When it comes to the most controversial subjects of the marketing world, native and programmatic are vying for first place. Native is criticised as a tactic that intentionally misleads audiences, allowing advertising to disguise itself as genuine editorial content, while programmatic has taken the blame for widespread brand safety and fraud issues due to the lack of transparency in its supply chain, writes Alex McIlvenny, UK country manager, Ligatus.
Combining these two tactics may therefore seem unwise, but it is in fact the most effective way forward for the digital advertising industry. Native is somewhat behind programmatic in the development curve, but is advancing rapidly – with 28% growth in UK native ad spend – and provides a remedy to the transparency issues that have long been associated with automated ad buying. It is the key to ensuring brand safety in a programmatic world.
So, how can combining the two contentious tactics of native and programmatic deliver increased transparency and how can advertisers make the most of this highly favourable format?
The truth about native
First, we must address the misconception that native advertising deceives users, making it more difficult for them to differentiate between advertising and genuine editorial. There is a risk of underestimating the internet-user here, as they are in fact highly capable of assessing large amounts of information quickly, deciding what they find relevant or interesting, and identifying paid-for content.
Even so, it is essential for advertisers and publishers to clearly label native advertising as such, to avoid misleading users, and to build trusting relationships with consumers. Instagram, for example, is one of the latest platforms to introduce labelling of sponsored posts in a bid to improve transparency.
Far from limiting the performance of advertising, as may be expected, clear identification of sponsored content actually increases its effectiveness. A BBC Worldwide study reveals consumers are far more receptive to content-led marketing when brands are fully transparent about their involvement from the outset. If it is clearly labelled as paid-for content, native advertising, by its very definition, provides a safer, more organic alternative to standard advertising.
Bringing clarity to programmatic
And so to programmatic – the other element in the equation. One of the major downsides of automated ad buying, thus far, has been a lack of clarity in its supply chain, with widespread re-brokering and reselling making it difficult for advertisers to understand where their ads are being placed.
But, by working with native programmatic partners who have organic traffic and private marketplaces, advertisers gain a far clearer understanding of what they are buying. They can enjoy the scale and efficiency of programmatic, while maintaining brand safety in two vital ways:
First, advertisers can be sure the content of publisher websites has been audited and approved so their ads won’t end up alongside dubious or damaging material. Private networks provide a single source of high-quality organic inventory that buyers know they can trust. Publishers who use native advertising are looking to monetise their inventory in a way that enhances the user experience, rather than intruding on it, and are keen to ensure advertising will in no way damage user perception of their website or app.
Second, native programmatic networks are selective about the other buyers they work with – and will vet these before they are allowed into the network – so advertisers won’t run the risk of having their content associated with less reputable brands running ads on the same page. Both elements of brand safety mean native ads run in a safe advertising neighbourhood.
Content versus clickbait
Another downside of programmatic – particularly open exchanges – is the prevalence of clickbait. When users interact with an ad they need to know what they will find behind the click, so advertisers must walk the line between designing creative that is appealing and engaging while also keeping messaging honest and authentic. Native advertising that provides genuine, valuable content relating to the advertiser’s products or services makes it far easier to maintain this balance.
Native programmatic ad networks aren’t interested in clickbait, but deliver relevant, targeted content to qualified audiences, based on detailed user data. Advertisers must pay as much attention to the landing page visitors are directed to after they click on a native ad as they do to the advertisement itself. The landing page must fulfil the promise made by the ad content – as that is what attracted the user’s attention in the first place – and this promise must be maintained throughout the user journey.
In working with a native programmatic advertising platform, advertisers may find they have lower clickthrough rates than with traditional display campaigns, but they will see significant improvements in the metrics that matter, such as enhanced engagement, increased time spent on site, and better conversion rates.
Despite its past reputation as a dubious marketing tactic, it seems native will be the answer to cleaning up programmatic advertising and driving the digital industry forward. By executing native advertising programmatically via private marketplaces, buyers have far greater transparency into where their ads will appear and what they will appear alongside; and ads will deliver on the promises they make, ensuring a transparent and effective native programmatic world.