Consumers Dazed and Confused by Native Ads

As a marketer, you carefully craft pieces of content for the web. You research your target audience, include what’s trending, topical keywords and a distribution plan across your social networks and web properties. You’ve even found the optimal time of day to post for each.

But when you click “Publish”…nothing happens.

Native AdvertisingNative advertising, otherwise known as paid media in the format of news content nestled among other similar stories, has risen as one of the more effective ways to reach consumers in 2014. Though not new, certain questions arise: are consumers really clicking on native advertising vs. traditional advertisements or organic posts on the web? Do they actually trust these ads and are they worth your money? The answer may surprise you.

According to a study done by David Franklyn, law professor at the University of San Francisco, when it comes to what people recognize about labels, people often just skip over them. Respondents to his study “didn’t remember seeing ‘sponsored by’ posts when asked to read a web page and the majority (over 50 percent) also didn’t know what the word ‘sponsored’ actually meant.”

These results augment more preliminary findings from the study which stated that sometimes people don’t understand what the word ”ad” means, and even with disclosure, as much as 35 percent of people when asked to identify the type of content they were viewing, said that it was not an ad.

What this study sheds light on is that we do not have a homogenous group of consumers in terms of knowledge and expectations. People struggle with differentiating paid from unpaid ads. The bottom line? Context matters more than labels.

Furthermore, in terms of wanting to know whether a piece of content was paid media or not, out of the 10,000 surveyed, only 40 percent of consumers wanted more clear and conspicuous differentiation between paid and unpaid content. Sixty percent stated that they don’t care. Said Franklyn, “a growing number of consumers don’t care, and enjoy it. They enjoy the hyper-stimulation that marketers do the work to do – they just want to sift through and enjoy it like People Magazine.”

Native Advertising

Other than consumers just plain not caring, why do native ads work so well? According to Jamie Cole, creative director at Red Barn Media Group, in research covering audience reception to native advertising, the material that appeared the least commercial was rated as most credible by readers, and attitude toward the brand and purchase intent increased towards content that mirrored and appeared as news content.

But don’t confuse the word “mirror” with “trick.” According to Dan Greenberg, the CEO of Sharethrough, ”it’s not about tricking people, it’s about delivering content that has value. We believe in the power of meaningful content.” (Besides, tricking people could land you in hot water.)

Preliminary data from a study his company conducted showed that the language used to disclose native ads has an impact on whether or not a consumer perceives a story as being paid for by a brand. “Disclosure language impacts perception. The words ‘sponsored’ vs. ‘featured’ vs. ‘promoted’ vs. ‘advertisement’ vs. ‘placed by’ vs. ‘in partnership’ vs. ‘suggested’ vs. ‘around the web’ all have different perceptions. Context has a major impact on perception.”

Do you trust native advertising or other paid media content? Why or why not?

Want to build trust and brand with native ads? Register for our free on-demand webinar with Steve Rubel now!

Information adapted from the FTC’s Workshop on Native Advertising.

Image: Pardot (Creative Commons)

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