Faced with a myriad of digital advertising options, marketers remain unable to choose the right technology to execute a successful online marketing strategy. Specifically when it comes to native advertising, the situation is further complicated by the chaotic landscape where no standards are clearly defined and many vendors are offering various forms of native advertising capabilities.
While most marketers are really excited about the opportunity native advertising offers them to get their messages out to the right consumers, many of them are facing a stumbling block when it comes to efficient distribution and placing their ads in online publications.
The novelty of native advertising in the digital space coupled with the extremely fragmented landscape has lead to a lot of confusion in regards to successfully executing a sound native advertising campaign and identifying the right solution provider. This post seeks to help advertisers understand the native advertising space and find the right solution to support their digital marketing strategies.
I will provide the main criteria digital marketers should consider when choosing the right native advertising solution. I understand that every strategy is unique with different goals and execution parameters, so this is not an exhaustive list of criteria but rather a minimum benchmark against which the different solutions should be assessed.
1. Campaign Objective: Before identifying the right solution provider it is important to know what your digital campaign objectives are and then choose the enabling technology accordingly.
Are you running a performance based campaign where tracking conversions and acquisitions become important or a brand awareness campaign where creating the widest possible coverage is more applicable? What type of content is going to be pushed out to the audience? Different solutions cater to different needs and it is always wise to choose the one more aligned with your digital campaign objective.
2. Performance: The biggest benefit of native advertising is the performance of the ad units when compared with other digital campaigns. For instance, in-stream ad units perform 10x better on many metrics compared to banners. Consequently, the first criteria to judge a solution vendor against is the average performance of their native ads. Metrics like Click-through-Rates and conversions rates are easily measurable and compared across different technologies.
3. Scalability: As more and more publishers start to add native offerings to their sites and more native advertising technologies start to access those inventories, digital marketers need to ensure appropriate scalability for their campaigns. Although different campaigns have different objectives when it comes to scalability, as an advertiser you need to know what scale are you able to get from each vendor and most importantly the quality of those publications.
4. Brand Safety: Brand safety remains a critical concern when it comes to executing a successful native advertising campaign. When evaluating a solution provider, the inventory supply source becomes of paramount importance. To get scale, many technologies are plugging into inventory supply sources of low quality content. Furthermore, to increase revenue, some are allowing poor campaigns with unsafe brands to run through their systems . We all have seen those ad units with headlines like: “Find Out your Shocking Celebrity Match!”or “Look 20 years younger with this trick”. No advertiser want to see their valuable brand placed next to these ad units. In addition to the quality of the inventory, fraudulent clicks, viewability of impressions, and bot traffic are all pertinent concerns to address when it comes to choosing the right solution provider. Advertisers need to work with reputable partners to ensure confidence in the media buying process. And it is up to these partners to put the proper measures in place to deliver good, clean and relevant inventory and traffic.
5. Transparency: The digital realm makes it easy to measure and aggregate data. However, those same tools make it easy to manipulate that data, perhaps not report it at all. Many solutions providers remain a black box when it comes to comprehensive reporting and transparency, have different business models and differ in the type of information they report and the granularity of that information. Furthermore, on exchanges where advertisers bid on ads, information on the exchange technology and the bidding process becomes important to ensure full transparency and disclosure. Advertisers need to be aware of what reporting would they have access to and the quality and relevance of that information.
6. Pricing: Solution providers have different business and pricing models. While some choose to charge on CPM basis, others charge on a CPC or CPA basis. Because of their better performance, native ads are more expensive than their banner counterparts. However, there is a huge variance across the different technology providers when it comes to pricing. The pricing of those ad units in relation to their expected performance needs to be considered when comparing the various technologies.