In the beginning there was the word.
And whether that word was advertising something or not has been subject to wild debates among advertisers and philosophers alike since time immemorial.
“The advertising came first, the content later” goes the marketer’s gospel – a tamer and easier to back up statement from Dale Lovell.
It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that written advertising has existed pretty much as long as writing. The first written advertisement known to us is over 3000 years old and coming from an Egyptian man who killed two birds with one stone when advertising for a runaway slave:
“… For his return to the shop of Hapu the Weaver, where the best cloth is woven to your desires, a whole gold coin is offered….“
One could really make a case that this is also the earliest native ad known to us. As far as disguised-as-content advertisement goes, this one is an emblematic example.
Let’s unpack this.
What Is Native Advertising?
Native Advertising is a type of advertising that matches the style and function of the platform onto which it is placed. Think of it as a chameleon.
The most common type of native advertising is written content and it usually looks like this:
It is, to some degree, a form of indirect selling – it’s subtle selling. You first establish a line of communication by providing some answers or simply entertainment to your potential customers. If your content is great and they start liking you, then they will begin to trust you and buy your product.
Native Advertising should be like the courtship period of a beautiful long-term relationship.
So, would we be correct in considering Hapu’s ad to be a native ad? Absolutely. He casually mentions his business in his intriguing sob story (remember that entertainment was scarce back then) – as a “by the way”, which is another accurate way to define Native Advertising. Simplistically speaking.
Of course, this example alone doesn’t necessarily prove that “The advertisement came first, the content later”. May we interest you in some other examples that tackle both the literal and practical meaning of that claim?
(It looks like I’m offering you a choice. Isn’t that nice?)
So let’s proceed by drawing our attention to no farther than the 19th century when the written word began drifting from being a luxury item towards becoming more accessible for a larger segment of society. Most 19th century newspapers were full of ads, even on the front page, especially on the front page. The majority of newspapers featured so many ads, that one would have had to flip through 2-3 pages before they got to the actual news.
Here is what the front page of an edition of The Times looked like in 1850.
See the full paper here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/archive/article/1850-01-29/1/1.html
Featuring mostly ads on their front pages and not only, newspapers became all of a sudden a very-very profitable business. But beyond the main role of making these newspapers possible, advertising was also contributing to improving the editorial agenda itself, which resulted in new forms of journalism, like columns.
Enter Sponsored Content
Having plentiful ad space at hand and fighting for readers’ attention, brands started spicing it up by writing long-form copy in newspapers and magazines, telling compelling brand stories.
One such example that is particularly special to us is this 1915 advert in the Saturday Evening Post from the automotive giant Cadillac.
“The Penalty of Leadership” was published at a moment of some difficulty and struggle for the brand, when fierce competition was really challenging its status as an industry leader. It is said that this article was so powerful and inspiring that it managed to reverse the company’s business fortunes.
Indeed, the Cadillac advertorial gained so much recognition and became so iconic that Elvis Presley kept a copy of it in his office, often quoting from it because he felt like “The Penalty of Leadership” described his life.
You are forgiven if the story above didn’t bring you to tears and you are also entitled to remain sceptical and ask us why we think Native Advertising is still highly relevant today.
Why Is Native Advertising So important?
Because it is so hard to accurately gauge its exact results and contribution, Native Advertising can sometimes not receive the attention it deserves. A good way to get around these difficulties would be to have a look at how well native advertising is performing in the eyes of the potential customers and in comparison to other forms of advertising.
Below are just a few reasons that should get you at least twice as emotional about native as the Cadillac advertorial.
1. Online shoppers can very well tell the native ads from organic content — but the ads still work
In a study conducted on 200,000 participants, two Stanford professors found that people click on native adverts not because they have been “tricked” into it, but because they were genuinely interested in the content behind the “sponsored” label.
The experiment consisted in having the subjects navigate one page that featured “no-disclosure” ads and one that featured prominent-disclosure ads, where non-disclosure means that the ad feels and behaves exactly like the organic content, without a hint to the fact that it’s sponsored. The study concluded that responses to typical native ads were similar to those in the full-disclosure condition.
The professors also noted that “The mechanism through which such advertising works is not clicks — the consumers we observe don’t inadvertently click on an ad and buy a product without knowing they saw the ad. Instead, they internalize the ad and may later search for the product in question or visit the advertiser’s page.”
2. Over 65% of people online trust branded content more than traditional advertising
After surveying 17,000 millennials, genZers, and gen X, Time Inc. has reported that two-thirds of them trust branded content more than traditional advertising. This trust also stems from their belief that brands have expertise on the topics they’re discussing because they talk from experience.
A whopping 88% of the respondents love the fact that brands use custom content as a way to get introduced (well, who doesn’t like being wooed really?) and about 57% think that advertorials mean that brands put more thought into being interesting, so this is their way of saying: We care.
3. Mobile Native ads have 23% higher ad quality scores than banner ads.
They also earn 3X more attention and time
In a Mobile Marketing Association Report on mobile native advertising, the native giant Yahoo (now VerizonMedia) shares some overwhelmingly positive results following the testing of native ads in Yahoo’s premium content streams. They showed a 23% higher ad quality score than banner ads and received 3X more attention and time.
We need not mention the obvious overarching impact that ad quality scores have on any campaign’s success.
4. Native Ads can easily bypass ad-blockers
With a persistent rise of ad-blocking usage, how do you ever make sure you are not missing out on connecting with a lot of potential customers, and therefore, a large chunk of your business? More and more people block ads on their search engines, news websites and about everywhere they can.
Because they are designed to blend in, Native ads are the best way to circumvent the ad-blockers – you know, on top of being an intrinsically elegant way to introduce yourself.
Allow us to indulge in some presumptuousness and suppose that you are utterly convinced and taken with our arguments above, so much so that you are now pondering over the best platforms to use in your native advertising endeavours.
Choosing The Best Native Platforms.
When choosing the best platform for your native advertising, you should take into account your goals and select the criteria that apply to them the most. The most important criteria to consider would be: the publishers contracted by the platform, the targeting options, the minimum price and bid per campaign, and the ad formats available.
We will go into more detail about this in our next article where we discuss the platforms we are currently using: Yahoo, Outbrain, and Taboola; as well as the ones we are investigating and planning to use.
Until then, however, because we believe that the most important criterion are the publishers, the actual outlets your native ads will show up on, feel free to browse through what these 3 platforms have in store for you. It is also worth noting that Taboola, Yahoo, and Outbrain don’t limit themselves only to the media outlets listed below, nor do these publishers tell the full story yet.
If you are looking to expand your reach online and would like to find out more about how Native Advertising can help your business, get in touch with us by filling out the form below.