Insights / advertising

Could Native Advertising Overcome Display Ad Blindness?

Average click-through rates on display ads reflect a digitally savvy public that has learned to ignore or distrust them. Native advertising could prove an effective way of re-engaging that audience.

The last 15 years of Internet history have been a constant push-pull of online advertisers finding new ways to get their message in front of more eyeballs, and those eyeballs glazing over as users learned to ignore, avoid, or even block as many ads as possible. The result has been dubbed “banner blindness.

Displays of Disaffection

pop-up display advertising
Did you just reflexively cringe?

Display ads get superimposed over the user’s experience, sometimes literally, taking advantage of what they want to look at by forcing them to look at, or click on, something else.

But to what end? According to Google, the average click-through rate on display ads is 0.1%. What’s more, a good chunk of those clicks are accidental: one report found that 38% of mobile banner ad clicks are unintentionally “fat-fingered.”

Yet display advertising isn’t dead, or even dying. Marketers spent $19.8 billion on display advertising in 2014, and that number is expected to nearly double to $37.6 billion by 2019, with much of that growth driven by video content.

Native Advertising Finds Its Niche

The digital atmosphere is ripe for an innovation that bridges the gap between content that readers want to see and content that advertisers want them to see. That’s the niche that native advertising could fill.

Very simply defined, native advertising is sponsored content designed to match the venue in which it’s being presented. (Read a better breakdown here.)

Like some of its cousins in content marketing, native advertising is incognito: it meshes neatly within its surrounding content, and may or may not be explicitly branded.

native advertising found on buzzfeedExamples of native advertising include sponsored editorial posts (like this one placed on Buzzfeed by Jack-in-the-Box: 10 Burgers That Are Totally Buttering You Up Right Now), product or shopping guides, branded infographics, and tutorial videos that show how to assemble, use, repair, or even “hack” a product.

Native advertising appeals to online readers because, rather than distracting, disrupting, or diverting them from the content they are impatient to see, native ads complement that content like a mint on a hotel pillow.

The metrics are already showing that users aren’t as quick to ignore native spots as they have been with display ads.

  • Native ads get 53% more views than banner ads.
  • Native advertising can generate up to an 82% increase in brand lift.
  • Purchase intent is 53% higher with native ads.
Exploring the effectiveness of native ads
This infographic from Sharethrough and IPG Media Labs also makes a compelling case for native ad engagement vs. banners. Click to view full size.

In some ways, this reflects the culture of the Social Web. Users begrudgingly accept brands into their spaces, but expect them to follow the rules, behave socially, and contribute, not just promote and solicit. Otherwise, they feel taken advantage of, the way you might feel if a politician showed up at your private party and turned it into a fundraiser rally.

The Takeaway

In a crowded marketplace, there’s always pressure to be the loudest, shiniest, trendiest thing, but brands that employ and master this more subtle tactic could wind up seeing a higher return on their content marketing. By better integrating with customers’ overall online experience, native advertising could overcome learned behaviors.