Native advertising grows in volume and acceptance

A survey commissioned by Fairfax Media shows a growing acceptance of native advertising by readers, as the publisher recorded quadruple the amount of native bookings in the first five months of this financial year than it did during all of last financial year.

The study was conducted by Mindshare, which contacted more than 1700 Australians through both online surveys and focus groups, asking them various questions to assess how consumers responded to native ad content online.

All respondents were familiar with native advertising and 67 per cent said that they thought it was beneficial for brands.  Fifty six per cent of people said that branded articles “grabbed their attention”.

Fairfax launched Brand Discover, its native advertising product arm, in September last year in what was a first for an Australian newspaper publisher, and it has seen significant growth in the platform over the past few months.

Felix Krueger, custom solutions commercial manager for Fairfax, heads up the Brand Discover business and told The Newspaper Works that 38 clients have made native advertising bookings, with several having purchased multiple pieces of content.

Fairfax has developed a network of around 5000 freelancers both in Australia and overseas that produce branded content for its clients, which Mr Krueger said was partly to ensure there was zero editorial/advertising crossover and that this divide was strictly maintained.

“At the moment we have about five people in the office working on content-based solutions on a day-to-day basis and the time that they invest in it has substantially increased since last year,” he said.

“It is still small in terms of the overall ad revenue, but it is probably one of the fastest growing areas across the network.”

The launch partner for Brand Discover was Commonwealth Bank, which saw Fairfax run a series of articles carrying Commonwealth Bank branding and covering topics like innovation in the 21st Century and gender disparity in financial investment.

In more recent times the company has run deeper executions, like a five chapter longform piece with Nissan, covering everything from safe driving precautions to experimental technology to build autonomous cars.

Mr Krueger said that the Fairfax consulted with newspaper and other media groups from around the world, particularly The New York Times, prior to the launch of its native ad product last year, to get a sense of what approaches had succeeded and failed in implementing branded content into their advertising suite. He said the company paid a lot of attention to how it would label native ad content, to ensure that there was full transparency and disclosure with readers.

“Our approach is all about transparency,” he said. “Our brands are built on reader trust, we’ve worked for over a hundred years to gain that and it’s very important for us to maintain it.

“We decided to very clearly label native advertising and make sure that labelling is carried at any stage of the user journey, meaning that it’s clearly labelled that it is native content on the promotional drivers and also within the article page – in the header, which is visible at all times.”

Fairfax native advertising

Two native ad executions published on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age websites for Nissan (L) and the Commonwealth Bank (R).

The company is also collecting and assessing data on how branded articles are performing with readers, to get a sense of what does and doesn’t work.

“The most reliable user feedback is always the analytics data that we have attached to those articles – because readers vote for content that they click or don’t click, meaning that if they don’t like the content they click away.”

“We’ve really seen that the engagement levels of those branded articles have been comparable with editorial content and that’s really good feedback for us in terms of users wanting to engage with the content.”

The Mindshare survey on native advertising commissioned by Fairfax found that average recall from native advertising was 35 per cent. The study also found that longform branded content was three times more effective in engaging a reader’s attention than a post of Facebook. Mr Krueger said that the study was useful in that it confirmed what the company already knew on an indicative level.

“The key finding for us was that people know what native advertising is and it’s pretty clear the brand’s involvement, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, because people still enjoy content that offers value to them, as long as the content is informative and entertaining,” he said.

“We also figured out within the survey that native advertising can achieve different objectives at different stages along the marketing funnel, and that different advertisers used it for different purposes.

“So that ranged from brands simply wanting to create awareness, to brands explaining a quite complex product, or brands simply wanting to position themselves as an expert in a particular field and providing information to users.

“So there are different functions native advertising can fulfil.”

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