All Posts By

Adam Knoyle

Man reading a newspaper

The science of headline images

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

Humans are visual creatures. 65% of us are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network. Most of us process information based on what we see rather than simply the text that we read and this has long been recognised in education and the development of learning materials.

But we don’t stop being visual as soon as we leave school, it’s a characteristic that stays with us for our whole lives, and almost all of us are highly visual across the spectrum of our activities. Display advertising has, since its earliest beginnings, used powerful and highly evocative images that support the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Native images

Which is why Sarah Mandato, Director of Content Solutions at Nativo, is so right to remind us of the importance of headline images in our native advertising. We tend to focus on headlines when we evaluate or design content, but the headline image is actually doing the talking for a good proportion of the audience.

Mandato goes on to give seven tips for choosing visuals. She talks about being authentic; for example, pictures of real people rather than models, because most people only engage with real people, not mannequins, albeit living, breathing ones. She also carries that argument through to the use of stock-shots. We all need to fall back on them sometimes but they’re just not real enough to engage as a headline image.

Next she warns us against using product shots and again, in the context of native advertising, she makes the strong point that native engages by sharing the aspirations and the interests of the audience. It’s not the pack that sells, it’s showing the interested visitor that you understand what they’re trying to achieve.

Joined up thinking

Whatever visuals you choose, it’s obviously important that they should be hi-res and eye-catching, but it’s just as important that they connect with the headline and the body content. This aligns with the very heart of native that everything they see and read should add value to the experience; no ‘clickbait’ as Sarah Mandato describes it, and not too busy either because it won’t translate well on the smaller mobile screen.

Particular care should be taken when setting up auto campaigns. The spirit of native is that the content sits perfectly within the editorial stream; a headline image that has no obvious connection with the editorial environment will just scream ‘spam’.

Well-seasoned

With Christmas already a major theme on the high street, it’s worth saying a word about seasonality. Keeping in step with the seasons in both our content and visuals reinforces the currency of our content; out of season clothes and activities only really works if you’re trying to promote next year’s holiday.

Sarah Mandato’s final tip comes from the wisdom of all disciplines; test, test and test again. Play around with some of the variables that are in your control, and don’t worry too much about those that aren’t, such as what else is on during your live time.

Thanks to Sarah for some great insights; another example of how native advertising is building on its own experience, day by day.

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geo-targeting for native campaigns

Why you should be geo-targeting native campaigns

By | Native advertising, Technology

The days of blanket advertising in the hope of reaching as large an audience as possible so that a small, or even tiny, percentage of people might buy your products or services are quickly coming to an end.

That, of course, is for the physical world, while online, where the marketing dollars are increasingly being spent, it’s all about precision targeting and getting real and instant results.

The developing technologies that enable geo-targeting bring a laser-like focus to digital marketing and allow companies to individualise their campaigns to all their markets, so they have a local presence in them that serves to drastically boost their profits.

This highly localised form of targeting markets is based on a number of signals, from the IP address of a computer accessing a server to GPS, mobile and other data, such as Wi-Fi.

It’s these unique identifiers that inform server software where you are, and allow them to provide you with information relevant to the market you’re in. Every time you search for something on Google or any other search engine, for instance, that’s geo-targeting in action.

It’s incredibly effective because it gives results that users can use and business for companies in the area. You’re in London and search online for a great restaurant for an after-work party on Friday but the results page lists restaurants in New York? That’s not going to work, for any party.

Geo-targeting native campaigns

Now let’s mix geo-targeting with a method of advertising that’s really come into its own in recent times: native advertising. This online form of promotion has fast overtaken the traditional banner ad on websites as a way to attract audiences and generate new revenues, and for good reason.

People are clicking less on banner ads and paying them far less attention in general, and as a result the ad rates have been plummeting – bad for the business, bad for the publisher.

