Why Native Is Non-Negotiable for Building Customer Connections

Today’s consumers are incredibly sophisticated; they’re proactive, research-oriented, and know exactly what they want. They’re also adept at tuning out banners, Google ads, and other “old guard” outreach strategies. Any brand that wants to stay relevant must constantly evolve their strategy to find the right audience, provide that audience with helpful information, and invite their consumers to build loyalty with their brand. To stand out, brands need to look beyond a single, isolated transaction and build real relationships with their customers.

Native advertising platforms are one of the best ways to generate personal relationships with customers. A recent StackAdapt study revealed that 51 percent of people between the ages of 18-44 are more likely to trust branded content than traditional advertising, and feel that they are less likely to be misled by native content; leveraging native advertising is one of the smartest moves today’s brands can make.

What Exactly Is Native Advertising?

The goal of native advertising is to enhance, rather than disrupt, the customer experience. On the surface, this means that ads take on the look and feel of the platform where they are hosted; whether it means adopting a similar color palette or editorial tone, native advertisements are defined by their ability to blend in. Furthermore, ad content becomes truly native when it is placed alongside organic (or “non-ad”) content with which a customer has intentionally chosen to engage.

Take, for example, a woman who is in her first trimester, and engages with the Ovia Pregnancy App regularly. She likely has dozens of concerns, ranging from assessing her morning sickness symptoms to purchasing the right brand of prenatal vitamins. On the Ovia Pregnancy App, this woman may encounter posts informing her about the size of her baby, what foods to consume to support her growing baby’s health, and a 10% discount to register with a high-integrity brand. Although the latter post is sponsored, each piece of the content is in line with the customer’s priorities and complements her user experience.

Why Programmatic Can Get Problematic

Programmatic advertising refers to software-driven technology that automates the media buying process of where ads are placed. Every time a consumer visits a website that offers ad space, there’s a smart machine on the other side of the screen that analyzes available data about that potential customer and arranges an auction for that impression. In milliseconds, the most relevant and highest bidding ads are displayed on his or her screen. This entire process is referred to as “Real Time Bidding” and it means that ad space is sold to the highest bidder. So, the ad will appear on a website regardless of content.

The programmatic process has raised some eyebrows recently for its haphazard placement of ads. Remember this story, where ads were placed on hate websites? Sure, the programmatic process may be fast – but the process’s lack of control can cause your ads to be placed alongside content that’s irrelevant to or, even worse, in conflict with your brand. Because there is no longer a human on the other side of the screen manually monitoring the media buying operation, the programmatic process disregards important factors like context, the audience’s emotional response, and the quality of the ad content.

Though recent efforts have been made to address some of these concerns, like the creation of programmatic native advertising, it’s still more effective for brands to work directly with native advertising publishers to build customer relationships.

Why Working Directly With Publishers Wins

By nature, consumers today are careful when it comes to brand loyalty and highly aware of sponsored content. Millennial consumers, in particular, recognize that you’re selling to them and don’t want to be overloaded with blatant advertisements that detract from their user experience. They’d rather be presented with native content from a trusted source with which they’ve built a preexisting relationship, and whose recommendations of products are in line with their interests and priorities. According to a new report released by the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), attitudes towards native advertising are positive, with nearly two-thirds (59%) of consumers finding native ads interesting and informative, and a third are more likely to trust it than traditional advertising.

In today’s digital space where customers are inundated with options, effective advertising ultimately comes down to a brand’s ability to create meaningful, personal relationships with its customers, and those relationships are best generated through working directly with native advertising platforms.