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Native advertising: debunking 3 common myths



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April 19, 2022 | 8 min read

Native advertising is a fast-growing area. However, common misconceptions are preventing marketers from exploiting this opportunity to the full. Here, Taboola’s UK country manager Dan Ginns dispels the top three myths surrounding the format.

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Taboola dispels native advertising’s greatest myths

Over the past decade, native advertising has come into the spotlight as an increasingly popular and rapidly-evolving format of digital advertising. The global native ad market is expected to be worth $400bn by 2025 – a whopping 372% jump from 2020.

Despite this, many marketers have significant misconceptions about the format, which may prevent them from making the most of the opportunity it offers. We’re here to set the record straight. We explain what native advertising is, and debunk three common myths about the format.

What is native advertising?

Native advertising is an ad format that blends naturally into the page’s content. Its design is cohesive and consistent with the platform behavior, making the user feel like it’s not an ad, but part of the content.

Native ads appear as part of the website to enrich the user experience (UX), creating a more seamless encounter and making the reader more likely to positively react to your ads and products.

For example, a publisher site might incorporate native advertising placements on its homepage, in mid-article units or below the article, recommending content from advertisers that users may find interesting.

Screen grab of a group of articles on a page as native adverts

Myth #1: native advertising doesn’t capture attention

By definition, native advertising blends in with its environment. As a result, it may be difficult to imagine that native ads are able to capture as much attention as, say, pop-ups or pre-roll video ads that force user attention.

In fact, the opposite is true. Research by Semify shows that 45.4% of consumers say that native advertising is more relevant to them, and 67.2% of consumers are more likely to click on native ads than banners. The average consumer sees somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 brand messages each day, and has become very good at blocking out ads that don’t offer them any value – a phenomenon known as banner blindness. Native advertising conquers banner blindness by providing value in a format that the user is already engaging with, and isn’t affected by ad blocking.

Of course, there are things advertisers can do to draw attention to their ads in subtle ways. For example, using imagery best practices, such as incorporating subtle movement or including people in your ads, can help boost clickthrough rates. Many marketers also don’t realize that native advertising channels support video content – humans are naturally drawn to movement, so using video is a foolproof way to capture attention.

Myth #2: native advertising only works for brand awareness campaigns

Because native advertising is designed to match the content-forward style of its surroundings, some marketers assume that it is only relevant for top-of-funnel or branding campaigns.

It is true that native placements are great for building brand awareness. However, native advertising can be successful at every stage of the marketing funnel. Advertisers simply need to be strategic about identifying their key campaign goals and optimizing their campaign assets to meet them. Videos work well for top-of-funnel campaigns to engage, interest and delight users. For example, Lily’s Kitchen effectively used user-generated pet videos in one branding campaign, distributing the ads across premium publisher sites to reach over 1 million users within five months.

For advertisers looking to generate leads or reach users at the consideration stage, gated content and informative articles are the way to go. For example, Naked Wines used headlines such as ‘Why You Should Stop Drinking £5 Supermarket Wine’ to encourage users to click through to a quiz that tested their understanding of how to buy quality wine at affordable prices. On completing the quiz, users were offered £30 to spend on wine in exchange for their email address. This is a great example of a native advertising campaign designed to gently move users forward toward the purchase stage.

Native advertising can also be used to seal the deal. In fact, native advertising platforms often make use of extensive data, including intent data, to help advertisers effectively target users interested in its offering. Thanks to this, native ads generate an 18% higher purchase intent than banners.

For bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns, advertisers should use enticing offers, product imagery and clear calls to action to drive users to a well-optimized product landing page. For example, mattress retailer OTTY used close-up product imagery and headlines such as ‘The £450 Mattress That The UK Is Loving’ to retarget pre-qualified users to a landing page where they could complete their purchase. This resulted in a large number of conversions and 7.8x return on ad spend.

Myth #3: you can reuse your social media creatives for native

Social media ads share a lot of similarities with native advertising: in fact, ads on platforms such as Instagram actually take on a native format, blending in with the user-generated posts that surround them. Consumers’ mindset on social media and on the content sites where native platforms appear are also similar: in both cases, users are open to discovering and engaging with new information and offers.

Because of these similarities, advertisers often assume they can simply copy and paste the creatives that they use on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, and apply them on native advertising channels.

However, where native advertising platforms differ from social media is in the content that surrounds the ads. On social media, content is usually optimized for beauty. On publisher sites, by contrast, ads are placed in line with more ‘realistic,’ less filtered content.

As a result, relatable and authentic imagery performs better on native platforms than perfectly-designed creatives. Similarly, text overlays generally decrease performance on native platforms because they stand out against the organic content surrounding the ads and undermine the native format.

Ads on social media platforms generally have more text than those on native platforms. On most native platforms, advertisers have an opportunity to write one headline and make it count. Headlines need to be short, snappy and informative.

Here’s a great example of how Babbel adapted a well-performing creative from Facebook for native:

Comparison of social post and native advertising

The Facebook creative features a zoomed-out image with a text overlay, and a long descriptor text alongside a headline and call to action. Adapting for native, Babbel switched out the image to a more closely-cropped image without text for a less staged look, and replaced the text with just one concise headline, which clearly calls out the benefit of the product.

For best results, optimize for native advertising’s strengths

Native advertising can be a powerful addition to any marketing mix, engaging audiences and capturing attention on consumers’ own terms. However, to make the most of its performance, marketers need to work to the strengths of the format, crafting creatives that naturally fit in with their surroundings and building campaigns that effectively push users down the marketing funnel.

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