When advertisers and publishers think about native advertising or sponsored content, they often think about viral, social programs, infographics, in-feed videos and articles. But what about email?
It may be one of the most effective native tools you’re not using.
I recently met Elie Ashery, president and CEO of Gaithersburg, Md.-based Gold Lasso, an email service provider. He sought to fill a void for publishers who weren’t monetizing their email effectively.
According to Ashery, native email has a few things going for it: it’s not terribly intrusive, it resonates well with consumers -- and as long as the disclosures are prominent, it can be a solid way of engaging with consumers.
While native email is typically an afterthought, it’s a rather high-performing channel. Live Intent helped pioneer the space.
Ashery explained that publishers and advertisers perceive the following hurdles:
So what does native email involve? “You’re just taking the text, image and the link and creating an ad unit on the fly as the email opens. It’s created in real time as the email is opened by the consumer,” Ashery says.
At the moment an email is opened, the MD5 hash, (commonly used to verify data integrity), of a subscriber's email address is matched against 2 billion profiles with demographic and behavioral data, he explains. Publishers pass Gold Lasso an MD5# (encrypted subscriber email address) which serves as a unique identifier instead of a cookie. The company then attempts to match the MD5# against its own database to serve the most relevant ad.
The email is targeted and it can be contextual. Instead of a cookie, the only really unique identifier is the email address. Gold Lasso targets this on the encrypted version of the email, at the individual level. It’s also possible to target based on location.
Advertisers can leverage their CRM data to do this. Gold Lasso can pull the assets in real time from the advertiser. They’re recreated into a solid image.
In email, it’s not possible to use Java scripting—it has be all text or all image in order to work. To keep the formatting correct, Gold Lasso chooses the image format. “We draw the image in real time as the email is being opened,” Ashery said.
Native email makes a lot of sense in terms of scale. By its own estimates, Gold Lasso says there are probably 3.5 billion daily impressions created by publishers via email—that’s everyone from big publishers to individual bloggers.
With email, everyone is looking for engagement metrics and actual clicks. The higher the engagement, the higher the CPM. “We see anywhere from $12 to $15 per CPM and click-to-open rates of between 30% and 50%,” Ashery said.
Gold Lasso works with a variety of publishers ranging from Merriam-Webster to CBS Sports properties.
Calling it a “nascent market,” Ashery said native email could start to take off. “Publishers are realizing that it creates a very unique ad experience. It offers high engagement and performance and it overcomes banner blindness.” And it also just might combat ad blockers. “Consumers are programmed to ignore ads. You can’t use ad blockers in email,” he added.
Among marketers that have placed ads via Gold Lasso are Betty Crocker, DirectTV, Fisher Investments, Cruz for President and Marco Rubio.
Native email performs better than standard display units in email. For example, according to Gold Lasso's data, for display ads in email, the click rates are: Minimum: 0.006%; Mean: 0.01%; and Maximum: 0.03%. Click rates are based on the number of email opens across 32 publishers that have placed a native unit and display unit in the same mid-way space of a news stream—for example, the 5th story of a 10-story news stream.
By contrast, for native email, the Minimum: 0.02%; Mean: 0.03%; and Maximum: 1.1%. Native email performance is better than display by Gold Lasso’s calculations. The mean is the average between minimum rate recorded and the maximum rate recorded.
What can advertisers and publishers take from that? Native, on average, performs 300% + better than display in email given the exact same position within a news stream. One can extrapolate that consumers may be having a better ad experience with native email vs. banners. There’s about a 300% increase in engagement between native email vs. non-native email, according to Ashery. Further, native ads above the fold will outperform banners or display adds in the same position.
For its part, Gold Lasso plans to introduce more publisher-focused email monetization products. It also launched a playbook to aid publishers in monetizing their email better. “We’re explaining how monetization works inside of email. How does engagement work? How should native be managed? What about the data?” Ashery says.
Gold Lasso recently launched its AnnounceCast platform that focuses on native in email. The platform provides native content recommendation units to aid in content discovery; in-stream newsletter units; email interstitial ads; and customized units that enable a tailoring of fonts, image sizes, call to action buttons and more.