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IAB in the News

Chat with Alex Radford, General Manager, iProspect on the topic of Native Advertising in NZ

Tue, 27 Oct 2015

Over the next couple of months, the IAB NZ’s Standards & Guidelines Council is out in the marketplace conducting a series of short interviews with key industry folk.

The concept is to ask the same four questions to a range of industry professionals working across agency, publisher, creative, and client facing roles.

We’re hoping to further the discussion and education around this topic.

It may identify a gap in thinking, perception and perhaps even process - and potentially help identify areas where the industry needs to work better together to help this category evolve here in NZ.

We caught up with Alex Radford, General Manager, iProspect. Here is what Alex had to say.

1. Is native different to what you have done in the past?

Essentially, we are approaching Native Advertising no differently.  It’s about working out who your target is, using the same tools to get the target market, and work out whether they are consuming that media in the way that you want them to.

At iProspect, the way that we focus on our content plans is exactly the same way as we structure our display campaigns. The way that you amplify content is the same way that you would build a well-developed media schedule.

We are still using the same techniques as we have always been using. For example, in the same way we are A/B testing search ads or multivariate testing facebook ads,  you can do exactly the same thing with a piece of content. If you’ve written a piece of content or if you’ve developed an infographic or video, with Native Advertising, you can optimise in real time. If you see that most people aren’t scrolling down past paragraph one in an article, then you can basically optimise by re-writing – restructuring, putting different images in. Now days when we build an infographic we’re not building one we might be building six! – Different colours, different images – different versions and then testing which one works best in one media vs another.

It’s still necessary to start with the very basic question – what does success look like? You’re not going to put all budget into Native Advertising but it’s another layer – again a lot of what we talk about in a good digital campaign is hundreds of layers – all of which can be optimised on the fly based on a particular performance.  Native Advertising is just one of those

2. How is it changing process?

The thing that’s drilled into us, working to an always on scenario – you want to be spending 80% of your time planning and 20% on implementation – you want to make sure your plan is fully developed and the strategy is fully understood, so that nothing becomes a surprise.

Yes the processes and the technologies and tools we use are a lot more complex, but it’s still about planning, implementation and reporting in the same way it’s always been.

Whether it is a Native Advertising campaign, a banner or search campaign, that is driving people through to additional content, you need to be optimising that content whether it’s owned, paid or earned.

It’s incredibly important to make sure that your analytics is structured in such a way that you understand the value of each channel. You need to understand the value of attribution within that entire ecosystem -  native advertising might not be  giving you the leads but is further up the funnel – it’s another layer.

3. How is this changing the overall landscape?

As an industry we love to focus on the shiny and new – I think that native advertising is currently the shiny new – like social was a while back, and search was even further back. But you still need to do boring stuff to ascertain what is right.

It’s 80/20 stuff - you know what works and stuff you want to try, I’d currently put native in the 20% - but it’s going to become more and more important.

My view is that Native gets people thinking about content. By the definition of Native Advertising you need to have something more … if you look at the way people create advertising messaging, it was always about telling a story. You can’t tell that same story using a banner.

Native Advertising is also encouraging advertisers to think more about the future of advertising. Rather than just thinking about here’s my project, here are my banners, how many banners do we need to show people to get one person to take action.

Native advertising gives you the opportunity to get much more into that news feed of peoples’ lives – ultimately the way consumers consume news these days is in some kind of news feed. Facebook, Apple news app, twitter, youtube, the buzzfeeds of this world  – generally how people like to consume media is through a feed based, snacking structure. That’s where I think Native Advertising really comes into its own, because it blends into that.

Tumblr for me is the definition of good Native product, because the sponsored posts need to be highly relevant to the audience you wish to talk to, and sit natively on tumblr -  then you need to amplify that using paid channels.  It’s not about driving traffic to another website – it’s about keeping people within that tumblr environment  – a bit like facebook used to be.

Who knows how consumers will react to it – it’s all for the best – as long as publishers are not blurring the lines – that clarity is there.  People are pretty savvy – they know what is rubbish and what is good, so it’s down to us (the industry) to target people with the right message at the right time. Not at all a new concept!

My question to the IAB NZ would be that if I did a deal with a major publisher  for a certain amount of money for advertising, and as part of that deal it included two bits of editorial – is that native advertising and should it be disclosed as such? Or is it a value add?

An example of where you need to be very careful, is where you have kids who are being influenced by someone who is paid to do something. Lines are blurring between what is commercial and what is entertainment.  I think it’s fascinating – genuinely impossible to safeguard everybody – however in media, we can all be clear about what is an ad.

4. What is the feedback from clients?

I wouldn’t say there has been a massive groundswell of ‘we must move all of our money from banners to Native Advertising ‘ , however most clients are beginning to understand the importance of Native Advertising. Ultimately it’s all about results. Cynically, I think there are a lot of advertising units that are called Native Advertising which probably aren’t – back in the day they might have been called text links or text ads for example!

But I think that generally most clients are keen to be more involved in it. They understand that the world of advertising has changed massively, and being relevant means that you need to be agile. Native Advertising is a big part of that agility, and testing and trying new things.

Most of the trials we’ve had with clients have been really successful, and we are certainly looking at how we engage at a closer level with our media partners.

The challenge in NZ is one of scale