Measuring Native Advertising

We’ve heard about “native advertising” taking the mindshare in the ad world this year.  Native advertising, by definition, is a unique ad unit that “matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears.”  And thus lies the challenge.  How do you measure success with this new format?  Some have looked at clicks, others have looked at purchases, while still others look at engagement. Yet there is no one-size-fits-all metric.  If that’s the case, how do we measure?

First off, we must clearly define what a native ad is.  Google’s AdWords is native.  Facebook’s Sponsored Stories, Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, a viral video, a paid-for blog post all fit under the aforementioned definition.  In fact, throughout the sales funnel there are many native formats, each with the distinct job of pushing the prospect to the next stage in the sales process, which thus yield different forms of measurement.   

The bottom of the funnel  provides the easiest illustration of how measurement works.  At the bottom, the customer is nearly ready to purchase, looking for any type of pricing discrepancy, coupon, or discount.  Typical types of native advertising here include Google’s AdWords, promoted search results on ecommerce sites or aggregator sites, or sponsored coupon entries or blog posts.  These advertisements are usually bought in a cost-per-action or cost-per-click model, and are easily measured via cookies or the last-click standard translating into revenue. 

 Prior to purchasing a product, a customer may ponder all of the options in the “consideration” set.  Native advertising in this step consists of ratings and review sites, research results, question and answer sites, and social media. How many times did a search result appear?  Did the impression lead to a social media action (followed, liked)?  These are typically purchased by impressions or clicks and are measured by active engagement, which include social media following, more reviews, and more questions about the brand.

At the very top of the funnel is the trigger that puts the product into our head: inspiration.  Inspiration drives awareness and recall for customers to type your brand into the search engine and takes the form of long-form content, stories, or videos.  This format is typically purchased via “influence” or impressions and measured by passive engagement, like time spent reading and earned amplification, which is how much it is shared, retweeted or spread.

These buckets allow you to categorize your native units. How do you define what type of native advertising format you are using?  Ask yourself what the next step would be.  Would the majority of folks purchase something after just learning about it (inspiration)?  Probably not, but if they shared or spent time reading it and added it to their consideration set, the campaign was probably a success.  Did you receive more prospects requesting more information or following you on social media?  Then your consideration campaign worked.  Did they do all the research and are now ready to buy?  If your native ad is about the best price or other kind of purchase incentive, you can measure its efficacy in dollars, cents and clicks.

Native advertising describes a swath of ad units in the ever-changing landscape of advertising. To group all of these units and their measurement into the same bucket is unfair and does native a huge disservice.  After all would you ask your foot doctor for brain surgery advice because he’s a doctor, or the divorce attorney for tax tips, since he’s a lawyer?

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