Marketers probably don’t consider the irritation factor of their ads as much as they should. This is the age of high interruption; consumers are perpetually being distracted from what they are doing. Whether it’s the ubiquitous GDPR pop-up standing between them and every website they access, unwanted sales calls, or ads that start just as their show’s getting to the good part, customers are already operating at peak ad irritation.
Surely marketers have to recognise how damaging it is for their brand to keep annoying their audience so much?
With increasing demands on the customer’s attention, marketers are getting even more desperate – and more irritating and interruptive in their approach. Digital ads are too numerous, too intrusive and, sometimes, too creepy – and customers have noticed they are getting more frequent and more intrusive.
The vast majority of customers say they have left a website because they found an autoplay ad or popup annoying. Advertising may still bring in some customers but how many more does it turn off?
The adblock backlash
As a result of this consumer irritation factor, ad blocking is now a real problem for advertisers. According to Forrester data from last year, 11% of web users worldwide and over a third of US adults have now installed ad blocking technology.
In Asia, up to 90% of mobile phones are thought to have ad blockers installed. It’s estimated that ad blocking will cost the industry up to $35 billion per year by 2020.
Popular browsers such as Safari and Chrome are threatening to install ad blocking on mobile, which is going to be a game changer for the advertising industry.
The phenomenon of consumers finding ways, either mental or technological, to ignore advertising has been christened ‘ad fatigue’. Whether it’s putting the TV on mute during the ad breaks or ignoring display ads they’ve seen before, users are getting very effective at fighting the advertising bombardment they are faced with every day.
Is native advertising a solution that could save the advertising industry? These paid ads match the look and feel of the publishing platform they appear on which means they are less disruptive, both in the sense of the consumer journey but also to some extent their reading experience.
These types of ads don’t look like ads – instead, they look like web page content, or a print article in a newspaper, or just another social media post.
Proponents claim native advertising works because it doesn’t feel disruptive to users. The fact is, it may just work because other forms of advertising are just creating customer hostility. And with digital technologies such as ad blocking now giving consumers the power to dodge advertising efforts, advertisers need to find a way to advertise without irritating customers.
Native advertising takes many forms but each form shares the same key characteristic: it’s non-interruptive. Whether you’re writing advertorial content for a publishing platform such as Buzzfeed or slipping sponsored tweets into Twitter feeds, you’re not interrupting the customer’s task or journey.
And in theory, at least, these ads take a less aggressive approach to engaging with customers because they are designed to be sympathetic to the type of published content the user has already chosen to access that day.
Customers tell us time and again that what they want is content that’s useful to them and relevant to their needs. You’re far more likely to achieve that with non-interruptive, native advertising than you are with annoying pop-ups that interrupt people when they’re trying to complete another task. Your focus should be on meeting customers’ need for useful, informative and interesting content that doesn’t raise their defences.
Every ad format has its disadvantages native is no exception. You’ll find that the metrics aren’t as rich and thorough for your native advertising campaigns as they are for traditional interruptive ads because you’re essentially piggybacking on the publisher’s own metrics. That means a loss of control and a harder job pinning down your ROI.
Although consumers prefer it when you don’t interrupt them, it’s also true that they can feel deceived by ads that they perceive as trying to disguise themselves as content. Just over half of customers surveyed by Contently mistrusted sponsored content. They also quite often struggled to identify the sponsor, which is frustrating for brands trying to assert their identity.
If you’re experimenting with native ads, make sure the content you create is genuinely useful, whether it’s factual or an informed opinion. Consumers are far more likely to accept native paid content if there’s value in it for them.
Avoid trashy clickbait tactics and cliched headlines – tricking your audience is never a good idea. In fact, several sites have been reprimanded for not making it clear enough that their advertorials were sponsored content.
It’s certainly hard to craft an appealing interruptive ad but creating native advertising is a unique challenge. Your content creatives need to have a strong understanding of the platform they’re publishing the native content on.
If you’re operating in foreign markets, you need to really understand not just the language but also the tone of the publication you’re piggybacking on. If you get it wrong, your “native” advert can actually stick out like a sore thumb and get your customers’ backs up.
Done well, native advertising can be an effective way to engage with your audience without enraging them. If your brand genuinely has something to say, it’s a good choice of vehicle for saying it. And it’s effective: Outbrain reports that users spend longer looking at native ads than they do display ads and that they create a higher purchase intent.
Advertisers are facing an increasingly challenging environment as customers fight back against the ad bombardment. It’s difficult to find ways to overcome the twin challenges of ad fatigue and customers using technology that thwarts attempts to show them ads. Native advertising is just one of the tools advertisers should consider when they’re fighting back against customer hostility to advertising.