Native, Not Naked

Nicolle Harding, Country Manager Narratiive South Africa

As Internet adoption in South Africa increases, so does the industry’s understanding of how to include digital media in the marketing mix. Everyone from IAB SA to Google has spent countless resources sharing knowledge to ensure adoption and continued growth. Locally, the online media owner’s revenue is under severe pressure. The saying “the internet has no borders” has never been truer. Programmatic media buying is on the increase, offering agencies the ability to purchase media through automated platforms. Sending large portions of the digital media budgets to global players.

Another consideration is that according to the Narratiive IAB Tagged Panel, we have seen mobile penetration increase from 16.66% (August 2012) to 45.12% (August 2015). Many publishers are still trying to figure out how to tackle mobile as a content channel, so one can assume that their mobile media sales strategy would also need consideration. Mobile banners have been notoriously dismissed as ad units of little value, so as mobile penetration increases, publishers will need to adopt well thought-out mobile ad placement strategies to ensure their current yields and gross sales.

The bills have to be paid somehow – and advertising, in many cases, is the main revenue generator. Even websites like Wikipedia sometimes need to ask for help.

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Apple also appears to be working against digital publishers – the iOS 9 release includes content blockers, which will block advertisements, trackers, scripts, and other similar content. For the user, this is amazing, as it will lead to dramatically increased browsing speeds. For the publisher, however, this means no adverts. The South African market will probably be barely affected as the iOS penetration is quite low. This inclusion of content blockers really demonstrates the growing trend of users searching for ways to hide advertising.

However, all is not lost! Many of you will have heard of the growing trend of native advertising, which offer publishers a great engaging opportunity. It’s not to be confused with sponsored content, which is very similar, but is better described as an online advertorial, where the lines between editorial and advertisement are blurred. Many brands have content marketing strategies, which, in many ways, can be used as a form of native advertising. In the USA, spend has increased by 34% in 2015, with most global publishers adopting the format.

It can be argued that journalistic integrity is being jeopardised as marketers search for more engaging and contextual ways to reach their audience. I think of it, though, as digital’s answer to the movie product placement. It’s subliminal and integrated into the overall message, but is paid for. It doesn’t require the consumer to click and be directed somewhere else, but rather enhances the message that the consumer has chosen to engage with. This poses a few problems regarding measurement of these campaigns, but more on that later.

Google has recognised the opportunities that native advertising provides – last week, they launched a new ad format in Gmail, which will allow you to purchase the ad unit they have been BETA testing since 2013 through AdWords. With cool features such as forwarding and “save to inbox,” Google finds a great way to add contextual value and encourage engagement, whilst offering the advertiser a new ad unit that drives a richer more engaging user experience in an affordable way.

With the increased use of ad blockers, native advertising offers publishers an attractive opportunity to fill their ad revenue hole. In the USA, a survey by Adobe and PageFair showed that Millenials have a higher propensity to use Ad Blockers – 41% of respondents between aged 18 and 19.

One of the issues with native advertising is the difficulty in campaign measurement, which is still up for debate and discussion. Many advertisers have come to expect their CTR (click-through rate) reports to validate the success of an online campaign. At Effective Measure, we believe that it’s not only about the CTR, but also about the impact the campaign had, and the ultimate ROI of the campaign.

Research shows that while CTR is the most used metric to determine impact, brand lift is considered the most important.

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Listening to this demand is critical for measurement companies to ensure that they are leading the pack with the correct tools to ensure a deeper insight.

The Campaign Impact Studies we have conducted at Narratiive focus around demonstrating this deeper insight to the brands by surveying consumers that have been exposed to a native advertising campaign vs. consumers that haven’t. By combining this with an overall view of the market and comparing the results, the brand can have better understanding of who their campaign reached and how strong the impact is.

So whether you are in the “opposed” or “for” corner, global publishers and content providers are adopting native advertising as an opportunity to build value for their audience whilst addressing their commercial needs.Are the days of the display banners numbered, and will native advertising and sponsored content be the answer to reaching consumers using ad blockers? It seems likely, but the jury is still out. The digital media ecosystem is continually evolving – maybe there is a different solution just around the corner.