We know that, online, it’s all about the content – good content – because, after all, what do people do on the internet? They consume media, be it the printed word, pictures and other images or videos. So melding advertorial, as it was once known in the offline world, with online content has emerged as a sure-fire way for companies to engage audiences and gain additional sales. Plus, it provides marketers with more accuracy and detail in analysis and reporting.

Sharing the love

Like all kinds of digital marketing, you want the highest ROI as possible, and that means as few wasted clicks as possible. Just as with our search engine results for restaurants half a world away, there’s little point serving native advertising to people in markets where it’s irrelevant. It’s wasted impressions and must be eliminated.

Geo-targeting allows you to run different campaigns in different locations and vary your marketing message according to the area that you target.

67% of smartphone users want the ads displayed to them customised to their area, implying that matching the content you create for online to the visitor’s location can lead to viable business results.

You can easily achieve this by distributing your brand’s content through our native advertising platform. Content is placed within the relevant editorial sections and homepages of the UK’s most-loved publications, reaching your geo-targeted audience.

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Content creation

Why you can’t ignore native advertising on mobile

By | Native advertising, Technology

If there’s one thing marketers have to be very good at, it’s accepting change; because whatever we might like to think, it’s the markets that control us. As trusted advisers to those who employ us, the advertisers and brands, we have a duty to tell them that everything has just changed again.

The market no longer looks up it looks down.

Revolution

Just a few years ago those people we want to target would be looking up at billboards, cinema screens, headlines and TVs. Now the research tells us we spend more time looking down at our mobile device than ever before. That is now the go to channel for answers and entertainment.

That shouldn’t surprise us because most of us now spend at least half our life actually in the virtual world rather than the physical world. Few jobs these days do not involve interaction with the internet in some form or another and increasing numbers find their entertainment and life partners there too.

Astronomic numbers

This year we have reached a milestone; today more people in the world access the internet via their mobile devices, phones and tablets, than any other device. According to US internet analytics specialists, comScore, accessing the internet via smartphones has increased by just a tad under 400% in the last five years and tablet access by a little over 1,790% in the same period.

Consider these stats from the same study: 13% of the total US population use their mobile device as their only internet access and, among those aged 18-24 years, 25% are mobile only. You don’t really need a statistician to realise that there is a bit of a trend happening here!

Native and mobile – the perfect partnership

Some advertisers seem still to be treating mobile devices as if they’re some sort of side show; but that not only goes against the message in the numbers it also misses a key differential in how we relate to the products in our lives.

While intrusive and disruptive display ads, banners and pop-ups may have worked pretty well on a desktop, they simply don’t cut it on mobile.  Screens are too small and users too savvy.

It’s not just about the size, it’s about the relationship between phone and person; it’s intimate, it’s their window to their other world, it’s their independence.

Native advertising has always been built around the understanding of the consumer, and native advertising on mobile meets the needs of both advertiser and consumer by respecting that differential and presenting content with non-interruptive execution.

Native advertising, by definition, mirrors the style and values of the site the reader has chosen to visit, so there is no clash between pure editorial and good quality. Because of this, native advertising on mobile results in a superior user experience, leading to greater engagement and consumer trust.

So just how much longer can you ignore it?

It’s time to discuss your opportunity to reach mobile audiences through native advertising, get in touch with one of our native advertising experts at TAN Media.

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create or to curate content

To create, or to curate, that is the question

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

With native advertising and sponsored content now being the tool of choice for so many leading brands, the debate is now moving to an advanced discussion of the choice of strategy.

One of the first decisions will be whether to create, or to curate your content. Are you going to write brand new material, never before seen or read, that takes a fresh approach? Or do you curate your content, making use of your own assets and changing the way you share them; the product guide from last year, that video from the YouTube channel or the images from your social media channels.

In the beginning there was creation

One of the plus points of creating content is the chance to take a new direction; perhaps you want to capture a different audience or talk about a new topic. Good quality, fresh content will always attract followers who are searching for answers or to be entertained with new ideas. As you own it you can share it as you like, potentially increasing the opportunity to convert passing visitors to genuine leads.

