What it Means that Native Advertising is Going Mainstream

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Brands are increasingly turning to native content to deliver their messages in a more user-friendly format that has the potential to add an element of credibility, which can be lacking from traditional avenues like display ads or most video campaigns.

But a new survey suggests that for a majority of companies, native advertising is little more than a buzzword that leaves more executives scratching their heads than jumping on the bandwagon.

Copyblogger polled more than 2,000 readers for its 2014 State of Native Advertising Report and found that only 3% of respondents said they are “very knowledgeable” about what native advertising entailed, while nearly three-quarters were confused about its properties or had no idea what it is at all. Meanwhile, the vast majority of brands – even those who have dabbled in native advertising – lack a dedicated budget line for it.

That’s a problem, because as digital publishers expand their platforms, branded content is becoming a go-to strategy for raising new revenue streams without forcing readers to pay for content. Last year a joint analysis delivered by eMarketer, the Online Publishers Association and Radar Research found that 73% of publishers are already hosting branded content, and only 10% have no plans to begin doing so.

In short, native advertising is going mainstream.

This year, The New York Times began running sponsored content on its site, joining high-profile publishers such as Vanity Fair, The Washington Post and even the satirical The Onion in entering the fray. More recently, this week Twitter opened up its Mopub ad serving platform to native ads.

But native ads aren’t just good for publishers. There is emerging evidence that the payoff is worth the effort for marketers as well. One recent study found that end users are not only more likely to look at sponsored content than banner ads, but they look at it more frequently and are much more likely to share the content with others.

So what can marketers do to get up to speed?

The Interactive Advertising Bureau defines native ads as “paid ads that are so cohesive with the page
content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong.”

The first step to achieving that goal is to find the sponsored content format that works best with your product. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have paid content options for campaigns that benefit from short messaging bursts, while publishers of news and editorial content cater to longer format advertorials. Meanwhile, video provides an avenue for the kind of creativity that is only possible through a visual medium.

Once you’ve found the right platform, it’s important to tailor a message in a language that is familiar and engaging to your customer base and clearly distinguish your content from the non-advertising content around it.

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