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Native Advertising 101: What are Native Ads?

Posted on February 13, 2014
By Tanvi Kapoor, Director - Product MarketingDirector - Product Marketing

Last week, we announced the launch of our Native Ads Platform. While native advertising is the latest buzzword in the industry, critics are holding their verdict on whether they are here to stay. If you are a part of the booming mobile internet industry and your livelihood depends on the popularity of your mobile business (app or website), you are most probably on the other side of the fence and are thankful for the innovations focused on enhancing the user experience and monetization opportunity.

So far, mobile developers have had to rely on traditional ad formats for monetizing their non-paying user base. Native ads are definitely an improvement over existing solutions and are intended to offer an in-context experience to the user by allowing publishers to adapt the ads to the form, function, and content of their property. This means that the native ad matches the visual appeal and interactive elements of the property. If the native look of the property is a tiled format, the ad will also be in a tile. If the native behavior of the property is flipping tiles (think Flipboard), the native ad tile will also flip. Native ads are so deeply integrated into the mobile property that as you scroll the screen up or down, the native ad also moves along with the rest of the content. In other words, it becomes pseudo content. This is completely different from traditional ad formats like banners, which take over a specified place of the mobile screen and are unaffected by what is happening on the rest of the screen. Or interstitials, which take control of the entire screen. A native ad is an ad that looks like it belongs in your property.

With so many players offering varying degrees of native ad solutions, how do you evaluate the effectiveness of the different offerings? Borrowing from the IAB native advertising playbook, we have come up with a simple framework to help you analyze your options:

Visual & Contextual Fit

  • Does the ad become a part of the content screen that the user generally takes notice of, or will it be a part of his blind spot?
  • Does the ad unit have content that resembles the rest of the content on the page or does it stand out like an eyesore?
  • Does the ad unit match the functionality of the rest of the content or elements of the property in which it is displayed? The ad unit should adapt to any USP that has been built into the publisher’s property like swipe, flip, scroll, links, and so on.

Scale & Targeting

  • Is the solution scalable as per your needs? If you are a publisher and it requires you to source the advertisers yourself, you will be limited to the strength of your Sales team. Similarly, if you are an advertiser and have to design individual creative assets for each publisher that you partner with, you will hit a wall soon.
  • Does the solution offer the right mix of mobile developers - be it advertisers or publishers - to maximize the value of your effort? Are different genres like games, entertainment, news, brands, commerce, utilities, and so on, part of the deal?
  • Given that the ad unit is now going to blend seamlessly with the content, the importance of ad relevance has never been greater in order to ensure you do not end up annoying the user. Is the ad targeted to the user and takes into account his engagement and usage patterns? This will depend a lot on the targeting capabilities of the solution provider and the amount of user data that can be used for analyzing user segments.
  • Is there a means to disclose to the user that this is an ad unit and not a piece of content?

Effort & Measurement

  • There is no hiding the fact that if you want a deeply integrated ad in your property, there will be effort involved. What matters is how much of your focus and effort will have to be diverted from the core business.
  • What kind of performance metrics are available for the publisher and advertiser to measure the effectiveness of the ad unit? The basic parameters - impressions, click-through rates, fill rates, conversion rates, and/or advanced parameters like engagement metrics, shopping cart fills, and so on.

Next week, we will dive into what kind of ad units would make most sense for news apps.

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