5 Tips for Creating Native Ads That Drive Engagement

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Since 2016, native ads have been the darling of the online publishing industry, showing double-digit growth year on year. Digital research firm eMarketer forecasts that spending on native ads will eclipse $33 billion this year. That's about a 30 percent increase from 2017, and a healthy expansion of this dynamic ad category.

Have you heard of native ads? Perhaps you've seen them in your social media feeds, on phone app news feeds, and on publisher sites on the web. Native ads are sponsored content pieces that are designed for, and live in, the environment on which they are published. Native ads follow the form and function of the publishing environment, and the content of the ads is often aligned with the publisher's look, feel, and style. 

Here are some key reasons for the explosive success of native ads in recent years:

  • Native ads significantly affect conversions and brand awareness. One study showed an 18 percent increase in purchasing intent by consumers after viewing native ads, and a near 10 percent uptick in brand affinity, compared to online banners advertising.

  • Consumers are more likely to check out a native ad than glance at a display ad banner.

  • Native ads reach digital consumers in ways that feel natural, not invasive. But striking that right balance is tricky. You need to create targeted native ads that have the look and feel of the sponsoring social platform, website, or publication, while standing out and positioning a brand in the right light.

Let's walk through some of the ways that digital marketers can create great native ads. For example, in your news and information feeds on your mobile device, alert users can see sponsored native ads fairly quickly. But to the untrained eye, they look like another story from a favorite publication. Therein lies the beauty of native ads: They blend into the environment with a marketing-sponsored message and call to action.

1)    Know the publisher's look, feel, style, and demographic audience. This is number one for your native advertising success. Know the culture and design of the site or platform on which you're aiming to place your native ad. Reflect the values, style, look, and feel of the content there in order for the audience to embrace your native ad with open eyes.

2)    Add value with useful information. Be the voice your audience wants to read. Show you know what they want. Do your research to make your sponsored content stand out. Bring some insider knowledge to the table, and share that info in your native ad to grow impressions.

3)    Include a brand logo to increase recognition. You can use the brand logo in your native ad, but be careful not to turn your content into a public relations piece for the brand. Native ads are all about showing value for the readers, not trumpeting your brand and assets.

4)    Choose supply partners that limit native ad space. Native ads will work better when they are used sparingly. Publishers and brands both know this. If a publisher oversells a platform or site with native ads, the tangible impact of those ads will decrease. Brands should look to partner with platforms and publishers that limit the number of native ads.

5)    Integrate your call to action seamlessly. In native ads, brands can discuss the value and opportunity of their products, and follow up that information with calls to action. But it's imperative to integrate that CTA so effortlessly into the content that the viewer may not even be aware it's a CTA. You want the reader to be so excited about the brand that moving ahead with a conversion is inevitable.

Other qualities involved in creating great native content include shareability and quality. Native advertising success can grow by imbuing the content with a viral nature to enhance the prospect of web shareability. By being distinctive in the quality of their native ads, brands will potentially attract more viewers with great content.