I am not a native advertising expert, but I am an ad pro—and I know bad advertising when I see it. Just because an ad is designed specially to fit on a digital content page, I am not giving it a pass on quality. The truth is that most all so-called “native advertising” is crap. To be fair, most all advertising is quality-challenged, including offline and on. This is the main problem we should all be working to address.
How? Here are my three golden rules for all advertising, native or not. Respect this holy trinity to be effective.
1. Make it Relevant. We know more about each specific page viewer and the content on that page than ever before, yet digital advertising feels even less relevant to me than traditional does. I know I will see car related ads in car magazines, but what ad content I can expect when online seems almost entirely random (I’m excluding the perversely persistent re-targeting which is rarely really relevant). While the potential for relevance is greater than ever, so too are the challenges given digital fragmentation. It is hard, but difficulty is not an acceptable excuse.
2. Make it Great.
Content is still king. We forget this way too often when mesmerized by our data and technology. These things do not scale ads—great ideas do. “Great” here can mean abundant utility, entertainment, or information, among other things. This is not a judgment call—an ad earns this grade if viewers interact with it and we have the ability to precisely measure this (and it ain’t via clicks
3. Place it in the User’s Activity Flow.
And, the corollary, allow the same user interactions as on the content part of the page. TV and print got this right from the start with ads integrated into the viewer’s activity stream. Commercial breaks and full page ads are known and accepted by consumers as part of the overall content experience. They may not be liked, but the value exchange is recognized by all. In the digital world, it was decided long ago to put the ads on the periphery of the action. Also at present, viewers have extremely limited options to interact with ads on the page. The sole choice of click-through or not is hopelessly inadequate in this regard. We need to change this to allow users to do within the ads what they have become accustomed to doing outside of them. This is beginning to change with things like the IAB Rising Stars
and is a major benefit of many other native ad formats.
Good advertising has the ability to transform businesses and transfix consumers—no matter what form it takes. Let’s move past debating the format and put our collective efforts on realizing the long touted, yet rarely delivered, promise of digital advertising by making better ads.
About the Author
As the Head of Brand Initiatives at IAB, Peter Minnium leads a series of initiatives designed to address the under-representation of creative brand advertising online. He can be reached on Twitter @PeterMinnium.