Do you get excited by new academic research? I am happy to report that a portion of the Adpulp audience does indeed perk up when new research reveals significant findings. In this case, we have a new study that validates “native advertising,” a popular form of digital advertising.
Before we look at the research, I’ll define terms and place native advertising in historical context. Native means the ads mirror the content of the media host. It’s an old technique, first pioneered by ad legend, Helen Lansdowne Resor of J. Walter Thompson. In 1911, her Woodbury Soap ads blended into the Saturday Evening Post and Ladie’s Home Journal by adopting an editorial approach with long copy and the use of fine art in the layouts.
Today, the need for ads to fit the container is even greater because people now actively block ads, when and where they’re able to do so. The bad part is some marketers see native as a way to hide their ads from the customer. The good thing about native, or advertorial, is how an effort to inform or entertain the customer is built into the ads by design. A native ad is not about the offer, it’s informative, often above and beyond the product, which makes native a form of content marketing, also knowns as brand storytelling.
Okay, let’s move to the findings.
Experimental Evidence from Native Advertising in Mobile Search
As the Internet emerged and became a powerful force, native advertising evolved, which has led some in recent times to be concerned that native advertising, which mimics non-advertising content, could serve to deceive web site visitors. This concern served as the foundation for new research in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science which sought to determine more precisely how native advertising is perceived and received by web site users.
The study, to be published in the December edition of the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, is titled “Sponsorship Disclosure and Consumer Deception: Experimental Evidence from Native Advertising in Mobile Search.” It is authored by Navdeep S. Sahni and Hirkesh S. Nair of Stanford University.
“We found little evidence that native advertising ‘tricks’ Internet users into clicking on sponsored content and driving those users directly to the advertisers,” said Nair. “Instead, we found that Internet users seem to view native ads as advertisements, and they use the content to deliberately evaluate those advertisers.”
The researchers studied native advertising at a mobile restaurant-search platform. They analyzed various formats of paid-search advertising and the extent to which those ads were disclosed to over 200,000 users.
“One of the interesting findings of the research is that while native advertising benefits advertisers, we see no evidence of consumers getting deceived,” said Sahni. “More to the point, users who see a native advertisement continue with their product search; they’re more likely to later click on the advertiser’s organic listings and make a purchase. In effect, consumers often follow a process of conducting their own due diligence incorporating the information they receive through native advertising.”
Or, as David Ogilvy once put it, “The customer is not a moron, she’s your wife.”