There was little to surprise those who have been waving the native content flag for some years in the findings of ‘The Power of Native’, a major study from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP).
However, it always feels good when independent feed-back supports and confirms your own long-standing mantra. With 1,500 people approached in the quantitative survey and five in-depth qualitative interviews, the study was robustly constructed and managed, giving a good level of confidence in the outcomes.
Top line results showed that respondents scored the native content higher on measures of it being informative, interesting, useful and helpful compared to traditional advertising, with the rating on informative being double that for traditional. Given that those were the values upon which the native approach has been designed, it is good to note that it is meeting its goal.
One major outcome was in the level of brand trust perceived when accessing the native driver via a premium content site, achieving a 32% positive response, as against access through the social media route at only 1%.
Traditional advertising won out over native on the measures of being eye-catching, clear and easy to understand; again no surprise there as the most successful traditional ads tend to be an attention grabbing visual and highly focused message.
This preference or perception split is particularly interesting because when the native content was supported by some traditional ads, uplift soared by some 38% compared to unsupported native content.
So, what are these insights telling us? One of the core truths, supported by the recent Internet Advertising Bureau guidance, is that native ads must be transparent to all as to what they actually are – sponsored. As this is an essential component of the trust element, there must be very few left who see the native approach as an opportunity for sustained deception.
The other major insight is that, in a reversal of the famous proverb, native advertising is very good at making the horse drink the water but not so good at leading the horse to the water. Perhaps this is our first insight into how the rapidly growing native movement is going to live in harmony with our traditional contemporaries.
Perhaps the task for traditional methods in the future will be to drive the consumer to the native content where the deeper engagement will take place. They are clearly different skills and there is, according to the survey, substantial synergy in their combination.
What is also clear is that the days of the hard sell are mercifully gone. With so many of our national institutions, such as the banks and the utility companies, recently pilloried for using dodgy sales tactics (and paying a substantial brand price for doing so) the relationship with the customer has returned, as it always does, to providing what the customer wants with a high level of genuine service.
Native starts that process by being interesting, informative and above all trustworthy; leading the consumer to providers of solutions that, ultimately, do what they say on the tin.