As always success will be down to the quality of the content, there’s no room for vanity publishing here. If the work is up to scratch and offers genuine value to readers and rewards them for their efforts, then content creation is a great way to build your own credibility as a source of expertise.

Curating the existing collection

Curating existing content works to a different set of rules; in this approach you are driving more value from those existing brand assets. It’s a skill that develops from not only knowing your market extremely well but also being able to predict how that market will evolve; in effect the brand itself is becoming a publisher.

For some sectors curating will be the most appealing, particularly in areas such as fashion, motor and travel, where there is already so much content out there. Why invent the wheel, right? But it’s important to make it your own and develop a consistent brand voice that you can use throughout all your materials.

Room for both

Your content strategy should of course always be linked to your business objectives. It’s important for advertisers to create new content so you can stay ahead as the source of expertise and continue to deliver more value and better solutions. Nevertheless curating content has its place too! Your success here will depend on the editorial skills you bring to selecting the right material and then how you present the whole.

Over the longer period, think of your complete content strategy like a loaf of bread, sharing slices of interest specific stories to the market whose interest you share.

So, the answer is definitely to use both. It may be creating, it may be curating, they are both very powerful strategies when applied in the right context.

At TAN Media, we create and curate content for a range of brands across almost every vertical. We want to share our expertise and data insights, so you can make the most of content and engage with your target market. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your content needs to compliment your current brand strategy.

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Computer keyboard

How to craft killer headlines

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

The ever diminishing window we have to catch the attention and interest of our target market means that even native advertisers are reliant on that headline to make a firm connection. Not in the way of display ads with garish visuals and dynamic fonts, but simply by giving a taste of what’s to come.

In fact recent studies has shown that it’s even down to the number of characters in the headline; 70-90 characters, the response was 36%, 20-40 characters 19% and less than 20 characters a mere 13%.

Those are numbers we should not be ignoring; tripling the numbers of visitors who start to read the content is something that usually takes more than adding a few words. For native advertising that re-assurance that we can start delivering some value even in the headline, or at least hint more strongly of value to come, is very good news.

But why are headlines so important and how can we make them work even better in native advertising? As usual it comes down to really understanding the consumer.

Woo me, tempt me!

This means recognising that we are all still pretty much basic humans; our technology actually evolves a lot faster than we do. We’re easily distracted, we have very little staying power, we don’t like having to work too hard to understand things, we get defensive, suspicious and sometimes aggressive when people try and sell us things that we didn’t know we wanted.

Share the audiences passion!

This is embracing the people that are incredibly passionate about the things they love; whether it’s bee-keeping, cycling, saving the planet or simply just learning new things and finding new solutions.

Native advertising works so well because it understands the person but talks to the consumer, which requires a much more subtle and value laden approach if the result is to be true engagement.

Which brings us back to the issue of headlines. Native advertising can learn a lot from looking at the natural world

Native headlines: the nectar and the bee

For the flower to get pollenated it must first attract the bee. Once the bee has visited, the relationship between them is one of mutual benefit; flower suitably pollenated, bee full of nectar; just like the relationship between consumer and good native content; win, win.

So how to get the consumer to taste the native nectar? By borrowing from the wonder of the flower, a great headline that captures the attention and hints or teases about what is to come; it doesn’t pretend to be what it isn’t but nor does it shout with brand names and product offers, studies mentioned headlines containing brand names are a real turn-off.

That tells us that headlines should be subtle but not so subtle that they’re lost amongst the ground cover. They need to say read me because I’m worth it, not simply grab attentions for attention’s sake.

Good headlines are a splash of the nectar to come, tasted at the moment of truth; to click through or not to click through.

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Native content guaranteed to get completely viewed

By | Marketing, Native advertising

Well, not just the native content, but all online content. Now that online activity on mobiles has overtaken that on laptops and desktops, it makes no sense that the mobile user should have a worse experience when viewing content.

