Opinion

Going native: why Singapore’s smartphone obsession should bring a new era for native ads

The era of the banner ad is over and now marketers need to become more sensitive to their consumers’ mobile needs, argues Yahoo!’s Carol Tay

It is an understatement to say mobile is massive in Singapore. Not only are there 2.5 million more mobile phones in use than there are people, but the amount of data being downloaded is soaring beyond belief. The latest statistics from the Media Development Authority show this has doubled between 2013 and 2016 as Singaporeans’ seek to quench their insatiable thirst for content across mobile devices.

Add into the mix that the average Singaporean now spends nearly two-and-a-half hours a day accessing the internet via their smartphone, and it’s not hard to understand why brand marketing budgets are continuing to shift to mobile devices.

Indeed, analysts expect that 30 per cent of Singapore’s total advertising spend will be across digital platforms by 2020, up from 16 per cent in 2015. While that growth is significant, it’s worth noting that 70 per cent of marketing budgets will still be devoted to traditional channels.

While traditional advertising will always have their place, as marketing professionals we have to ask if this balance is representative of the latest consumer trends? After all, the next time you are on the MRT, check out how many people are looking at their smartphone as opposed to a newspaper.

That said, we know that marketers aren’t going to shift their hard-earned budgets unless agencies can show the return-on-investment benefits of digital strategies, especially on mobile.

First, we have to accept that plain vanilla banner ads or pop-ups that might have worked in a desktop-dominated era are no longer sufficient. Now, marketers need to be even more sensitive to specific needs of consumers and engage them in more contextual and relevant ad formats.

That’s why everyone is so enthusiastic about native advertising. With perpetually plugged-in audiences, whose attention brands are vying for and with experiences being built for cross-device usage – native advertising is fast becoming more effective than traditional display ads. According to an Ipsos study, more than 60 percent of consumers view native ads favourably. Non-intrusive and contextually relevant, native ads fit seamlessly into the user’s content experience.

Meanwhile a report from data insights analysts at Nielsen revealed that 52 per cent of mobile consumers engage more with native advertising compared to regular banner ads. Native advertising is also less susceptible from the relentless march of the adblockers, proving that blending in is the new standing-out when it comes to online advertising.

It is also remarkably flexible and allows brands to create truly creative and immersive campaigns expertly crafted to the target audience. Depending on the content in which it is immersed, brands can leverage text, images, video, in-stream advertising and even in-game formats.

Last but not least, we know native advertising is successful. We’ve recently worked on campaigns with AirAsia and Lipton: with the latter, the native ads chalked up 11.2 million impressions and helped contribute to a 4.8 per cent increase in market share after readers spent an average of three minutes and five seconds absorbed in the content.

While the content and strategic opportunities around native advertising are endless, there are some core guidelines to bear in mind.

1) Be meaningful:  Put simply, it is vital that the content of your native advertising adds value and is of interest to the reader. As the lines between publishers and brands blur, consumers are increasingly open to receiving high-quality content from a broad range of sources. So where they may have once seen a pop-up ad as a hindrance, brands which can provide quality content now have the chance to be seen as being helpful.

2) Keep it simple: The flexibility of native advertising is one of its great advantages, meaning multiple campaign objectives can be achieved without clouding any overall messaging. For example, if building brand awareness is a key ambition, this can be done so through one content strategy, while driving sales through strategies such as discounts can be tackled through another.

3) Blend in: The more seamless a native advert is in relation to the rest of the content on a page the better, especially when it’s across multiple platforms. This is not a platform for megaphone marketing. A native advert works better when it fits in seamlessly into the content it is immersed in, and at the same time, stands out with a compelling message.

4) Craft creative content: As with any type of advertising, generic adverts usually fall flat, and the same applies to native advertising. Content should be useful, informative and engaging, with brands crafting a clear benefit to attract reader attention. It is also good to engage people by asking a question, solving a problem, or describing a list with your creative, while the importance of a catchy headline and high-quality images can never be overstated

5) Be transparent: Native advertising is still advertising, and brands will face a backlash if they try to dupe consumers that what they are providing is independent editorial content.  For a native advertising campaign to succeed, it is vital to retaining consumer trust and engagement.

Everyone now knows that when native advertising is done well, it works for both brands and consumers, especially in smartphone-obsessed Singapore. If your brand hasn’t done so yet, there’s never been a better time to consider going native.

Carol Tay is the head of sales for Oath, an entity formed from Yahoo! and AOL, in Singapore

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