The writing is on the wall — internet users are turning a blind eye to standard display banner ads. Across all formats and placements, the average click-through rate for this medium has dropped to an abysmal 0.06 percent

In the search for a method that delivers genuine consumer engagement, brands are beginning to turn to native ads on social media — in feed ad units that match the look and feel of the platform housing them.

This approach, when combined with native initiatives elsewhere on the web, actually outpaces standard display advertising by a healthy margin. They fit seamlessly into the content that’s already being consumed.

Native ads are viewed 52 percent more frequently than banner ads.

Therefore, through this medium, brands can successfully sidestep the banner blindness epidemic and ensure their messages reach consumers’ eyes. 

Deriving Value From Native

Modern consumers might find display ads intolerable, but they will happily read branded content as long as it’s relevant, entertaining, and informative. Marketers must resist the urge to plaster the web with clickbait that draws in consumers but ultimately fails to deliver something useful.

For example, if the title of your native ad is “This amazing tip can change your life!” you might earn yourself a healthy chunk of curious clicks. However, if those consumers are led to a piece of content that provides no life-changing tip whatsoever, they’ll feel deceived and likely associate your brand with this negative emotion for the indefinite future. 

Clickbait doesn’t take advantage of the true engagement value of native: time spent with the advertised content. This is a chance to command the undivided attention of your audience for several minutes — as opposed to praying that a flashing banner ad catches their eye for a split second. 

The magic formula for an engaging native ad is clear, concise descriptions of valuable content paired with a relevant image and transparent identification of the brand promoting it. It’s not just about getting users to click; the post-click experience must be authentic and of immediate value — whether that’s informational, entertaining, or inspiring. 

Three tips to Improve Your Native Efforts

  1. Repurpose Your Existing Content. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to create useful, engaging native ads. Over the years, your company has already written numerous pieces of marketing material that can easily be repurposed into native content. In all likelihood, this content is scattered across the internet and throughout various departments, so your best bet is to designate a person or team to compile a master list of material and organize it into “snackable” topics. After that, it’s a simple matter of freshening the words up, designing ad copy, and then disseminating each topic to the right audience. 
  2. A/B Test Headlines and Images. Instead of assuming that your customers would prefer an informative approach over an entertaining one, embrace A/B testing. Try out both approaches, collect data, and analyze your results to see which method resonates best. Develop two slightly different headlines and images, and run them head-to-head for a period of time. Once you pinpoint the one that delivers the most engagement, take the unique aspects of that ad and make a new creative version using those features. Then, run the same test. Repeating this process over and over will lead you to the winning formula for engaging the right customers through native advertising.
  3. Use Programmatic Targeting. There’s no need to “spray and pray” with your native advertising. Bombarding your prospects with large quantities of generic ads is a great way to lose them for good. Instead, after identifying your ideal consumers, you can target them through programmatic buying with native ads designed to appeal to their specific interests.Develop an audience map of demographics and behaviors, and match your creative to that target audience. Then, sit back and let programmatic serve the right ads to the right people at the right time.

CTR for display ads has been plummeting for years.

This should send a loud-and-clear message to the marketing community: It’s time to present our branded content in a less disruptive and more valuable manner. Native advertising provides a perfect venue for doing just that.

Author Photo
Sean CottonSean Cotton is president of Coegi, an independent programmatic and social media buying company that provides transparent, collaborative media services to agencies and in-house brand marketing teams. As an expert in digital and programmatic best practices, Sean has been featured as a speaker or a contributor for numerous digital industry associations. Prior to starting Coegi, Sean built and managed a large digital and social staff for one of the fastest-growing media agencies in the U.S.
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