My 4 Takeaways from the IAB’s and Edelman’s Consumer View Research Study

Kunal_GuptaAt Polar we believe in the importance of research and reflection, as evidenced in our most recent benchmarks report featured in DigiDay, our 1-billion celebration, and the focus and attention paid to analytics and data in MediaVoice’s report capabilities.

Late last month, I took the stage at the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s In Feed event to share some insights Polar has gained from aggregate data within MediaVoice and a survey of industry leaders currently employing native advertising in their publications.

The event’s featured-presentation, however, was the results from a joint study between the IAB and Edelman Berland, the global market research and strategic consulting arm of the world’s largest public relations firm (Edelman). The study, titled “Getting Sponsored Content Right: The Consumer View” focused on those who are reading native advertising, their overall thoughts on the format, and what steps readers feel need to be taken to ensure effectiveness and trust remain. The survey was conducted in a controlled environment only on desktop computers, thus doesn’t include data on tablet and mobile reader opinion.

When taking a look at the study’s key points, trends emerge between their results and conclusions we reach at Polar through the data we’ve collected:

• According to Edelman Berland, business and entertainment news readers are highly receptive to native advertising if it is relevant to the content they were seeking out in the first place, and they feel it is trustworthy. This is supported by some of Polar’s benchmarksbusiness focused sponsored content command a CTR of .66% and lifestyle articles get .22% – both well above industry standard for online display advertising

• Well executed native advertising can boost the credibility of a publication’s site and the site’s credibly can in turn boost the perceived credibility of the sponsored content (as per Edelman Berland, sites saw a 33% lift in perceived credibility of native ads when they appeared on credibly perceived news sites). This also speaks to proper presentation of native advertising. At Polar, we’ve observed that clearly labelled native ads with light shading perform 57% better than those ads with high contrast shading or no shading at all.

• The relationship between a site where a native ad appears and the brand which is executing the ad is critical to success with readers, with 54% of respondents looking favourably on the site if the sponsored content was relevant to material they were already reading. If you’ve read any of Kunal’s oped pieces of late, you know thatPolar is a big proponent of killing the backfill. It’s encouraging to see readers agreeing with our stance thatbackfilled material with little relevance to readership erodes the trust that native advertising’s value banks upon.

• The study argues native advertising is incredibly well suited for established brands seeking to bolster and differentiate their image, further develop current consumer perception, and to launch extensions to already established brands. This comes as little surprise; when we asked publishers how they measured success in native ads, whether it be time spent, page views or CTR, 71% of those asked said they use a mixture of all three, citingmarketer’s needs for a top-of-funnel brand awareness tool which encompasses all 3 metrics for campaign effectiveness.

The study concludes with strong suggestions for publishers establishing their sponsored content programs, which may be a hard pill to swallow at first but will produce a stronger program in the long run. Be prepared to walk away from a deal or brand that isn’t a fit for your publication and readership, seek out brands that share relevant interests and objectives as your readers and work together authoritatively, and lastly make every effort possible to offer complete transparency to your readers when serving them sponsored content.

Following these steps and avoiding the temptation of a backfilled, network approach to sponsored content will ensure you build a native advertising program based on quality content and trust, which in turn marketers will seek out for an effective campaign geared towards readers invested in the same values as their brand.

 Kunal Gupta is the CEO of Polar (formerly Polar Mobile), a computer software firm based in Toronto. Polar originally focused on mobile, but has rebranded to expand its mission, now specializing in native ads. He has been recognized as a Top 30 Under 30, a United Nations Global Citizen and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Look for his post on The Makegood the third Wednesday of each month.