A Closer Look at Native Ads & Ad Blockers

A Closer Look at Native Ads & Ad Blockers

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This article has been contributed by Ty Collins.

The value of relevant impressions and engaging banner ads are top of mind for all digital marketers. With the rise of ad blockers (apps that block network banner ads), the banner ad’s value as an effective traffic driver is in question.

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Ad Blockers

Who wouldn’t support ad blocking?

Marketers are invested in keeping the channel alive, and agencies have  been active participants in that lively discussion, and as ad blockers become more complex, it seems native ads on social networks may be equally susceptible to blocking.

One popular solution to ad blocking on the Web is native digital ads, with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer promoting them as potentially having the ability to make the Internet more inviting for consumers. However, native ads may not be immune to ad blockers.

Defining a Native ad

Native Ad

The execution of native digital ads varies by website, but there are some common characteristics.

  • They are generally designed to blend in with the editorial appearance and environment.
  • They often feature content that a sponsor pays to display instead of blatant ad messaging.
  • Sponsored ads are made specifically for a website, such as those that readers find on the Forbes or BuzzFeed websites.

However, more publishers and marketers are using software and technology to serve native digital ads across several websites. Since the ads are served using ad technology rather than published using editorial technology, they are not immune to ad-blocking software and apps, according to industry experts.

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Who is most vulnerable to the rise of ad blocking?

The Awl, a culture-centric website, received 95 percent of its 2014 native ad revenue from custom content made for advertisers and published on its site. In 2015, however, 95 percent of its native ad revenue came from third-party native ads such as TripleLift and Sharethrough, which are vulnerable to ad blockers.

What triggers ad blocking?

However, there are no standard rules for what triggers ad-blocking software to prevent native ads from rendering. Sometimes sponsored content is partially or entirely blocked even if the content is displayed using publishing technology. For instance, Adblock Plus blocked the headline of a sponsored ad from Buzzlie on Yahoo. On another occasion, the content of the sponsored ad was blocked, but the headline was displayed.

Desktop versus Mobile

Both BuzzFeed and Yahoo have seen an increase in their mobile audiences. Although it appears that ad blocking occurs more on desktop and smartphone-based Web browsers than in mobile apps, publishers are worried about the financial effect that desktop and future mobile ad-blocking software will have. This fear is compounded by the fact that native ads are not immune to the software, so there are questions about how publishers can afford to develop content for the digital world, especially if the publishers, such as TripleLift, say that their products are meant to improve the Web experience for consumers.

Is a truce on the horizon?

Sources familiar with the issue say that many companies that make native digital ads are in discussions with major ad blockers, such as Adblock Plus, about the possibility of paying to keep their ads from being blocked. The head of operations and communications for Adblock Plus gave his opinion that well-executed native advertising is generally preferred over Web ads or other methods. Native ads have to be labeled properly, he said, and some native ad companies have completed its “whitelisting” process so that their ads are not blocked.

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Although some publishers are fighting back, and hope that more native ad products will become acceptable, others believe the concept of using automated technology to serve so-called native ads to hundreds of dissimilar websites contradicts the purpose of native ads. The chief product and strategy officer as well as co-managing director of The Daily Beast comments that it’s crazy to him that publishers are delivering programmatic ads in a native way.

Ty Collins works in the marketing department of Phase3, an agency in Atlanta.

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