Native advertising: The 'one-size doesn’t fit all' approach to content is clearly working

BuzzFeed has led the way for native in the UK

When our company celebrated the recent milestone of serving 1bn direct-sold native ads for our publisher clients, we painted a picture of the sponsored content industry using survey results and aggregate data from publishers across the world.

It showed us that almost 20 per cent of all native ads were served on mobile, and that readers had spent 200,000 hours engaging with great great content put forth by some of the world’s largest customers, amongst many more benchmarks.

However, in a media world so obsessed with the North American market, we realised there’s a different story to tell with regards to sponsored content in the UK. Thus we culled data from our UK client base and surveyed several top tier publicans in the country to present a clear picture of the market from a UK perspective.

Native advertising is expanding in the UK at such a pace that it’s an oft-discussed topic of the IAB UK. I presented some of these earlier findings at their Content Conference in late July to an incredibly receptive audience. This is not an isolated incidence, I see talks and conferences announced every week, and a savvy UK publisher needs to act soon with native if they don’t wish to lag behind.

Because of the size and nature of the UK marketing landscape, the challenges UK publishers face are unique. One such aspect is a greater focus on agility. Advertising campaigns require as much work as those in North America, but may reach fewer readers; any efficiencies which can be sussed out and capitalised on make a big difference when campaigns are constructed or need to change and adapt quickly. This might be why a majority of UK publishers (84 per cent) elect to provide the content for their native advertising campaigns, streamlining the whole process and saving valuable turnaround time.

The same amount of labour is required to push campaigns which would be reach an audience one fourth the size in the US market. As Jay Stevens, general manager, international at Rubicon Project, described in Digiday recently: “In the UK, that manual process is a bigger deal because it eats a greater percentage of order value.”

This “one-size doesn’t fit all” approach to content is clearly working. UK audiences are spending 30 per cent more time reading native advertising created specially for them; an average reader will spend 3 minutes and 37 seconds with an article containing sponsored content in the UK.

Quality native advertising tends to understand its audience, and the publishers and marketers who understand this are excelling. Look at BuzzFeed – they entered the UK market almost a year ago and are still catching up with the demand for quality sponsored content. They say they have no real competitors in the country – this is a clear sign established publishers need to jump into the mix before someone else eats their lunch.

Kunal Gupta is CEO at Polar

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