This is a great example of an industry that is driving its own standards up and not waiting to be told it must improve. The actual required standard for ‘viewability’, set by the Media Ratings Council, is 50% of the ad’s pixels to be visible on screen for one second; in other words, if that standard is met, the ad is deemed to satisfy the contract terms.

Seeing is believing

But the industry says that’s just not good enough, nothing less than 100% is acceptable. And that is exactly what is happening with several of the leading players, such as Nativo and inPowered, giving the guarantee that if anything less than 100% of the ad is visible, the client pays nothing.

To add credibility to the promise, Nativo have tapped online intelligence and analytics specialists Moat to provide the essential third party verification.

So that sets the bar for the technical side of ad design, but what about the content quality?

Once again, the leading lights of the industry are setting the pace with inPowered offering guarantees on viewer engagement too, defined as the proportion of viewers staying for at least 15 seconds or sharing. Hold your breath and count to 15 slowly and you realise that it is quite a long time in surfing terms and really does mean that content standards will have to be pretty sharp to honour the pledge. Once again, no engagement, no pay.

Reading is engaging

All content providers will have to learn what native advertisers have been mastering for some years: engagement created by good writing and graphics matched to the tone and category of the publication. A good headline and a rewarding first paragraph soon takes the reader to the point of no return where they want to read to the end.

That is going to be a challenge for those producing display ads that have long been designed on the basis of making the most of a two second or less engagement with the viewer. In the new world that means you’ve got another 13 seconds to fill if you want to get paid and, let’s face it, there are only so many videos of dogs on skateboards and cute kiddies falling asleep in their food that the world can take.

So, new standards have been set for both technical viewability and content engagement backed by hard cash guarantees. This is digital marketing’s version of ‘it does what it says on the tin’ – a promise of effectiveness.

Of course, that has always been a part of native folklore handed down through the generations; entertain, inform and show respect and 15 seconds stretches to become a long-term customer relationship.

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5 vital ingredients of native advertising

By | Native advertising

Anyone engaged in the field of marketing will be familiar with the purchase funnel, the idea that there are a number of stepping stones that, if well managed, can lead a customer to buy.

Actually, many of us remember that we used to call it the sales funnel based on good old AIDA (Attention – Interest – Desire – Action). We would follow the process slavishly with an artillery barrage of display ads, stretched to the limit performance promises, aspirational settings and then the call to action – right to the point where the science of selling told us exactly when to stop talking and suggestively remove the top from the pen; psychologically trapping the customer into signing on the bottom line.

But then we had an epiphany and realised that you can’t make someone buy, not if you actually want them to come back again or even spread the word on your behalf. No, we realised that if the customer actually wants to buy then life becomes so much easier and, well, honest. So now we call it the purchase funnel and we talk instead of discovery, building trust, understanding the power of word of mouth and how these stepping stones will lead – if the customer so chooses – to a purchase.

The Association of Online Publishers (AOP) have recently researched how the success of native advertising is really just an extension of the purchase funnel epiphany and they have suggested five key ingredients for building those stepping stones to purchase.

Attract

It’s a fact that discovery without attraction is just a happy accident and no business can be built on happy accidents. So how do we encourage and enable discovery? Well, firstly we dally where our customers-to-be like to linger; whether bikers round the biking pages, hikers round the hiking pages or cooks round the cooking pages.

And we attract attention not by the lavish attention-demanding display of the male peacock, but by the simple medium of saying something, in their language that is interesting, relevant and current so that our very first touch-point, our first moment of truth, is actually a genuine adding of value in its own right, rather than an intrusion.

Introduce

Native advertisers have long realised that being transparent and honest about who we are does not mean an instant loss of audience attention; in fact the AOP research stressed how important transparency is in these early stages of building trust.

Trying to disguise your ultimate desire to engage with the reader by hiding your brand is likely to backfire if they feel they are being manipulated.

Engage

Engagement is the reward for the quality of the content; headings that capture interest, sub-headings that hint at relevance and currency, together with pictures, facts and stories that reward the reader.

