Native ads are the “it format” of digital media right now. Perceived to be less visually disruptive and able to command premium pricing, publishers are widely embracing them. That list includes Yahoo, The New York Times and most recently, The Wall Street Journal.
Facebook and Twitter also have their versions, too (in-stream ads). Beyond this, native ads are also part of the larger “content marketing” trend.
An article (via Re/code) on Time.com from Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile, itself a kind of content marketing for Chartbeat, argues that native ads are far less engaging than publishers and advertisers may believe:
On a typical article two-thirds of people exhibit more than 15 seconds of engagement, on native ad content that plummets to around one-third. You see the same story when looking at page-scrolling behavior. On the native ad content we analyzed, only 24% of visitors scrolled down the page at all, compared with 71% for normal content. If they do stick around and scroll down the page, fewer than one-third of those people will read beyond the first one-third of the article.
What this suggests is that brands are paying for — and publishers are driving traffic to — content that does not capture the attention of its visitors or achieve the goals of its creators. Simply put, native advertising has an attention deficit disorder.
Chartbeat’s Haile goes on to argue that, done right, native ads can be effective. He just says that there are few successful examples around today.
In fairness to native advertising people have historically made similar arguments against “traditional” online display advertising (e.g., “people don’t click on banners”). However research has shown that online display ads do build awareness, purchase intent and even drive offline sales — typically without driving clicks.
The issue, as Haile points out, is quality. In the case of native ads the “creative” is the content.
Often digital marketers choose focus on reach, audience targeting and analytics and neglect ad creative. Research from comScore has found, however, “that creative quality drives more than half of the sales changes for brands analyzed, four times higher than the impact of the specific media plan involved.”