Fact or Fiction: Native Ads are Just Jargon and PR is Irrelevant

As you have probably heard, native ads are a big buzz word in online marketing and media these days. If you have heard the term, but don’t really know what native ads are then here is a definition: they are sponsored advertisements that appear like content on a publisher’s site. They are ads that don’t interrupt the user experience because they are embedded into or seamlessly integrated within the existing user experience. This could be extremely valuable in markets like the US where consumers are becoming callous to ads and learning which areas of websites to avoid looking at in order to not be subjected to further advertising. Some common examples of native ads include:

  • Facebook Sponsored Stories
  • Twitter Promoted Tweets
  • Interactive Graphics
  • Stumble Upon Paid Discovery

There has also been a lot of talk about social marketing failures painting a picture that Facebook and other platforms may afterall have no value in the marketing mix. This is a quick look at the marketing analytics effects and value created for a client where we very sucessfully used native ads in social media to compliment and extend their tradional media coverage.  All stats and images are used with permission.

Our client has an annual campaign which, thanks to a very talented PR firm, over the past two years has gained the attention of tradional media sources.  In 2011-2012 they were written up in several publications, but the story that made the biggest impact on their traffic was a week long series of TV news stories. This image shows the inbound traffic pattern from 2011 to our clients website which was associated specifically with those stories.

You can see that when the story broke on TV, predictably, the traffic spiked. The segment continued for a week with progressively less traffic until it finally tailed off over the next few weeks as people forgot about it and it was buried on the TV channels website by the latest news. This is a pretty typical event based traffic pattern and one that can be expected when doing burst based media buys or in this case getting news coverage through PR.

These news stories made up more than 20% of the total traffic to the campaign.  PR is definitely relevant.

Fast forward to 2012-2013, FiveFifty studies the marketing analytics from the 2011-2012 campaign and determines that a social marketing strategy is a good fit for the client.  We implement Facebook integration for sharing prior to the launch of the campaign and allocate budget for paid social marketing.  Here are the media results for December.

The campaign labeled ‘display’ is a Cost Per Click ad with a .031% Click Through Rate which is fairly close to the industry average.  The cost for each click on the display campaign was $1.29 on average (inflated due to holidays).  The next five campaigns are all versions of native ads.  Notice click through rates as high at 2.935% and Social Click Through Rates as high as 4.222%.  Also the cost per click was roughly five times lower.

Let’s assume that you don’t stare at these numbers constantly like we do…what does it all mean?  The CTR is a good measure of how relevant, targeted, or trusted the ad is perceived to be to the consumer.  The CTR will affect the CPC rate because when you pay by the click the ad server wants to serve up the offer with the highest CTR to maximize revenue.

Native Ads are not just jargon, Click Through Rates outperformed traditional display industry averages by roughly 9,468% and reduced the Cost Per Click by 82%

…but that’s not all!  We also measure conversion rates on the traffic once it hits the landing page.

The native ad had roughly a 50% greater conversion rate than its display counter part and was roughly on par with organic search traffic.

So Native Ads are great and PR is still great, but I bet you are wondering what happens when you combine PR with native ads?  Well given the significance of the PR in our 2011-2012 campaign, we were.  This year when we thankfully got media coverage again, we created native ads to promote the news stories.  Since referral traffic from the stories was common already we wanted to test the breakage of sending traffic to another site hoping the consumers would read the article and come back through to our site.

We achieved the same volume of traffic for our client after the story broke as we achieved when the story broke thereby doubling the value of the story.  The traffic is also extremely high quality in terms of conversion as the person has effectively been referred to the story by a friend, read through it objectively, and then returned to our site from a third party.  All of this with only a very small amount of loss when people leave to the news site and never come back to our client’s site.

In our testing, Social Marketing and Native Ads appear to have the ability to extend the traffic trajectory and significantly increase the value of existing PR efforts.

This isn’t to say that native ads and PR will work for every situation, but they definitely have promise.  It’s important that your agency spends the time to get a deep understanding of your business, history, and goals.  They should be aware of what your PR firm is working on, be willing to share with the PR firm what they are working on, and generally be willing to collaborate to generate you as much quality traffic as possible.

Ryan Wilson
Founder & CEO
Ryan has his hands in a bit of everything, but he mostly focuses on client success and the technical aspects of advertising. Ryan likes 90’s hip hop, heli-skiing, and spending time with his family.