Around 48% of news media companies are currently running some form of native advertising. 

According to research from the NAI (Native Advertising Institute) this percentage is only set to rise, with publishers expecting native ads as a percentage of overall ad revenue to grow from 11% to 25% in 2018.

On the back of this, the fact that the Guardian has launched a new platform for advertiser created content might not come as much of a surprise.

But is it a welcome move? Here a bit more on the story.

What is ‘Hosted by the Guardian?’

‘Hosted by the Guardian’ is a new platform that has been specifically designed to host advertiser content on Guardian.com, mainly in the form of videos, articles and galleries.

It has been described as a ‘premium environment’, drawing on traffic from the Guardian’s homepage where the content will first be promoted.

So far, Renault is one of the biggest brands to test out the platform, running three videos to sell its new range of electric ‘ZOE’ vehicles.

A transparent approach

Native advertising continues to be a big challenge for both brands and publishers.

On one hand, the rise of ad blocking suggests that readers are fed up of intrusive ads, meaning that surely native ads - where the content mimics the editorial environment on which it is displayed – would be preferable.

However, increasing confusion and frustration over poorly labelled sponsored content means that reader distrust is one of the biggest risks for publishers.

The below chart from Contently’s latest report reflects confusion over the classification of ads, with the majority of readers unsure about what a native advert actually is.

Interestingly, the Guardian’s new platform aims to combat this issue, mainly by prominently labelling the various types of sponsored content it produces.

The example from Renault is clearly labelled as ‘advertiser content’, meaning that is has been paid for and produced by the advertiser rather than the publisher. 

It also includes a link to a more in-depth disclaimer about what this means.

The videos distinctly feel like adverts, too.

Showing a group of Central St Martins students taking part in a competition to design the 'car of the future' - the brand involvement is obvious.

While there’s no real mention of the ‘ZOE’ cars, Renault has a heavy presence throughout, even down to praise from the judges about the company's innovative nature and its support of students.

Despite this, the storytelling aspect means it is engaging to watch, with the genuine hard work and talent of the students shining through.

Will readers embrace it?

Results from Renault’s campaign indicate that the platform has so far proven successful.

Apparently, Renault’s ‘Hosted by’ videos delivered a 60% view-through rate from over 25,000 unique visitors, with a further 4% clicking through to the brand website.

What’s more, the overall campaign was said to double awareness of the Renault ZOE, with a third of those who recalled the campaign claiming that they would consider buying an electric car in the future.

It’s surprising to hear such a positive result, however, this could be down to the platform being hosted on its own hub.

It’s unclear whether or not the ad was labelled as ‘advertiser content’ on the homepage, as there is currently no sign of Renault’s campaign anywhere else on the site. But I’m assuming that this was the case, which means that readers would have known this before actively clicking through to watch it.

Perhaps we can also put down this campaign's success to the fact that readers view both the Guardian and Renault as two trusted brands. 

Contently found that 41% of readers would feel increased trust towards a publisher if it featured a native ad from a most trusted brand.

So, while there are obvious risks involved, native advertising does have the potential to increase positive sentiment for the publisher - as long as it is executed correctly.

In conclusion… 

With native advertising remaining an important source of revenue for publishers, the Guardian's new platform is a sign that many are taking notice of the FTC's stricter regulations.

Of course, it helps that Renault's content is well produced, using the real-life context of a student competition to increase engagement.

Likewise, with prominent labelling of 'advertiser content' as well as heavy use of the Renault logo, it's pretty unlikely that anyone would view it without knowing that it is an ad.

Created with transparency in mind and the aim of providing value for readers, it is a decent example for others to follow.

Further reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 14 December, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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