Why Native Advertising Has Longevity (And Banner Ads Don’t)

Image Courtesy venturebeat.com
Image Courtesy venturebeat.com

Native advertising is that new type of advertising that has marketers excited. Native ads, which look just like regular (or “native”) content but are actually sponsored by a brand, offer high hopes for a world where advertising is helpful and useful. It’s not just conjecture – current analytics show that native ads produce click-through rates close to editorial content’s CTRs. As Adam Lipman of ThoughtLeadr notes, you’re more likely to complete Navy Seal training, reach Mount Everest’s summit, or survive a plane crash than you are to click a banner ad. Makes the choice between banner ads and native ads pretty easy, right?

But, sometimes, display ads do still work (within certain B2B demographics, especially). And, it actually used to be very effective with most consumers, whether B2B or B2C. But then, everyone started buying display ad space. Suddenly, consumers were over inundated with display ads, and CTRs started to plummet. Consumers just learned to tune them out. Many consumers actually don’t even notice banner ads anymore, a phenomenon the industry labels “banner blindness.” Many people believe that native ads could face the same fate. If more and more brands start using native advertising, won’t consumers just learn to tune out that sponsored content as well?

Lipman says no. Why?

Well, for starters, native ads and display ads use different engagement models. Display ads are part of the “interruption model” that traditional print ads and broadcasting ads rely on. The interruption model is much like tapping a consumer on the shoulder to say “hey, look at me!” when they’re actually visiting the website to look at the native content.

It’s probably pretty obvious, but the major problem with the interruption model is that people don’t like to be interrupted. It’s distracting and annoying. So, as savvy consumers and highly evolved beings, we’ve gotten really good at screening out those little interruptive annoyances so we can focus on what we actually care about. The more Americans saw display ads, the better they became at screening them out so that they could focus on the content they actually came to the website to see.

Native ads, therefore, are an entirely different beast. They don’t rely on the interruptive model, but rather work to fit within the user’s natural workflow on a website. If a user has come to a site like The New York Times, they’re most likely there to read articles. If they visit a particular section of the site, they’re focused on articles covering a certain topic, most likely in a certain, similar tone. A well-crafted native ad delivers the experience that the consumer came to the website for in the first place, instead of trying to distract from that native experience.

It makes much more sense to compare native advertising to ads like Google PPC ads and Amazon-promoted listings. In these examples, the ad content looks and functions like the native search results. Unlike display ads, the CTR for Google PPC ads has not dropped, but held steady at 2.5-3% since they were first launched. Amazon’s CTR remains at the comparatively high 5-6% CTR.

Want to learn more about the fall of display ads, and why native ads won’t face the same fate? Check out the full article on Digiday, here.

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