Marketing folklore tells of tool seller Black and Decker’s own epiphany when they realised that people did not want to buy drills, they wanted to make holes. Every native ad should be talking issues and outcomes; not labouring features on products.

Demonstrate Expertise

It takes a real expert to make a complex challenge sound genuinely easy to solve or achieve. Your understanding of the current issues or knowing the perennial problems that make readers look for answers, gives you the opportunity to provide advice and solutions that will start the process of building respect for you and your brand.

Solutions, ideas, advice and quick tips will all be gratefully received and the source will be positively remembered.

Don’t Hard Sell

Having won the respect of your audience the worst thing you can do is insult them with a ham fisted attempt to close.

Dotted through your content, wherever relevant, plant links that will take the reader who wants to know more direct to your site.

Remember, it isn’t about trying to sell, it’s about making it easy to buy.

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mobile devices

Native Content – star of the small screen

By | Native advertising

Ever since the iPhone was launched, people have been predicting the end of the laptop and desktop computers as we know them. This month the world moved a step nearer to that prediction as, for the first time, internet activity via mobile devices overtook that of their less portable brethren.

For adults that means 2hrs 26mins online via smartphone or tablet per day, against 2hrs 13 mins online via the desktop. Some would say that’s more of a draw than a whitewash; until that is, you look at the trends. Since 2011 that figure for the desktop has grown year on year by 3 minutes, or about 2.25%, while mobile online usage has increased by about 500% over the same period.

No Contest

Not, of course, that this is a competition; but it certainly is a challenge – especially for the creators of the content that all this online action demands.

Internet surfers today are very, very savvy and they know exactly what good looks like; some have been there right from the beginning and many of the rest think it’s always been here, like the land, sea and sky; a gift of nature. The internet today is like another place, a parallel electronic existence and, like any place, if it doesn’t look good then people just don’t want to come.

So how do you make something look just as good on a four inch screen as it does on a 48 inch screen, especially when the same visitor may view the same material on both extremes at some time during the day?

The worst possible strategy is designing for the big screen and just hoping most of the content can be seen on the mobile one. Nor do you want to design only for the small screen and end up with something that looks like weirdly out of scale on the desktop.

The bottom line of course, is that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to content design. Anyone who wants a successful web presence must invest in a version optimised for mobile, desktop and all options in between; and that means intelligent design.

Think User

A small picture on a desk top screen is a small picture; on the mobile it would be a dot. Scroll on a desktop and you can scan the content; scrolling the same stuff on a mobile and it’s a blur followed by a migraine.

For the mobile it’s short sentences, clear graphics and, because it’s a little more effort to view because your audience might be walking, on a train or plane, or simply taking a quick time out at the work-station, the most important thing is engagement; you must engage to reward that extra effort.

Of course, guess what native content is really good at? Engagement. Native and mobile devices are perfect for each other; you’re not fighting the viewer for attention, trying to distract them, you’re the reason they’re looking, because you’re engaging, entertaining and relevant; just a little smaller, that’s all.

If you’re still asking yourself ‘what is native advertising?‘ or would like to know more about how a native advertising platform can help, why not get in touch and one of the team will be happy to help.

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Yahoo’s native endorsement

By | Native advertising

Little more than a year ago, the native ad industry was growing but there was not much performance data to support the native growth forecasts. Today, that has all changed and few advertisers or publishers are coming forward to dispute that the native advertising format is going to be a mainstream choice for budget allocation in the future.

Yahoo’s big data

The latest data from Yahoo shows just how large a chunk of ad revenue is going the native route. Of more importance is their data on the effectiveness of that native ad spend; the Gemini platform is open to both mobile search and in-stream native display opportunities and they say quite categorically that native far outperforms the more conventional display ads.

From their most recent consumer research work, Yahoo give us some encouraging top line insights; for example, 60% of consumer respondents ‘feel positive’ about native ads which, given the general scepticism often expressed by consumers about advertising in general, is a pretty amazing result.

