Native needs a better yardstick

April 16, 2015

By Bill Duggan

There’s no doubt for anyone in the advertising community that native advertising is hot. Since the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) released the results from its Advertising is Going Native study earlier this year the topic has continued to receive heavy coverage in the industry trades. But despite its increasing popularity, measurement of native advertising has remained a challenge which could hamper further growth.

In the ANA white paper, we asked marketers to identify the metrics they use to measure the impact of their native advertising. The responses were diverse as click-throughs, social media sharing, awareness, and time spent were all employed by at least half the respondents.

When asked to identify the “primary metric” (just one), responses were incredibly fragmented as no metric received more than 17 percent of the responses. That metric was brand lift, followed by click-throughs and social media sharing.

No metric stands out as “most important.” Perhaps more concerning is that 26 percent of those engaged in native advertising did not even answer this question, which suggests knowledge gaps on native advertising measurement.

The industry would benefit from a deeper understanding of the metrics that matter most for native. Marketers should fold some measurement component into every native advertising campaign. The closer that a metric can get to a sale, the better. Time spent is good, but awareness is better; brand lift is better than awareness; lead generation is better than brand lift; purchase intent is better than lead generation; and finally, customer acquisition and sales are even better! It would be interesting to see the results of a direct response campaign executed via native advertising.

Meanwhile, publishers are leading the push into native advertising, given the business development potential it represents. Since the average publisher runs many more native advertising campaigns than the average marker, publishers are encouraged to make measurement a priority and help provide measurement insights and best practices with their advertiser and agency partners. It’s unlikely that a single measurement standard will develop for native advertising, given the different goals and priorities of advertisers. Nonetheless, the industry is encouraged to share learning in order to maximize the effectiveness of native and continue the growth trajectory.

Thanks to the Economist for first publishing this perspective in their Lean back marketing blog.

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