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Creativity + UX. The ultimate guide to creating great online ads

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Publishers, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Content, main blog, Native advertising, Uncategorized

In 2005 Bill Gates declared:

“The future of advertising is the internet”.

When asked about building big brands online he said:

“That is the thing that traditional advertising is better at…. but as it moves to the digital realm it will be hard to talk about what is and isn’t internet advertising.”

With UK advertisers spending £11.55bn a year online, it’s fair to say the gap between online and offline has not only been closing financially, but also creatively as new formats develop and old formats are redesigned for new distribution channels – vertical video for example.

Whilst TV, print and OOH were once considered the creative and brand formats, the world of online advertising has upped its game in the battle against ad blockers. Nobody wants poor digital advertising – consumers don’t want annoying interruptive ads and publishers (reliant on ad revenue to keep content free) certainly don’t want people leaving their site due to bad ad experiences. The answer is twofold – creativity and ensuring the UX is seamless. Research has found that 78% of UK adults dislike ads that are not suitable for the device they are using.

With this in mind, the fine folks at IAB UK have brought the industry together to produce a creative best practice guide. It started life, as most things do, with a good moan-up about all the bad ads we’ve seen and happily manifested itself into a useful guide of things you can do to make sure your creative is as good as humanly possible!

The aim of the project was to produce:

“A simple and actionable set of guidance to help you ensure that your digital advertising not only looks great but also works beautifully on the platform that it is served.”

You’ll find my missives on why you should select the right native format for your campaign and the value exchange between brands and consumers here.

Digital content creation best practice

Native distribution best practice

You’ll also great advice on creative best practice across a range of channels: native, content, video, mobile, audio, performance and search. The full guide is here.

Dissecting 2017’s full year IAB UK Adspend results

By | Ad Spend, Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Publishers, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Native advertising, Uncategorized

So, the headline news at the IAB yesterday was that the UK’s digital advertising market is up 14.3% YOY and was worth a staggering £11.55bn last year. The numbers have finally been crunched and there’s some interesting nuggets in the report which we, along with all the key players from publishing groups and adtech companies, submit to twice a year. The key takeaways are:

  • Smartphones are driving the bulk of the growth – an increase of 37% YOY
  • 45% of all digital advertising is delivered on smartphones
  • Online video is now the largest display format – accounting for 39%

Separating native and sponsored content

From a native perspective, one of the interesting changes to themethodology is separating sponsored content from native. As native advertising becomes a catch-all, encompassing click-out formats and promoted social media posts, it’s become important to work out exactly what is stay on site brand content and what may have simply shifted from traditional display budgets. For the record, Native (which includes Facebook and Twitter) is now worth over £1 billion, with sponsored content making up £124 million.

Growth chart

Video formats shift

Pre-post roll has lost its crown as the largest video format, having been overtaken by outstream in 2017. With budgets shifting from television to online, this could be because of limited pre-roll availability and the need to find audiences online at scale.

The growth of the private market place (PMP)

With 4/5 of display budgets being traded programmatically, it’s clear that programmatic has been a huge success. What’s more interesting is the shift to programmatic direct – up 10% YOY and now making up 63% of trading. Mary Healy from Accenture is Chair of IAB UK’s Display & Data Steering Group. She said:

”Programmatic direct and PMPs will continue to take the lion’s share of the spend as brands realise that context is just as important as it is in other media. 2017 certainly highlighted a number of concerns across the digital media ecosystem, which has forced the industry to re- evaluate many of the practices we had followed in the past”

With GDPR looming, it could be that these deals – essentaillty selling named inventory rather than just finding the audience regardless of the environment, will grow further during 2018. A lack of reliable data combined with brand safety fears could well mean that buyers are increasingly looking for high quality, contextually relevant publisher environments rather than open RTB.

Digital is the big winner

Finally, gazing into the crystal ball, GroupM predict that digital will outperform the UK ad market again in 2018 – a 10% increase versus 4.8% generally. One thing is clear – as we continue to look downwards on our smartphones, spend on digital continues to head upwards.

Why native advertising is having an identity crisis

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Publishers, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Native advertising

I’ve just read an extremely thought provoking article on what I believe to be the biggest challenge to both the native advertising industry (publishers and networks) and media agencies looking to sell native in to clients.

I didn’t just read Chad Pollitt’s piece ‘Native Advertising has a Terminology Problem. And It’s Not Pretty.’ once through – I read it three times. Not because Chad didn’t make sense, but because we’ve got to the stage where even for someone in the thick of this industry, I was still briefly confused.

If someone who works day in, day out in native advertising is having to re-read definitions, then what hope do media buyers (working across multiple platforms, media and formats) have? If one person’s native is Outbrain, and another’s long-form content on a premium publisher, then we have a problem. And that’s before we even look at the myriad of hybrids in the UK market.

Back to basics

Perhaps, it’s best to start with what most people agree is the definition of native advertising:

“Native advertising is paid advertising (media) where the ad matches the form, feel and function of the content of the media on which it appears.” (Native Advertising Institute)

This snappy description seems bulletproof, but it only tells half the story. It accurately describes the sponsored headline unit, the social media sponsored post – the shop window if you like. It’s what happens next which really defines the native format. What happens once the user has read the headline and clicked?

It’s all about the content

This brings us to the content. There’s long been confusion in the market between content marketing and native advertising.

This is one of the easier definitions to solve: Content marketing = your brand content. Native = the distribution channel. I could get into content marketing vs advertorial here (not overtly mentioning your product vs it being all about your product) but that will have to wait for another day.

Social media is somewhat ‘ronseal’ – a sponsored tweet looks like any other tweet, the same for Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook. These usually contain heightened CTAs such as the ‘Learn more’ or ‘Shop now’ banner on Instagram, before clicking to brand sites. Often, the post is simply re-targeting.

There is content, right?

So, what about the traditional publisher’s site? This is where it gets confusing for media buyers. I’d argue it’s all about what happens post-click. This is where the definition of native advertising seems to be far too broad. Any of the following could happen – the headline unit:

  • leads to content on the same publisher’s site
  • leads to content hosted on the brand site
  • opens up a lightbox containing brand content
  • plays video
  • doesn’t actually lead to any content at all. It’s a headline unit that simply clicks to a product page!

Essentially, your headline unit could behave in several different ways and in some instances, is no more than a re-badged direct response banner ad.

Here’s my attempt to clarify the main (non-video) formats on publisher’s sites:

Native advertising (sponsored content)

Non-programmatic, publisher direct sold headline units that lead to article pages in the same premium environment.

True Native (sponsored content)

Non-programmatic, ad served headline units that lead to article pages in the same premium environment.

Native display

An in-feed headline unit on a publisher site that clicks to a brand site which may or may not contain content marketing. Usually programmatic demand from exchanges and often re-targeting.

Content recommendation

The likes of Outbrain, Taboola and Rev. Self-serve headline units which click out, usually in blocks of 6 or 12 at the bottom of article pages. Usually DR campaigns or arbitrage.

Should ‘native advertising’ be redefined?

Chad argues that the confusion in the market is all about the definitions of types of content, I’d argue that there’s far more confusion over what a headline unit does.

Perhaps now is the time to separate premium sponsored content (in editorial environments) from what recent IAB UK native conference called ‘next generation display advertising’. Perhaps, the term ‘native advertising’ has had its day!