Native Advertising & User Experience

Let’s be honest, “native advertising” isn’t quite part of every marketer’s vocabulary yet, but I’ve definitely encountered some innovative folks in the industry who understand what it fundamentally entails. For those who are foreign to the concept…

Native ads are products of content marketing. A native ad is branded content that translates an authentic story to a medium that makes sense to particular consumers. It’s created with respect to the page on which it will ultimately be placed, meaning that marketers must be conscious of user experience (UX) to ensure branded content is just as relevant and valuable as regular content on the page. There’s also an intrinsically social characteristic to native ads, because consumers can comment on and share them across social networks. This engagement opens opportunities for great branded content to become viral.

With these opportunities come the challenges of re-imagining the concept of an ad, by creating really good content that makes sense to consumers and easily fits alongside regular content within popular mobile apps and websites. Face it, people are street smart. They immediately notice when a brand isn’t being authentic or is pushing too aggressively.  This is why traditional display ads don’t work. They get in the way, prompting us to close them, or they’re completely out of the way, hidden in “blind spots.” Traditional display ads force a story into a standard banner format that’s irrelevant, ignoring UX. They corner consumers into moments that build negative brand equity and resentment. Neither brand nor consumer can benefit from traditional display advertising.

Being sensitive to UX reassures consumers that brands are really paying attention to them and working hard to thank them and keep their loyalty. Branded content adds value to consumers’ lives, becoming part of their daily dose of interaction with regular content on the sites they love and trust. For the purpose of authenticity, it’s crucial for marketers to make it clear that branded content is, in fact, a form of advertising. If consumers have a positive experience with branded content, marketers should want them to feel that that positive experience is associated with the brand itself. Can you imagine an ad that consumers actually share with their family and friends, provoking an emotional response, making them laugh or think critically about something? Imagine the depth of impressions associated with sharing that kind of happiness across social networks.

Arton Gjonbalaj heads up East Coast ad sales in New York, partnering with brands to help them exceed their marketing objectives. In his spare time, he slays display ad dragons. You should follow him on Twitter @ArtonGjonbalaj.