While their execution varies, native advertisements are designed to blend in with a site's editorial content. The ad units almost seem like a combination of paid search, sponsored ads, and product placement -- delivering a message to complement other content on the page rather than a more overt statement. A variety of companies known to support paid-search advertising have opted in favor of native ads. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is one, and another is Jamie Hill, chairman and CEO of adMarketplace, which recently inked a deal with Bing to serve Microsoft's search ads across its network.
adMarketplace, a New York based search advertising company, delivers search intent advertising for some of the Internet's biggest performance marketers -- and provides custom monetization solutions for digital publishers with on-site and in-app search. I caught up with Hill to get his opinion on a variety of subjects including native advertising, social media, and ad blocking.
Search Marketing Daily: How do you define native?
Jamie Hill: Any ad that is designed to match the look and feel of the host site is the standard industry definition, and it’s pretty accurate. Beyond that, a good native ad doesn’t disrupt the user experience. It’s part of the experience.
SMD: Tech companies like Veritone Media have begun to develop technologies to quantify and qualify native advertising. Will adMarketplace seek a partner or build its own?
Hill: We are a search company and we build our attribution models accordingly. Our native search ads may look different than our usual plain-text ads, but performance, implementation, and attribution all function similarly. Many of the attribution strategies that work well for search are also appropriate for intent-based native ads.
SMD: Experts say native advertising will become the media to circumvent browser-based ad-blocking software. Your thoughts?
Hill: As more users switch to ad blockers, native will prove to be one of the best tools that publishers have to maintain steady revenue. As I said, native has a fairly broad definition, and I don’t think all forms of native will be useful as ad blocker usage rises. Targeted, intent-based native will be able to replace blocked ads in terms of revenue and performance. There are a lot of similarities between search and native, and we are starting to see them blend.
SMD: How are social media platforms using native?
Hill: Most social media platforms sell “promoted content” or native social posts. Twitter has promoted tweets; Facebook has promoted posts; Pinterest has promoted pins, and so on. These are all in-stream ads that look like organic content. Social networks provide an easy platform for brands to behave like people, so native social is a natural fit, and the majority of U.S. native spend occurs on social.
SMD: Which social platforms are using native best?
Hill: That depends on the criteria for both native and what you would define as “best.” YouTube often leads the pack for “social” revenue, but not all YouTube ads are native; they are basically television commercials.
Instagram native ads look amazing because the platform consists entirely of cool pictures. All a brand needs for a good native ad on Instagram is an eye-catching photo or clever video. Brands like GoPro do exceptionally well on Instagram even without paying to promote. People share their content because it’s genuinely cool, but that doesn’t work for everyone, and you can’t track it. It’s branding over performance marketing.
Pinterest has the same appeal to brands as Instagram, but it provides even more targeting capabilities, because it’s a more organized visual experience. They added a buy button so users can convert instantly on the site. That’s pretty valuable to certain brands.
In terms of native ads on mobile: Twitter, Instagram, and to a lesser extent Facebook ads probably look the best, since the ads are embedded seamlessly into the user stream, and on mobile the stream is the entire experience.
Vine, Snapchat and the myriad of other newer micro-content apps provide a great platform for agencies to impress clients, but they are often nothing more than expensive, vanity, branding techniques. This could change if these apps can show true performance metrics, but the $750,000 per day that Snapchat is reportedly charging seems awfully pricey to experiment with courting millennials.
There is no “best” platform for social native. Brands need to use the right tool for the job. Pinterest is amazing for certain brands, but not for others; same with Instagram, Snapchat, and all other social platforms.
SMD: Who could use native advertising better?
Hill: Twitter comes to mind. They have enough available user intent to rival Facebook, and they arguably have a better platform to serve ads; however, they need to improve targeting.
Promoted tweets look great. It’s true native. Twitter also has some of the finest intent signals around. They have hashtags, followers, trends and even search. So they have explicit and contextual intent. Twitter’s search functionality should provide the opportunity to deliver highly relevant ads, but it doesn’t always work out. For instance I’ve searched for “car” and gotten a promoted tweet for an asbestos lawyer. Their targeting is decent, but it should be better.
SMD: Do you consider search engine advertising native?
Hill: Yes, I do. Search engine advertising was the first form of digital native. Search ads on a search engine results page (SERP) look similar to organic search results. Native search built Google into a billion-dollar company. We are going to see more and more crossover between search and native.
SMD: What do you mean by crossover? Will native and search converge?
Hill: Yes, in some ways. Search performs well because a user search provides explicit, real time intent. For a long time nothing could rival this. Now certain social networks -- Pinterest, Twitter, and others -- provide intent. These platforms are already combining search strategies with native, but they still don’t perform as well as search.
More importantly, since a large portion of user keyword search now occurs outside of traditional search engines, ad companies, including adMarketplace, are developing ways to combine search and native on a variety of websites and apps. Specifically, we’re making sure our search ads visually match our publisher sites.
adMarketplace is a search company and we’re starting to implement native tactics by customizing search solutions by publisher to create a native experience. Other companies that focus on native are moving toward performance tracking and explicit intent signals. The rise of ad blockers has also shifted focus to “non-disruptive” ads. Everyone will look to native and search, so native search is inevitable.