There¹s an awful lot of excitement in the digital publishing world around native advertising and a lot of new marketing dollars being spent on ads that blend seamlessly with or mimic the forms of content. What there¹s not an awful lot of is proof that native ads actually do what they¹re supposed to do, or even consensus on exactly what that is. A new study by Sharethrough and the IPG Media Lab provides some of the former while raising new questions about the latter.
The study surveyed 4,770 consumers on their responses to native ad formats, with 200 of the participants agreeing to have their eye movements tracked as they looked at different arrangements of ads and content. The results overwhelmingly backed up the central contention of companies like Sharethrough, which helps publishers push their native ads across different platforms: that readers are more likely to pay attention to marketing messages that resemble the content around them.
³As far as we could tell from all the things we measured, it was pretty much an equivalent level of engagement for content and native ads,² says Chris Schreiber, VP of marketing and communications at Sharethrough.
To quantify that, study subjects were 25% more likely to look at a native ad than they were at a banner, and they looked at them 53% more frequently, checking them out 4.1 times per session on average, versus 2.7% for banners.
The only metric in which banners significantly outperformed native ads was in brand recall, where they enjoyed a 38% to 25% advantage. Schreiber says the study authors weren¹t surprised ³because, if you think about it, a banner ad is just a big logo, typically.²