Consumers who use Yahoo Mail got a pleasant surprise recently: a Pottery Barn ad that let them use augmented reality to see what their potential new furniture would look like in their home -- an experience more impactful and fun than traditional display ads. The brand was taking advantage of Verizon Media's strength in native advertising. (Native is broadly defined as advertising content that looks and works like other content in the place it appears.)
The Verizon Media team built a simpler version of a downloadable app that the brand had created and made it available as a native ad, so that the ad could reach a wider audience and consumers could click through the ad directly to purchase. Compared to the typical rich-media experience dwell time of about 13 seconds, the Pottery Barn experience in Yahoo Mail was highly successful, with average engagement time of over two minutes.
It is executions like this one that are driving the 44 billion dollars that eMarketer says will be invested in native advertising in 2019, an eight and a half billion dollar increase over 2018, almost all of that on mobile and social. And by the end of 2020, almost 2/3 of display investment will go towards native, driven in part by studies that show that average click-through rates are as much as four times higher for premium native ads vs. non-native display ads on mobile devices.
Across Verizon Media's considerable properties and network -- including partners like Samsung, inventory from the Yahoo homepage and Yahoo Mail to HuffPost and Tumblr -- over 2 billion viewable impressions are available each day. On all of those properties, native ads -- those that appear seamlessly in the formats most suited for each environment -- are scoring with advertisers.
I asked Jeff Lucas, Verizon Media's Head of North American Sales and Global Client Solutions, to weigh in on native appreciation. The keys to the strength of their offerings, he said, are their strong stable of online brands and the infrastructure the Verizon Media team has built to deliver what Lucas called, "the choice for performance and quality."
In a cluttered digital era, he added, storytelling further sets brands apart from the competition. "To tell an effective story, premium content, powered by data and in a brand-safe environment, is paramount," he noted. "That allows for a deeper bond with the consumer, driving greater performance for the partner."
According to Lucas, the stronger the creative experience and the more customized the look and feel, the stronger the engagement. "While many advertisers do consider creating custom content for their native advertising, it's not always required," he said, explaining that some advertisers appreciate the opportunity to re-purpose content they created for other initiatives and give it a wider reach. Also, "when native ads are combined with data insights and intent signals, like with our native marketplace, you have a highly effective way of communicating with your best potential customers," while at the same time providing greater value to the audience.
Lucas and his team emphasize that, while the offerings are customized, the transaction is simple -- crediting their "unified, omnichannel DSP" for giving advertisers across the U.S. and the world access to simple-to-use planning and buying tools at scale and enabling sophisticated oversight and optimization.
Verizon Media provides a variety of offerings. Among them, in-feed/content ads appear within editorial streams and on sites like Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Sports. These ads look similar to other content in the feed but are marked as sponsored. And custom campaigns (also clearly marked as sponsored) create a specific brand experience and can include images, video, editorial or other interactive elements that help promote the brand.
Lucas' team, fresh off a NewFront presentation demonstrating the breadth of their offerings, say they are well-positioned to work with brands on native executions, in part because of the speed that delivers robust and personalized user experiences.
The company is seeing particular interest from companies targeting online shoppers and is using its ability to tailor each experience to the end-user's unique shopping history. For Lucas, this is the key. "From shoppable catalogs to AR showrooms to interactive gaming previews, these new, native commerce formats eliminate steps to conversion, allow for better product exploration and leverage data to create personalized experiences that show an understanding of an individual's past actions, product interest and intent," he asserted. "These campaigns bring big benefits to audiences and big benefits to advertisers. Each element works together to promote commerce as the primary goal of the campaign."
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