One of the biggest challenges facing marketers today is choosing from the many technologies and methods available to help you connect with your audience.
Among the numerous approaches available are programmatic native advertising - which has its advantages, including helping you overcome the growing dislike many people have for conventional advertising - and the comparatively traditional strategy of display ads, often called banner ads.
So what's the current state of play where these two techniques are concerned, and how do they stack up against one another?
Display ads: the current picture
Generally positioned in close proximity to editorial content, display ads are a well-established form of online advertising that give businesses the opportunity to put their brand in front of huge audiences.
Done well, display advertising can greatly increase your reach and exposure. Taking Google's display network as an example, statistics show that:
- Ads appear across more than two million websites and 650,000 apps
- The network has 90% reach across all internet users worldwide
- Its portfolio includes 65% of comScore's top 100 sites
- 210 million unique visitors see ads on Google's network each month in the US
While display ads can clearly offer a lot of potential to get your brand seen online, recent trends suggest this form of advertising is falling out of fashion. An increasing number of internet users are losing patience with intrusive advertising that disrupts their browsing experience and fails to offer them anything of any genuine value or significance. The phenomenon has even been given its own name: banner blindness.
This is one of the key factors in the recent growth of native advertising, an approach that seeks to present ads in such a way that they feel natural and relevant in the context of their surroundings.
The emergence of programmatic native ads
Native advertising comes in many forms, such as:
- Sponsored social media posts
- Paid search and promoted listings
- Sponsored content on publisher platforms
- Recommended content widgets
Recent trends suggest these methods are becoming increasingly popular among advertisers, with almost $44 billion spent on native ads in the US in 2019 - nearly $8.7 billion more than the previous year, according to eMarketer.
The eMarketer research also indicated that the majority of native ad spend is directed towards social networks - particularly Facebook - and that one of the fastest-growing areas within this space is programmatic native advertising.
The programmatic approach allows brands to automate their online media buying, using algorithms to determine the value of the ad space in question and to manage the purchase and placement process.
Brands or agencies use a demand-side platform to decide which impressions to buy and how much they're willing to pay for them, while publishers use a supply-side platform to sell ad space. A native advertising platform matches the two sides up to support buying in real time.
How do they stack up against each other?
Programmatic native advertising clearly offers some attractive benefits if one of your key marketing goals at the moment is to overcome the issues many people have with traditional display ads.
Statistics show that this approach can yield results including:
- Higher click-through rates than display ads
- Stronger brand affinity and purchase intent
- Personal engagement with customers
- More views than display ads
Adding a programmatic element to your native advertising can unlock extra advantages like automated media buying and more effective audience targeting. It's an efficient approach that takes time-consuming tasks off your hands and allows you to focus on other priorities.
These are compelling reasons to commit to this strategy. However, it's important to acknowledge that going down this route can create challenges as well as opportunities. Make sure you're prepared to succeed by asking questions like:
- How will you measure the performance and results of your native campaigns?
- Do you have the time and skills required to create high-quality native ads that will have the impact you're looking for?
- Have you considered the risks of customers feeling that they're being 'tricked' into viewing your ads?
Furthermore, it's worth remembering that traditional display advertising can still offer a lot of potential for you to boost brand awareness and recognition.
One of the key arguments behind native ads is that they should be almost 'invisible' and blend in with their surrounding content, which can make it difficult to put your brand at the centre of your content.
With display ads, on the other hand, there's no need to 'hide' the fact that you're advertising. You can make your brand as prominent as you like, increasing the likelihood that people will see it, even if they don't choose to click on the ad.
Display advertising also benefits from the fact that it has been around for a long time. It's a well-understood medium that's relatively easy to plan and utilize, whereas programmatic native advertising is more technically challenging and could require more time, investment and tech know-how to implement.
So while it's possible that the programmatic native approach could represent the future of online advertising, traditional display ads will still be around - and will continue to offer benefits for brands - for some time yet.