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Native advertising: How to create a native ad that really works

Q&A with Nativo

ddm has a very unique skillset when it comes to native advertising campaigns. Our partnership with Nativo results in huge benefits for our clients, and even led to national recognition by online media trade magazine Digiday.

We reached out to Nativo’s Vice President of platform operations, Casey Wuestefeld, and asked for exclusive insights and advice for creating native ads that really work. Continue reading our Q&A below for all of the details.

Q&A with ddm & Nativo

Q: Explain what native advertising is and how it works

native advertising sample -St JulianA: From my standpoint, for something to be truly native it must not only match the look and feel of the surrounding content, but also the behavior. For the open web this means when a user clicks on an ad they will stay on that publication to consume the sponsored content versus being redirected to an advertiser’s website. Other examples of native advertising include paid search terms on Google and sponsored posts on Instagram.

Q: How effective is native advertising?

A: This is actually something we sought out to prove in the “early days” of native and did a large study with Comscore to do so. Inherently we knew native was a very effective tactic to accomplish objectives ranging from generating brand awareness to driving an action (ex. product purchase) but wanted validation from a trusted source. When we saw the study results we were thrilled to see those early assumptions quantified.

Q: What are some native advertising trends that marketers should be aware of in 2021?

A: Given the explosive growth of Amazon’s advertising business, other large retailers are realizing they have a similar opportunity in front of them. I expect to see sponsored listings and other ad formats on these ecommerce sites to become prevalent. Another trend that relates to all advertising is the quest to find alternative solutions for things dependent on the third-party cookie (ex. audience targeting). With Google setting a deadline of 2022 next year, the urgency really kicks in and we should see more solutions emerging from beta and be fully productized.

Q: How relevant will native advertising be post-pandemic?

A: We’ve all seen many trends get accelerated due to the pandemic (curbside pickup, remote work, telehealth being a few examples) and I believe native advertising will increase in relevance as we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Irrespective of industry, educating potential customers about your product/service is imperative to growth, and the ability to provide them with content in contextually relevant environments continues to be a great way to do just that. What I’ve seen is consumers don’t mind if the content they are consuming is being paid for by a brand as long as it is adding value to their web browsing experience by being entertaining, informative, etc.  People will continue to spend more time online, not less, and I expect to see brands that historically haven’t done a lot of sponsored content begin to do so.

Q: What are some key elements that make native advertising content successful?

A: The old adage “Content is King” still rings true, so the creative being used is the first and arguably most important piece to be successful. As mentioned above, the content should provide a value exchange to the end reader and not just be a hard sales pitch. Think more editorial than advertorial. The headlines and preview images used to attract initial interest are critical for performance and we always encourage A/B testing several variations and then optimizing to the best performers. 

Once the content is on solid footing the next key element is how it gets distributed. To truly get the “return on content” marketers are looking for, there is always a scale component but more importantly it needs to be seen by the right audience in the right environment. A variety of targeting tactics can be utilized to ensure the content that was painstakingly created ends up getting the attention it deserves and the downstream actions that occur once it is consumed.

Q: Why should organizations try native advertising? What are the benefits?

A: Most businesses are already doing some form of content marketing and given the large percentage shift towards consuming media digitally, native advertising is a great medium to get more exposure on that content. One of the main benefits of this is to be able to quantitatively show how people are engaging with that content given the plethora of metrics available such as average time on content, scroll metrics, and call to action rate (% of users clicking from the sponsored content to the brands site). Another benefit is this initial engagement can be the tip of the spear as there are opportunities to re-message people who have read/watched the content and drive them further down the funnel.

Q: What are the benefits of partnering with a firm like ddm that has a relationship with Nativo?

A: I mentioned above content + distribution being crucial variables in a successful campaign and working with a full-service firm like ddm provides instant expertise in both areas. Over the years I’ve come across plenty of instances where “the left hand isn’t talking to the right” and this disconnect results in sub-optimal outcomes for the brand.  ddm has the ability to work on an initiative from idea inception to campaign implementation which is very advantageous from my perspective especially given the current environment where at times both elements might need to be adjusted on the fly.

As one of the earliest adopters of Nativo’s self-service platform the ddm team has always been a valued partner for providing feedback on ways the product can be improved, what their clients are looking for when considering native advertising, etc.  This has enabled us to quickly iterate on existing features and create new ones to ensure we continue to provide a valuable piece of technology for brands of all sizes.

The good news for anyone looking to dip their toes in the water with native advertising is the barriers to entry have come down over time from both a cost and efficiency perspective.  Gone are the days of prohibitive minimum spend requirements and manual distribution methods thanks to the emergence of technology like the Nativo platform.  My hope is because of this we begin to see that a tactic once reserved for large national brands start to be adopted by SMBs of all sizes.

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