By Jerry Wind, The Lauder Professor, Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School; and Vaasu Gavarasana, Head – APAC Business Marketing, Yahoo Asia Pacific
Is Native Advertising the solution for what ails online advertising? The phenomenon of Native Advertising—marketing that appears within a site’s main feed and mimics the format and voice of that site’s editorial content—is certainly garnering a lot of attention lately, and for good reason: it is growing, and it has proven effectiveness. According to a June 2013 survey from the Online Publishers Association and Radar Research, 73% of publishers surveyed said they were already offering the new format. Moreover, as Hexagram & Spada’s 2014 report #StateofNativeAdvertising2014 demonstrates, Native Advertising is viewed at a much higher rate than other online advertising such as banners, often equaling that of its host site’s editorial material, and it is viewed as a “positive development” by most brands and agencies.
However, Native Advertising risks eroding viewers’ trust if it leaves them feeling deceived, either through inadequate disclosure or through presenting content that does not match expectation. One recent example is “First Kiss,” a short film of strangers kissing which rode an initial wave of viral popularity before foundering as viewers realized it was a promotion with professional actors for the clothing company Wren.
With this in mind, the Wharton Future of Advertising Program in conjunction with Yahoo! have designed a Framework for Native Advertising: a road map for ethically deploying Native Advertising while maximizing its effectiveness. This framework can be applied beyond digital media to all advertising and marketing. The backbone of this framework is the WFoA’s “RAVES” guidelines for advertising, which hold that marketing is most effective when it is Relevant and Respectful, Actionable, emotionally and cognitively Valuable, and offers an Exceptional Experience and a Surprising Story to its audience, delivered through all touch points. To be used most powerfully, Native Advertising requires addressing three key factors:
- Objectives: The goals of the advertiser, the site upon which the advertisement is hosted, that site’s audience, and society as a whole must align;
- Integration: content must LEAD: the content must fit with the Look and feel, the Editorial (content and context), the Audience (mood and mode), and the Device (function and location).
- Transparency—making the presence of sponsored content clear and undisguised—a must, which can establish long term benefits for and trust in a brand if it is forward about the nature and origin of NA content. Furthermore, brands should strive for thought leadership and create content they are proud of.
Since there are many ways of executing integration and transparency for any given objective, the use of Adaptive Experimentation is a must. The fragmented nature of viewership on the internet can work to advertisers’ advantage here, allowing multiple approaches to run and be evaluated for effectiveness concurrently. If many companies adopt this experimental approach we can then conduct meta-analysis of the results and establish an ever-clearer idea of what works and what does not. All stakeholders—media, marketers and audience—have differing desires, but by taking them all into account, we believe they can be aligned, allowing marketers to reach an aware, receptive audience, and for the media that delivers that content to support itself via advertising that is clicked on more than once in 1000 views.