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Digital channels continue to provide advertisers with an ever-growing number of options for marketing to consumers, but there's a problem: many of their messages don't get through.
Many consumers, bombarded by ads, many of which they see as annoyances, have blinded themselves to certain types of ad units, and some, in an attempt to squash ads altogether, have turned to ad blocking software. Coupled with poorly-placed units, advertisers often have no idea how many of their ads have actually been viewed or were even viewable, prompting calls for viewability standards.
While viewability standards can, in theory, help ensure that less money is wasted on ads that were never realistically going to be seen, most advertisers aren't naive. They know that there's a difference between minimizing waste and maximizing meaningful views.
So in an effort to ensure that their messages reach consumers, and reach them in ways that are hard to ignore, a growing number of advertisers are turning to native advertising. From advertorials to product placements, the term 'native advertising' means different things to different people, but stands for one thing: ads that don't interrupt the user experience and, in fact, are embedded in or seamlessly integrated with the user experience.
A coming out party in 2013?
According to Solve Media, native advertising will be difficult to ignore in 2013, as nearly half of the media buyers it surveyed indicated that they'll be spending on native ads next year. What's more: just under 60% of the agency media buyers it polled in major markets said native advertising is "very important' and a full fourth of the media buyers participating in Solve Media's study polled claimed they'll invest more than a fifth of their spend on native campaigns.
To meet demand, more and more publishers are ramping up their efforts to produce native ad opportunities; Solve Media expects 20% of publishers to add native offerings. Those that do will have plenty of options. According to Jed Williams, a senior analyst at BIA/Kelsey, "This trend is only the beginning. We foresee continued momentum in original advertorial content, rich media, long form viral video and other formats in the years ahead."
Of course, creating native ad offerings and selling them to eager advertisers is just half the battle. For the boom to produce a sustainable, long-lasting channel through which advertisers can engage consumers, native ads will have to prove effective.
The good news is that this is widely understood. According to Solve Media, 70% of agency creatives "say user experience is most important in native advertising." The bad news: advertisers and their representatives often overestimate the consumer value of the experiences they create.
At the end of the day, it's important to remember that native advertising is still advertising. The challenge, particularly for consumer brands, is the same as content marketers face every day: creating compelling messages (content) that inform and entertain. If a message can't do that, it doesn't matter how well integrated it is into the medium.