Perhaps the most fundamental insight though, is Yahoo’s assertion that the more transparent the source and purpose of the native material, the more effective it appears to be. Once again, this sends a very clear message to those who see the native format as devious and dishonest: native doesn’t need to be underhanded to work and disreputable content simply won’t work.

Key results from the Yahoo study show that in advertiser site view-through, the percentage lift for in-stream material was 181% against 47% for normal industry display – or a factor of 3.9 times. For branded search activity, the lift for in-stream material was 204%, as opposed to only 56% for normal display. These aren’t just big percentages on a small base either; eMarketer, one of the industry’s leading forecasters, are suggesting that, in the US alone, native will command around $5 billion by 2017.

Not surprisingly, given this sort of data, more that 80% of advertisers are planning to commit to native content, giving native the highest growth prediction – some 13%, according to the Native Advertising Report “Advertiser Perceptions 2014”.

Digital mobility

One of the biggest growth areas is in the mobile platforms, with smartphones and tablets now accounting for the majority of all online searches. Invasive display ads are particularly annoying for consumers on the smaller formats as they interfere with (and often overlay) the searched content. Because native is woven contextually alongside the editorial content, providing both relevance and a next-step opportunity, it is not in a distracting and adversarial relationship with the host content.

The consumer is likely to be consciously cycling between editorial and native content, gathering value from both on the journey without the constant focal changes that dynamic digital display approaches can force.

For advertisers, the media landscape has developed dramatically in the last 20 years, with more options appearing every month; what seems certain though, is that the native format is now a fundamental choice for future marcomms.

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Native Content Best Practices

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

There are some who see native content as simply advertorial with a new name for a new generation. But for those who are prepared to dig a little deeper will be the reward; a treasure chest of thinking and understanding about how we new centurions communicate with each other.

Making comparisons with even the recent past is always, if not dangerous, then certainly unwise for planning purposes. Technology moves so far in such a short time that even basic terminology such as ‘marketing’ or ‘communication’ mean subtly different things than they did thirty or so years ago. In the latter half of the twentieth century marketing pretty much meant ‘selling’ and communication meant ‘telling’. Advertorials were still fairly blunt weapons, using brand names and images as often as possible between steps on a bland path to appearing witty and on the consumers’ side. Half-way along the first quarter of the twenty-first century and marketing is rather more about creating brands that reflect the lives’ of their target markets and communication is certainly more about listening than it is about talking. New methodologies need a reappraisal of the tools we use. Our approach and our introduction, especially in headlines, has to reflect the lightning fast filter of those whose attention we crave. Here are some native content best practices…

Headlines that work

No more than 60 characters, or about seven words, with sub-heads where the context takes a different angle. Make sure they’re relevant and current and use the under-rated colon to avoid a filler of joining words. Using multiple headlines for one article can really help drive engagementThe current data shows that content with between 1 to 5 headings drives a CTR (click through rate) of 0.83%; but that escalates to 1.3% with 11+ headlines. That means a benefit for tactical diversity when structuring your content.

Imagery

Don’t be shy in testing a number of  images for your previews (as long as they are relevant!); again the research supports the power of imagery. One preview image is linked to a CTR of 0.79% but two or more alternatives push that to 0.98%; it needs more response analysis but that could well reflect the depth of relevance perceived by the audience.

Don’t be afraid to pose emotive questions in your headlines

Questions are important, it’s the way you show you’re listening; and the emotion you invoke, it’s the way you show you actually care.

Always call for action

Having made the investment in engaging your audience, any seasoned marketer knows that the next step has to be really simple. The call to action (CTA) has to be direct but not in a ‘buy it now’ sort of way; instead a ‘we’d love to chat longer’ contact or hyperlink keeps the customer in control. Thinks about adding additional CTAs in the body of the piece; if you’ve already hooked the fish why wait to reel them in?

If you’d like to discuss your native content or native advertising strategy, why not get in touch?

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