Banner ads on mobile are increasing seen as clunky, cumbersome and disruptive. The alternative? If you regularly use your mobile device to keep up with your Twitter feed or to check out the latest Instagram, Facebook or Tumblr posts, you’ll have noticed the gradual introduction of content from advertisers you don’t follow. “Promoted tweets”, “suggested follows”, “content you might like” – this is in-feed advertising, and 2015 will be the year it explodes.
The Current Picture
Native advertising is nothing new. Paid for editorial-style content has been a staple of the print advertising market for years. The challenge now – and an opportunity for Adtech start-ups in this space – is integrating native advertising with smartphones. Known as “in-feed” advertising (native for mobile), this is content purchased by advertisers and designed to integrate seamlessly with the host application’s style of publication. (Of course, to comply with regulations this sponsored content has to be clearly signposted; for more on the legal requirements see our analysis).
|“Presented by”||(Buzzfeed, Huffington Post)|
|“Suggested Post”, “Sponsored”||(Facebook)|
The Internet Advertising Bureau has underscored the legitimacy of this space; its Native Advertising Playbook, way back in December 2013, identified in-feed as one of the six core types of native ads. Industry experts BI Intelligence have predicted that spend on native ads in the US alone will hit $7.9 billion this year and grow to $21 billion by 2018. And which area will see the biggest share of this spending increase? In-feed advertising across social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, it is the mobile space where native ads have the most potential, offering click-through rates of over 1% (almost ten-times higher than desktop). Mobile is where the combination of in-feed and programmatic can really come into its own: social networks’ vast reams of user data can give advertisers the opportunity to target their audience more accurately than ever before.
The challenge for advertisers remains the content itself. In-feed platforms like Sharethrough, Outbrain and Respond provide the means to target audiences more accurately than before, but it is still up to the advertiser to get the content right and to truly engage their audience. Twitter is stepping up its offering in this regard by allowing users to embed editable, 30 second YouTube-style video clips in their tweets. It aims to increase “dwell times”, as reported by The Drum – i.e. try to engage its users for longer. The most significant part of this for advertisers? This new click-to-play video function will be available for in-feed ads as well as for Twitter users.
The Next Step: On Site Native In-feed
There are a number of adtech companies enjoying early success in the in-feed market; one of the best examples so far is Sharethrough. A native ad automation company, it announced last month that all impressions served across its native ad exchange will be 100% viewable: brands can see exactly who they are engaging. Sharethrough’s flagship is their on-site native in-feed service. As illustrated by their (very cool) Native Ad Generator, Sharethrough can turn any advert into a seamless sponsored post. On any site, on desktop or on mobile.
The ad industry will always say that the most effective adverts are disruptive, invasive; they demand the audience’s attention and are therefore remembered. In-feed has the opposite intention. Yes, the ad still has to be clearly identifiable as an advert, but the whole idea is for it to fit in rather than stand out. The content is supposed to be the only eye catching element; in fact, the aim is to try not to disrupt the user experience. This is what Sharethrough and its competitors are banking on: that accurately targeted in-feed ads will revolutionise brand interaction.