How to win over your audience with effective (and unobtrusive) native ads

Using native ads can help you cut through the clutter and foster seamless online experiences. But where do you start?

How to win over your audience with effective (and unobtrusive) native ads

Sebastian Graham, Head of Native, Yahoo, considers four key ways that you can create more meaningful and effective native ads…

The popularity of native ads continues to soar as marketers recognise its value in capturing consumer attention: the native advertising sector is predicted to be worth US$400bn by 2025

The internet is a big place, and it is getting bigger with an ever-expanding universe of content. Alongside increasing online activity and shorter attention spans – the new-normal consumer's hallmarks – people are demanding better experiences from both publishers and brands. 

Amid ad fatigue and ad aversion, caused by exposure to thousands of online ads every day, native ads combat these with a form and function that fits the media and content that surrounds it. Yahoo research has shown that people respond favourably to native ads – an essential factor to consider when trying to reach out to audiences with ads that resonate.

It’s simple: people don’t want ads awkwardly taking up space within the confined size of a mobile screen. Native ads work around this by creating a more cohesive and seamless browsing experience that audiences welcome. A Yahoo study showed that 46% of users preferred native ads over other digital ad formats, while 79% said they liked ads that blend into the page. 

So how can brands create meaningful and effective native ads that blend awareness and performance?

1) Choose the right format based on your intention

Whichever format you choose will depend on your business goals. For upper-funnel branding, high-impact formats like video and full-screen mobile ads complement the user’s scrolling interaction while immediately capturing their attention. An analysis of mobile ads on Yahoo Native found that the integrated form and function of native video ads have been shown to drive 57% higher brand awareness than other video formats. Meanwhile, native ads, such as Mobile Moments, can offer up to an 80% lift in unaided brand awareness than standard banner ads.

(left) Mobile Moments static ad; (right) Mobile Moments video ad

And for lower-funnel conversion, in-stream native ads that are instantly actionable, leading to product pages or shoppable content, help shoppers make decisions and shorten the path to purchase without being intrusive.

In-stream native Ads on (left) desktop and (right) mobile

You can also further customise formats depending on desired consumer action: Countdown timers drive urgency for consumers and boost click-through rates (CTR); carousel ads tell a visual story and foster engagement, and work especially for featuring a range of products; meanwhile, tile ads, a mobile-optimised format, offer an eye-catching and seamless fullscreen mobile experience that incorporates 360-degree images or video for an immersive panoramic experience.

(left) Carousel ad and (right) Dynamic Creative personalisation based on real-time data and decisioning

Whatever the format used, better personalisation will make a difference. People-based personalisation such as Dynamic Creative and Dynamic Product Ads (DPA) are best-in-class methods that can improve performance, but also consider leveraging other features such as user location or mobile wallets to deliver quality individualised experiences.

2) Maximise performance through the right creatives

Native ads are meant to blend into the page – thus, the right creatives must strike a balance between looking seamless and spurring users to action.

Quality visuals, striking text and CTA buttons attract potential customers and push them down the funnel. Simple things such as using the company logo in images, ad copy that includes your brand name, and avoiding overly cluttered ads already deliver better ad recall.

Tailoring your ad creatives and making them as relevant as possible to the individual user is key. Users seek benefits and not features. Ask a question, solve a problem, and empower users through the creatives. Appeal to emotion and establish your credibility. Yahoo data suggests that strong CTAs contribute to an average of 32% boosts in conversions. 

As for native video ads, a time limit of 15 seconds drives better recall – the first three seconds are crucial in capturing attention.

3) Ensure you’re showing the right native ad to the right audience

Show the right ad to the right user at the right time. Target users based on where they are in the purchase funnel and tailor your ads accordingly. 

Suppose your goal is to maximise e-commerce sales. You can combine native ads with meaningful data to deliver ad creatives that are personalised to each user’s unique shopping history based on triggers such as search behaviour, purchase receipts, abandoned carts and shopping behaviour.Also, consider tapping machine learning-enabled tools that are built to maximise conversions. For example, Yahoo’s Predictive Audience uses machine learning to accurately locate potential buyers with the highest propensity for conversion, and has seen up to 22x improvements in conversion rates.

Meanwhile, if you are focused on content distribution, you should also consider how you retarget (or exclude) audiences who have already visited your site.

Your native ads can be even more relevant to localised audiences by leveraging next-gen targeting that taps into real-time signals to bring scale while reaching the right audiences – a privacy-first audience targeting solution built for the cookieless world.

4) Measure your native ads’ performance – and adapt accordingly

Learn, adapt, optimise, and measure. Know which KPIs to measure to gauge your ads’ performance. Early A/B testing for longer campaigns helps you determine which ad will perform best – using about 5 to 10 images and ad copies for each campaign can identify which images and text are more popular. Regular creative refreshes will also ensure relevancy, and campaigns with multiple creatives deliver CPAs that are on average 56% better than campaigns with a single creative. Beyond that, best practices include optimising ad delivery based on best-performing formats, sites, messages, time of day and much more.

Click-through rate [CTR] can better guide you to whether your creative and copy are grabbing attention and how relevant the ads are to audiences. Here, you can either consider optimising your ad based on the media strategy and site where it is served or refine targeting. 

Conversions can also clue you in on the effectiveness of your ad. When CTR is high but conversions are low, evaluate your landing page, product offering or promotion to find out what will push people down the funnel.

Dwell time on landing pages and a user’s progression to the next step can give you an idea whether the overall campaign engages your audiences, and if they spend time interacting with the content. Measuring your native ads’ performance allows you to experiment with different styles, visuals, copy, and CTAs based on what works best.

The ‘holy grail of rights’ – the right format and creative, backed by privacy-first data to reach the right people, at the right place and time, with the right message – will help you achieve results and strike a chord with your users through native ads. Once these are in place, continually optimise for best results.