & People-based Marketing
While programmatic native solves for efficiency and scale, People-based Marketing solves for accuracy and precision. Targeting people (rather than cookies tied to devices) with engaging native ads is now possible outside of Facebook, Google, and other walled gardens.
People-based marketing is made possible by deterministic IDs, which can be used to recognize unique individuals across channels and devices. The email address is the gold standard of deterministic IDs. In a recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by LiveIntent, 89 % of marketers felt that the email address is an extremely valuable piece of customer identification.
By leveraging deterministic IDs, a publisher can provide access to tailored audiences, based on its own collected data or a brand’s first party data. Marketers can tie their intent data to the people they want to reach in a privacy-conscious manner. They can then improve the performance of native advertising campaigns in emerging channels, including the high performing email channel.
People-based Marketing improves the effectiveness of programmatic native advertising. It enables marketers to bring the intimacy they have enjoyed in direct marketing campaigns to native advertising campaigns. It enables publishers to increase monetization, and to compete with the duopoly of Facebook and Google. Lastly, it provides more engaging content and experiences for consumers at all touchpoints in the customer journey.