Rico Chan
Apr 15, 2016

Five data-driven guidelines for native ads

Yahoo Hong Kong's Rico Chan takes a look at successful strategies for native advertising.

Rico Chan
Rico Chan

Advertisers are responsible for proving and improving the value of their ad spend, but the rapidly changing consumption behaviors and purchase patterns of today’s consumers make this process harder than ever.

By leveraging the right data at the right time and on the right device, the effective use of analytics can better ensure the right ad is delivered to the most appropriate audience, and this helps advertisers to connect adspend to ROI. Taking native ads as an example, the effective use of data with analytics can help ensure an improved audience engagement rate.

According to Yahoo's global study, The Native Advertising Frontier, there are five keys to successful native advertising. We'll use a recent campaign by Guinness as an example; the global beer brand has launched an O2O (Online to Offline) activation campaign to let consumers know about 'the art of beer', and chose native ads to target the younger generation in Hong Kong:

1. Cross-device targeting for higher re-engagement

Mobile devices including smartphones and tablets necessitate a variety of ad formats accommodating display restrictions and matching the different browsing behavior of users. Marketers should look for platforms with portfolio management that operates seamlessly across desktop, mobile and video, with actionable insights shared across devices for each campaign.

High-quality targeting data is a critical component of efficient mobile marketing, and these different sources of data help in particular to target native ads across screens, which is perfect for retargeting potential customers who have already shown interest in the product or service, or re-engaging mobile app users who have previously used your app.

The Guinness campaign’s native ads could be seen on the Yahoo homepage, across desktop, mobile and tablet platforms. By bringing together the strengths of Yahoo’s other platforms, including BrightRoll (a programmatic video advertising platform), Flurry Analytics (mobile analytics), and Tumblr (a microblogging platform and social networking website), Guinness was able to gain valuable insights about its consumers across devices. 

2. Data that surprises your audience

Consumers are spending more and more time using their digital devices, and each of them exhibits a unique digital DNA. By combining data from a diverse range of channels and sources, marketers create a more complete view of the consumer’s interests, intent and behavior.

Some platforms combine first-party data (such as actions from their website or list of mobile device IDs), with third-party data (for instance, from partners or other sources) to build one-to-one relationships with the advertiser’s target audience, which also means providing advertisers with an understanding of the consumer that will not just meet—but will exceed—their expectations.

The content of the Guinness native ads was written in a lively and informative way to fulfill consumers’ interests and values, based on data on user behaviors across different platforms. As long as the content is informative and in line with their interest, it adds value for users and they will then read and share the content.

3. Powerful content strategies yield peak results

By the very non-intrusive nature of native ads, both design and placement closely integrate with the stream content, leaving users feeling comfortable when viewing it while also enjoying the relevant information provided. In order to attract the eyeballs of the target audience, the content must be strategically aligned with the purpose, tone and visual style of the site or channel you choose, as well as presenting creative content with interesting visuals that is personalized to the specific target audience at a specific time.

The Guinness campaign’s native ads used an immersive design to perfectly merge with the news and lifestyle information on the Yahoo homepage, aligning with the purpose, tone and visual style of the site and channel they chose. This soft sell mode was more acceptable to consumers.

Other creative best practices for native ads include:

  • Using people images: an image of a person versus an object delivers deeper engagement
  • Let your logo shine: larger logos deliver greater recall and longer fixation
  • Keep video ads short: 15-second native video ads hit the recall and purchase intent sweet spot
  • Boast about your brand: brand mentions are important to include in your headline

4. Socially engaged with greater reach

Brands are combining their social advertising tactics into paid marketing strategies beyond social that are scalable and increasingly more effective. Certain platforms in the market are able to effectively help companies harness the value of native advertising alongside social, such as in combination with video platforms, microblogging sites and networking websites, which can reach a larger customer base across paid, owned and earned channels in one environment.

As a major element of the O2O campaign, the official app contained an interactive app, the “Guinness Perfect Pint Challenge”, incorporating key messages about the beer together with a search function for the nearest bar with the beer on sale. The app reached and engaged more consumers, and effectively bridged the online-offline world.

5. Being transparent with a clear call to action

Native content that is visibly identified as sponsored, clearly branded and includes a straightforward call to action, performs best.

The Guinness activation campaign had a clear call for users to download the official app. With Yahoo’s native ad solution “App Install Ad” mode, users who clicked the native ad were directed to the App Store or Google Play to download the app quickly and conveniently. Within the first three weeks of the campaign, the native ads received over 5.2 million impressions, and the number of app downloads also increased by 150 percent.

Looking ahead

In 2016, livestream video will be the hottest trend for Internet users, and this will bring new prospects for digital marketers. The growth of audio and video markets provides inspiration for developers and creates more and greater business opportunities for native video advertising.

By combining native, the best performing ad format, with video, the best performing ad content, marketers can best take advantage of the native video advertising solution to address the challenges presented by today’s evolving digital environment.

Rico Chan is vice president and GM of Yahoo Hong Kong & INSEA sales


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