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Native advertising: Top 4 tips from expert agencies doing it right

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March 23, 2023 | 6 min read

Brands looking to maximize return on ad spend are turning to native advertising as a scalable and cost-effective to their existing channel mix

What is native advertising?

Native ads appear on publisher sites across the open web, appearing alongside organic content from publishers like the BBC, The Independent or Cosmopolitan. The best examples of native ads mimic the format of these publications’ own content with a strong headline and enticing imagery. When a user clicks into the ad, it leads them to an informational landing page that drives them towards a desired KPI, like making a purchase or leaving their contact details.

Unlike other ad formats, native ads aren't intrusive or interruptive. Instead, they blend into the surrounding environment, enriching the user experience rather than fighting it. That provides a welcome break for ad-weary users, almost half of whom have resorted to using ad blockers. Native ads cut through the noise, earning 53% more views than banner ads, and increasing purchase intent by 18%.

Getting started with native ads can seem overwhelming. You have to figure out how to build your creative assets, set your programmatic bids, and target the right audiences. And then you have to optimize those ads to continue driving performance.How can you make the most of your native campaigns?

We asked expert agencies with successful native ad experience to find out. Here are their expert tips on how to scale your native ad efforts and maximize results.

1. Adjust native ad bids on a site-by-site basis

You might be tempted to set an overall bid cap for your native ad campaigns and hope for the best. But while that might work for Facebook and Google ads, native ads work a bit differently. That's why UK-based agency Version Two suggests setting your native ad bids by site.

Your native advertising campaigns will run across thousands of publisher websites, and context can play a big role in native ad performance. If you set an overall bid across sites, you'll likely be bidding too much on sites that don't result in a high conversion rate, and not investing enough in sites that perform well for your particular offer. For example, if you're advertising a brand of ketchup, you might expect this to perform better on a food-focused publisher like Delish than a technology publisher like TechRadar.

Equally, your campaign performance data might just surprise you. VersionTwo recommends optimizing based on your chosen performance metric, like clickthrough rate (CTR) or conversion rate (CVR), and using small testing budgets to see which sites and campaigns deliver the best results. From there, you can cut the sites that aren't working, and double down on those that perform.

VersionTwo used this strategy when promoting smartwatch brand Gaio in Germany, resulting in a 3.5x return on ad spend, and over €1m in sales over one holiday season.

2. Use native ads alongside other channels to build a full-funnel strategy

German agency 6H Media says it's important to build native campaigns into your full-funnel strategy, because native advertising is especially effective when integrated into a diverse channel mix.

According to a recent study from Kantar and Taboola, adding native advertising to the marketing mix improved brand awareness by 25%, and actually improved results on other channels, resulting in a higher proportion of users watching a full ad on social and video platforms. A follow-up study found that native advertising was more effective than other digital channels at improving brand favorability, consideration, and message association.

It's easy to adapt existing social ads for native distribution on publisher sites, so you can quickly launching native campaigns and test the impact on your overall marketing efforts.

3. Use data from your native ad campaigns to feed other channels

You might already be running search ads to drive brand awareness. And while those search campaigns can help you get in front of a massive audience, they may not actually be delivering leads.

Italian agency BidBerry recommends using data and insights derived from your native ad campaigns to refine your search strategy. Your native campaigns can provide valuable insights about customer interests, behaviors, and engagement across the open web. You can use those insights to create unique audience segments, and then target those segments in your search campaigns.

4. A/B test native ads to optimize results

To make the most out of any advertising channel, A/B testing different variations of your ads is key. US-based agency Stringo Media advises to start by testing these four major native ad elements:

  • Ad creatives — Experiment with different images, titles, descriptions, CTAs, formats, and sizes.
  • Audiences — Test audience segments, lookalike audiences, and whitelists.
  • Site placements — Find out where your ads are most visible and engaging, such as on the homepage, mid-article, or below articles.
  • Landing pages — Use on-site data and a heat mapping tool to see which headlines, visuals, colors, ads, and CTA buttons drive the most activity.

Build your expert native ad campaign

Native advertising can be a powerful addition to your channel mix, capturing users' attention and driving impressive return on advertising spend. You can use these tips from agencies who are already running successful native ad campaigns to build your first native campaign, or optimize your existing strategy.

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