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.


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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importance of headlines

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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Great content – that’s what women really, really want

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

Marketers are at long last waking up to the fact that there is no such being as ‘woman’ and that taking a homogenous approach to the female of the species is not just plain insulting but extremely poor marketing as well.

Here are a few facts that might make some of our leading brands have another look at their marketing strategy sooner rather than later.

Wealth and market disruption

In the UK women are directly responsible for around 60% of all spending but are actually the decision maker in an estimated 85% of purchase decisions.

Even in the notoriously male automobile market women are recognised as being the decision maker in 60-80% of car purchases, according to Aston Martin, who are rethinking their models to better meet the preferences such a powerful lobby. Porsche quote similar research and back it up with incredible statistics; over half of total sales for this iconic sports car manufacturer come not from the iconic sports cars but their SUV, the Cayenne, with the growth being accounted for disproportionately by women buyers.

Even in the middle of the market Nissan put the figure at around 70% globally and, of particular interest, say that the percentage of women making the buying decision is higher in the developing and new emerging markets.

Only the beginning

We know that some of this is due to the changing face of work; 67% of women now work either part-time or full-time (for men that figure is 77%) up from 62% twenty years ago and with pay inequality gradually declining with women forecast to earn 82% of a male equivalent by 2017, up from 79% now; suggesting total equality is actually in sight.

So, increasing financial independence is part of the explanation for the huge purchase influence but, according to Marketing magazine (6.3.2015), the real explanation is far more complex and challenging than simple economics.

This, they say, is the tangible result of the growth in confidence of women globally, no longer prepared to accept a stereotypic role as a male accessory, a mother figure and homemaker as so many religions and cultures have traditionally portrayed women.

A technical marketing challenge

For the marketer this requires a fairly fundamental rethink on a number of levels. Firstly many women do not think that products and services are designed for them; even in a market as asexual as financial services 75% of women respondents complained about product relevance and targeting.

According to She-conomy, US specialists in marketing to women, “Women don’t want to see a lot of “cutesy” pink floral imagery in advertising. Instead, marketing that features a strong and confident woman is much more appealing to this demographic”.

And that takes us back to the title; what women really, really want is great content that designed to appeal to and respect the incredible range of differences to be found within the female gender itself. According to She-conomy and Marketing magazine this means that future marketing efforts must be relevant to them as individuals, as people, and woe betide the marketer who does not pursue a less historically based understanding of their female customers.

However, there is one issue of relevance, although a slight anomaly as it once again homogenises women, but according to She-conomy, women think about purchases differently to men. Men, they say, have technical needs and want instant gratification; women, on the other hand want endorsement and ‘confidence through conversation’.

Which is why native content is so suited to the challenge. Content that speaks the language of the reader, content that is designed to complement the editorial, content that is crafted, and always has been, to create a conversation and build confidence.

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.


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.


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.


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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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.


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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create or to curate content

Native content passes consumer driving test

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

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.

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The rules of native engagement

By | Uncategorized

It’s always a sign of acceptance and maturity in any activity when someone comes up with a rule book; and that’s just as true for the phenomenon of native advertising.

In this case, the guardian of all that is good is the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), who have been watching the growth of native for some time. Perhaps waiting in case it just fizzled out like another fad or was destined to be a long-term part of the marketing and publishing landscape. In any case, they have now published the first native ads guidelines.

The latest UK numbers are, according to IAB and professional services consultants PwC, that native accounted for a spend of £216 million in the first two quarters of 2014; that’s over 20% of the total display ad spend – hardly fizzling out! In fact, a number of players on both sides of the advertiser/publisher border have dropped display ads altogether and have thrown their hats very decisively into the native ring – even one of the internet’s opinion-formers, BuzzFeed.

Given that extraordinary level of growth and market share, it was inevitable that native sponsored content would attract the attention of the authorities. The good news for the industry is that the rules in this first part of the guidelines are actually based on customer research and effective good practice.

The danger with native content has always been that if a reader doesn’t know that the content they’re reading is commercially targeted, there is the danger of resentment against the publication and against the advertiser for a perceived deception. So guideline number one is unequivocal: publishers must “Provide prominently visual clues to show that pieces are native ads and not editorial”. They suggest a mix of logos and typographical design tools, such as fonts and shading, to differentiate between editorial and native content.

Well, there’s no argument with that, nor the requirement that publishers must add labels to indicate the commercial relationship, along the lines of “Brought to you by…” or “Paid promotion”. Research carried out for the IAB shows that trust increases with the transparency of the origin of the content and, as trust and engagement are the goals of native advertising, these guidelines really are just good practice.

Those who have been carrying the native advertising torch for many years know that when native content is good, i.e. of value to the reader, labelling and transparency of origin are not bureaucratic annoyances but signs of respect.

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Native advertising takes on TV

By | Marketing, Native advertising

It doesn’t seem possible that TV only managed to win the lion’s share of advertising revenues from the long dominance of newspaper and print media as recently as 1999.

But even more surprising is that TV is widely predicted to lose the media crown, after a reign of less than twenty years, to digital marketing propelled by digital’s jewel in that crown, native advertising.

According to Bloomberg, digital advertising will grow by 15% in 2015, to a massive $163 billion and taking 30% of ad spend. More dramatically, the media research arm of Interpublic Group, Magna Global, forecast that digital will reach an amazing 38% of global ad spend, equalling TV but on a growth trend that will have digital watching TV in its rear view mirror in no time at all.

Magna Global’s earlier predictions had seen TV holding out for longer, but the speed at which digital is grabbing budget has called for a major re-assessment. Much of this is down to the change of viewing habits, which have moved away from TV at home and are now firmly engaged with mobile content on the smartphone.

The individual figures give the new perspective; in 2014 there was a 72% increase in global mobile ad spend, while TV is barely keeping up with economic recovery; only a 3% growth was forecast for 2015 and 6% for 2016.

If that continues, and UK media research group ZenithOptimedia are predicting as high as 38% per year for digital growth in 2014-17, and there are going to be serious structural shifts in how advertisers reach their audience.

Of course, part of that growth is accounted for by the growth in the medium; smartphones have still to replace earlier generation phones in many markets but the process is speeding up, with fewer non-smartphones manufactured. So some plateauing is inevitable in the future, but not until mobile options can reach all users and link to all social media. It is, after all, only two years since Facebook started the change by introducing mobile formats, which makes the growth rates even more impressive.

Within digital, only native advertising really does away with the issue of screen size. There’s a lot of evidence that people have developed the ability to screen out display ads, which means resorting to dynamic devices such as explosive appearance or flashing images to attract attention; invasive and intrusive tactics that risk a negative reaction.

Native advertising, on the other hand, relies on the consumer opting-in to the content, attracted by relevance and topicality. It will be very interesting to see in 2019 – if the pundits are right in their predictions that digital will be nudging ahead of TV – just what percentage of that digital spend will be native ads and sponsored content.

The next five years in digital marketing are going to be incredibly exciting, with new formats appearing that can scale to any size of screen and populated by a new generation of creative content.

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