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By Olivia Atkins | Writer

February 13, 2019 | 5 min read

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As marketers debate over how to engage digital consumers, younger generations are increasingly installing ad blockers to avoid the hassle of interacting with advertisements. Verizon Media research director Anita Caras blames the ad industry for this in her Transforming the Journey panel, held last week at The Big Bang event hosted by The Drum, in partnership with Marin.

Anita Caras, research director, Verizon

Anita Caras, research director, Verizon

Rather than continue creating “intrusive ads” that disappoint consumers, Caras suggests native advertising as a more efficient option. She’s urges advertisers to see this as a wake-up call, revealing that one in two young people currently use ad blockers. Caras said, “That’s a significant amount of eyeballs we’re losing because of what we've done and what we continue to do.”

Caras defines native advertising as: “a paid advertising experience that integrates itself within the page, the site, the content. It flows naturally within the form and function within which it sits. When we think about user journeys, if it's flowing within that form or function, then it’s not being intrusive in that journey; it’s become a part of the journey.”

Ease of experience

Native advertising attempts to create a more seamless and pain free experience for the digital consumer. Verizon Media conducted research on industry insiders and consumers across the UK, France and Germany to find out about their relationship with adverts and understand their behaviours around them. Accumulating over 1.5 million data points over 60 hours of interactions, the team at Verizon Media were able to monitor how participants responded to ads on a page within a controlled environment and work out what metrics to use. The survey also aimed to redefine native as a format, comparing the amount of interactions people were having on the page in a native experience versus a non-native one, looking at premium and non-premium environments and considering the active view time that people spent looking at ads.

“How do we create brand safe environments for brands, at scale, that constantly innovate?” asked Caras. Surviving as a digital brand is tough, with Caras admitting that up to 75% of brands could disappear tomorrow and people wouldn't notice. Cultivating brand love is important but cutting through the noise of online is hard.

“People seek a seamless experience,” said Caras. “Native allows ads to blend into the page, with four out of five consumers accepting that as a form of content, if the value exchange is right. If youre giving them utility, people want it. They know, that stuff doesn’t come for free. Advertising does enable things to happen. So, let’s make sure that it’s a two-way conversation.”

The research revealed that 23% of consumers agreed to ads if they looked natural within that environment, which increased to 34% on mobile. And of those surveyed, 12% said that native ads flowed better within content, suggesting that native advertising could have a viable future across mobile and screen platforms. In particular

Click through matters

"Native does give us good click through rates, but that doesn’t tell us the whole story. We need to think beyond that. Look at the overall experience – consciously and subconsciously – and consider whether there are heightened levels of engagement,” said Caras. “Because then that could drive greater brand advocacy.”

The research compared in-feed advertising, ads nestled within the contents of a page, with bottom of the page marketing and display ads. Of these, Caras admits that in-feed ads provided more heightened responses subconsciously, with viewers engaging with the content 2.5x more and driving likelihood to purchase up by 25%. So, applied in the right context, native advertising can drastically bolster brand profitability and longevity and take consumers through the purchase process more efficiently.

While native advertising is still affected by ad blockers depending on how the controls are activated, Caras revealed that some “people are coming off of ad blockers because they’re not getting personalised ads; that they’re not getting the level of intelligence they require.” She thinks that if brands can learn to tap into what consumers want and feed into their decision journey, they could be accepted by customers.

“GDPR threw it back to us,” said Caras. “Because we needed to be more mindful of giving people what they want. If you're not trying to be useful, if you're not trying to be interesting or valuable to a customer... then of course people will block you out." It’s about getting the value exchange right.

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