New research from Online Publishers Association and Radar Research show a majority of responders include native advertising on their sites and offers some best practices for marketers exploring the medium.
The report, “Premium Content Brands Are Native Naturals," is the result of a May to June 2013 survey of 29 Online Publishers Association (OPA) members and 12 OPA member interviews conducted through a partnership between the OPA and Radar Research. The study looked at how OPA brands and companies -- including WebMD, Disney, BBC.com and American Express Publishing -- use native advertising, reach marketing goals and identified keys for success and best practices for this format.
Defining and Using Native Advertising
The Research found variation in participant's definitions of native advertising. Out of the seven responses 93 percent defined native advertising as "integration into the design of the publisher's site and lives on the same domain." Others believed native advertising is "content either provided by, produced in conjunction with or created on behalf of our advertisers that runs within the editorial stream" and that it is “clear delineation and labeling as advertising content."
The report also noted that despite those surveyed having an opinion on what native advertising is, not everyone used it. While 73 percent did use some form of native advertising, 10 percent of respondents didn't and 17 percent said they were considering it within the next year.
Goals and Campaign Content
Marketing is about more than customer engagement and this is reflected in the goals section of the report. Marketers tend to partner with OPA sites to improve their efforts, but the publisher's idea of these goals isn’t all the same. Eighty one percent of publishers believed marketers used the ads to "increase consumer engagement with the advertiser brand" or "leverage publisher brand equity to achieve brand lift," while only five percent thought the goal was to help with sales.
Most of those polled -- 76 percent -- said that advertising campaigns on their sites were made of "newly created publisher content" and 71 percent said campaigns "repacked pre-existing publisher content." Other kinds of content include that from marketers or agencies, a combination of new and pre-existing content and content from users. Overall, these campaigns seem to be doing well, as only 29 percent of respondents noted that they had received complaints.
While on the surface native advertising appears to be ads and other promotional materials, a lot of individual departments and employees work together to make these campaigns happen. When answering the question “Which functional areas are most involved in native advertising sales and fulfillment? “ 95 percent said ad sales, which was followed closely by marketing at 71 percent. About 57 percent of respondents found that creative production teams and editorial played significant a role in this area.
Respondents also found that more advertisers are adopting "publisher content metrics" with 57 percent saying that engagement or time spent analytics were the most important data for a campaign. This was followed by traffic at 43 percent and social media sharing at 33 percent.
The Best Practises
The second part of the report focused on the best practices for different departments: editorial and product; staffing and legal; sales and marketing; and marketers.
Advice for editorial included the warning that content and native advertising should be separated from each other through a labelling process and editorial teams should make sure that clear standards are in place so that marketers can follow them. In the product category, native advertising must be easy to find through social media and search engines and transferable to mobile devices.
For staffing practices the report notes that sales staff should be trained in consultative sales and they should be able to use various resources and access knowledge company wide. As for the legal department there are two areas the report suggests needs to be focused on: the legal team should be a part of discussions about the design of native advertising programs and claims and editorial staff should have a bit of legal training about content issues that may arise.
The last group that the report notes is marketers, who have seven practises to be aware of. These include marketers making sure they pick content partners that will work best with their company or brand, working directly with these companies instead of using liaisons and always be looking for ways to bring mobile into pre-existing or future campaigns.
With more and more tools coming out for native advertising, such as Tumblr's native ads and Facebook's Social Context Ads, it appears that while views on the approach vary, it isn't going away any time soon.