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Help! Which type of native advertising should I choose?

Some time ago when meeting with media agencies, I stopped going through a PowerPoint deck to explain what our execution, True Native, is. Far easier just to show a media buyer a live campaign and click on the headline unit. Bingo! The brand content appears on the publisher’s article page, no matter what site we’re on.

The reason I changed tack wasn’t because some agencies don’t understand adtech (of course they do) but more that there are so many executions of what we now call Native Advertising that it’s easy for those, even in the profession, to get confused.

Indeed, the Content and Native Council at the IAB have recently been wrestling with dozens of formats and how they can be compared and measured effectively. The Measurement Green Paper is great piece of work which tackles some of the big questions in the industry, but certainly isn’t for the uninitiated, which is why I thought I’d go back to the start in this piece.

I’m not going to say one execution is better than another – they all have their place. It’s just that some formats lend themselves to different goals. Broadly, they fall in to three groups (excluding pure video distribution), so here goes!

Content Recommendation

Look: Typically appear in blocks of 6 units – headline and image
Placement: Mostly hosted on article pages, beneath the article
Execution: All units click-out to the advertiser’s site / landing page
Optimisation: Headline / Image variations / Geo targeting on some networks
Brand Safety: Usually blind network
How do you buy: Self-service
Charging mechanism: CPC / CPL (Cost per click / Cost per lead)
Mostly used for: Direct response / lead generation activity
Typical bounce rate: Usually over 50%

Probably the format most people are aware of as we are about a decade into seeing blocks of “You might also be interested in….” under articles on newspaper and magazine websites. Typically used for lead generation (and by publishers to gain additional traffic), it’s usually a lead generation channel. It suffers a high bounce rate as it’s an interruptive format, opening another browser window.

Pros
To put it bluntly, it will either work or it won’t. If your CPA (cost per acquisition) / CPL (cost per lead) / CPE (cost per engagement) stacks up, then grand – you’re in business.

Cons
Usually a blind network with some choice picks. As it’s self-service solution, the quality of the campaigns you surround can vary massively – from brand to somewhat dubious clickbait.

Programmatic Native Display

Look: Just like the surrounding editorial headline units, but marked as ‘Sponsored’
Placement: Usually in the editorial feed or inserted at points within an article
Execution: Units usually click-out to the advertiser’s site / landing page
Optimisation: Headline / Image variations / Geo targeting
Brand Safety: Mixture of named and blind placements
How do you buy: DSPs / Ad exchanges / Account managed
Charging mechanism: CPC (Cost per click)
Mostly used for: Direct response / lead generation / content distribution
Typical bounce rate: Varies but often 50% +

Far more prominent than content recommendation, the headline units are usually solo placements within the editorial feed. Mostly used for a mixture of direct response, traffic driving and content distribution, the typical execution is again click-out from the publisher site.

Pros
A step up from content recommendation, the solo units are a more premium option for brands. Available programmatically though exchanges or directly via networks.

Cons
Bounce rates are again an issue, as with content recommendation, due to the interruptive format of clicking out to a landing page.

True Native

Look: Just like the surrounding editorial headline units but marked as ‘Sponsored’.
Placement: On homepages, section fronts and within the editorial feed
Execution: The user clicks directly through to an article page hosted on the publisher’s site
Optimisation: Headline / Image variations / Geo targeting
Brand Safety: Only named sites – full media transparency
How do you buy: Account managed, full service only
Charging mechanism: vCPM (Guaranteed viewable headline units)
Mostly used for: Brand content
Typical bounce rate: 5-10% (Adjusted bounce rate)

Like Programmatic Native Display, the units are prominent and solo within in the editorial feed. In addition, content is contextually aligned. The major difference to other executions is that the user will click through to the brand content on a standard article page, creating a completely non-interruptive user experience.

Used almost exclusively for the distribution of branded content, our execution is the only stay on site solution where the look and feel of the publication is maintained.

Pros
True Native is just that. To the user it feels like any other article on the site, just with sponsored brand content. Because of this, engagement rates are exceptionally high – on average 90 seconds per view.

Cons
As a branding channel, it tends to be most suited to top of the funnel campaigns rather than direct response actions.

Conclusion:
As the latest IAB ad spend report confirms, content and native now accounts for a quarter of all display advertising – so it’s certainly here to stay. Which of these executions you choose to use will depend entirely upon your goals. Looking for DR? Head for click-out formats. Looking for brand engagement – head for stay on site True Native.