The future of display advertising is native

Mel Exon, BBH Labs
Mel Exon, BBH Labs

A wise person recently told me that, statistically, a person is more likely to die in an aeroplane crash than click on a banner ad. As I'm writing this month's column on a long-haul flight to San Francisco, this is something I'm hoping not to be true.

It is the case that display ads are woefully ineffective - just witness the average CTR of a banner ad: 0.2% in 2012 (down from 9% in 2000). Indeed, the death of display advertising has been declared so many times, it's astonishing it still has a pulse.

Yet it's true that when anyone declares the death of anything, that thing often shape-shifts and resurfaces, alive and well, in a different form. In the case of display, witness the inexorable rise of native advertising.

I hate jargon, but native advertising is a term I increasingly like for a couple of reasons:

1. It evokes belonging and integrity; an opportunity for a brand to show an understanding of natural platform behaviours and a concern with user experience that isn't associated enough with traditional display advertising.

2. It is one way for publishers and media-owners to monetise their online platforms effectively, without sacrificing user experience. The user, the brand and the media-owner all stand to win. It's that combination which makes native advertising worth paying attention to.

What is native advertising?

It is relevant, paid-for content that appears within the editorial stream of a publisher's site or on a social network. Current examples include: promoted tweets on Twitter; promoted ads on search engines; sponsored stories on Facebook; Tumblr Spotlight; promoted videos on YouTube; and paid-for editorial content.

Native advertising is where publishing, PR and creative content meet.

What it isn't

"Understanding natural platform behaviours" does not mean producing wallpaper. The very best native advertising is thought-provoking, creative and disruptive - witness "How to look your best the morning after", BBH's work for domestic-abuse charity Refuge, featuring YouTube star and make-up artist Lauren Luke. It is not content that pretends to be genuine editorial.

Consider this

1. Native advertising is a (paid-for) means to an end, not an end in itself. Its role might be to recruit new users or kick-start an offer or initiative. As such, it's more a signpost on a connected path or story. Simple things such as a call to action or a useful link back to the brand are critical to progressing an interested user's journey.

2. Know what constitutes natural behaviour on a given platform and respect it. Etiquette and user experience, both crucial at the best of times, are disproportionately important here.

3. Siloed organisations won't fare well here. You need to demonstrate that you see the whole picture.

Who knows, perhaps display advertising isn't dead, it's just gone native.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer