Blog posts for advertisers

Going native – how should publishers play the native advertising game?

Native advertising is the phrase of the moment. ‘Native advertising’ is the cure to ‘banner blindness’ (there’s another one everyone is talking about, including us!) but what exactly is it and how do you get it right?

There’s no doubt about it, diminishing investment returns from display advertising means publishers need alternative revenue streams. Whether it’s banner boredom or banner blindness, people just don’t click anymore. Audiences know what they’re looking for, and it’s not the adverts. They want publishers’ great content, they don’t want intrusive or irrelevant sales messages. So if you delineate between content and adverts people go straight to the content and ignore the ads. Which is where native advertising comes in – integrating ads into your audience’s experience of digital publications makes them harder to ignore.

The native advertising dream is to create advertising content that fits seamlessly into a user’s experience. And if it’s well designed and helpful, it can work. Adverts that truly add value to your audience – genuinely relevant products introduced naturally in the context of interesting content – won’t irritate users.

Mashable’s Todd Wasserman suggests that maybe we should just call native advertising “good advertising”. Wasserman sums up the movement like this: “Consumers’ migration to mobile has prompted a do-over in which the dreaded banner ad is being kicked to the curb in favor of messaging that behaves much as other content does.” The important part in that statement is that last part: “much as other content does.” So “good advertising” is really “good content” – where publishers shine.

But native advertising that fakes it –  ads that dress themselves as part of the content but bear no relevancy to what the user is looking for – is dangerous stuff. The potential to annoy your audience with bad native advertising is huge.  Sneaking ads in like wolves in sheep’s clothing can destroy an audience’s trust in your site. Suddenly the experience isn’t all about the community, and shared interests, it’s about you selling to them. At least you know where you are with a banner ad – (thinks your audience )– at least it has the decency to look like an advert. But native advertising which smuggles sales messages into trusted content compromises the integrity of your site.

So native advertising that looks like the real thing but isn’t destroys trust and native advertising that tries and fails to look like the real thing is just as easily skipped as banner ads. Audiences are savvy and time poor. If it’s not what they’re looking for, they’ll skip it. You can’t fool people into reading ads just by copying the site conventions. An ad is an ad is an ad.

The only solution is to integrate advertising that is genuinely helpful to your audience. If it’s not good and it doesn’t add value, don’t give it room on your site.

The answer to how publishers should play the native advertising game? Carefully.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

What is useful advertising?

Did someone say ‘useful advertising’? Although not quite an oxymoron these two words certainly are not easy bedfellows. Like many, I think I would prefer the term ‘irritating advertising’.

In this technological age advertising comes at us from every angle and we are absorbing it subconsciously until our minds are cluttered with jingles and straplines and logos for companies we know nothing about. It is instinctual now to filter traditional advertising out of our consciousness, to never click on those banner ads and to fast forward through TV ads whenever possible.

Adverts as entertainment

Advertising can however, still be enjoyable. Decades of iconic Guinness adverts, the BT family everyone loved to follow, and Coca-Cola’s annual Christmas ad have been taken a step further with the proliferation of online viral videos.  3 Mobile’s cliff-dancing Shetland pony and Evian’s ‘baby and me’ campaign popularised by their interactive app are perfect examples of the modernisation of entertaining advertising.

These online adverts are linked and shared on Facebook, re-tweeted on Twitter and discovered and passed on via laptops, iPads and smart phones amongst friends all over the world. Adverts focused on entertaining and amusing us on our commute to work, therefore, still have value for companies. But can adverts actually be useful?

Utility through innovation and cultural experience

Educational adverts clearly can be useful. Safety adverts such as the government’s ‘kill your speed’ campaign with the haunting images of the small girl slumped against a tree, or the pizza splattered on the windscreen, are effective at pricking our consciousness and encouraging a change in behavior. But even adverts made to fleetingly entertain us while boosting company profits can serve a purpose. With the population reaching advertising saturation-point companies need to push the boundaries and really focus on what they can give the customer that adds value.

Innovations such as Red Bull’s ‘Media House’ which bought Felix Baumgartner’s space jump, and Nike+ which brings customers apps and devices by which to track performance and input their data, show clearly how companies can deliver value to their customers. This more innovative approach can enrich our cultural experience of brands and products and like Nike’s apps, make routine activities more enjoyable.

Give audiences value

This concept of added value enhances our associations with brands beyond that of the conventional consumer-supplier relationship. Through doing this brands create a shift in the way they position themselves in the daily lives of their customers, enriching the experiences they have with the products being consumed.

So ‘useful advertising’ does exist, and it’s as simple as creating something that adds value for the consumer. If an ad puts a smile on someone’s face, that’s great. If it enables someone to do something easier or better than they could before, like an intuitive app, or just a more direct route to whatever the user was going to look at next, even better. How useful advertising is, determines its success by cutting through the noise of everything else that’s out there. And in the end, value for the user ultimately means value for the advertiser.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

An introduction to Programmatic Buying and Real-Time Bidding

Just like native advertising, the two terms ‘programmatic buying’ and ‘real-time bidding’ are getting a lot of column inches.

It’s often the case that these buzzwords sound impressive, but don’t stand up to any level of scrutiny. These fluffy terms are bandied about by businesses desperate to be part of the zeitgeist. So, let’s take a look at what they both mean for advertisers, and find out whether they are a radical game-changer or just a flash in the pan.

What are they?

Programmatic buying

“Programmatic buying involves computerized, algorithm-driven trading that allows for quick buying of ad impressions according to pre-set parameters.” (As defined by Business Insider)

It enables an advertiser to match ads to audiences on an individual, impression by impression basis. Traditional display ads work like outdoor posters, you pay your money and you get residency in that spot for a certain amount of time. Whether your target audience sees the ad really depends on the quality of publisher placement you’ve agreed, it’s a rough science.

Programmatic buying means that when a user loads a webpage, this automated system checks who they are, then serves an ad from an advertiser who has specified that audience. Inventory for programmatic buying can be anything from display ads to in-content video or, more commonly at the moment, pre-roll video placements.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB)

“Real-time bidding or RTB is a style of programmatic buying in which digital advertising opportunities are auctioned off in real-time.” (Business Insider)

RTB is a variation of programmatic buying, letting advertisers bid for the right to serve an ad to a particular person on the impression by impression basis programmatic buying enables.


Why should I care?

Together, programmatic buying and RTB are an effective way to get the right ad in front of the right person at the right time.

Another benefit is transparency. With ad space brokered automatically via a third-party, rather than direct with publishers, delivery of an advertiser’s content is completely auditable.

However, where these highly-targeted advertising techniques could really shake things up is on mobile devices. It’s well documented that people are spending an ever-increasing share of their internet time on their smartphones and tablets, and they’re doing it on the move.

Google takes home more than half of mobile ad revenue globally at the moment, and the vast majority of that is from search (an RTB format). Search puts advertisers in front of people actively looking for their products or services, it makes sense for everyone involved.

What RTB and programmatic can do is take that logic to the rest of the marketplace. As we explored the other week, mobile users are unforgiving of advertising that intrudes on their experience, so advertisers and publishers need a way of giving them more of what they already want, of giving them value. RTB and programmatic buying are a way to make sure that advertising becomes relevant, that it becomes personal, and therefore becomes more effective.

Get it right and it is a radical game-changer.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment