Advertising Guest Columns

Every word counts: the science of perfect native copy

Online publishers are caught up in a precarious balancing act – attempting to maximise advertising revenue with one hand, while ensuring a positive user experience with the other.

UK digital revenues rose almost 6% last year, spread over an increasing number of channels and platforms. And as media consumption fragments, consumers have a virtually limitless choice of content at their fingertips – making user experience vital in attracting and retaining audiences, and ensuring publishers’ monetisation efforts don’t deter easily irritated audiences.

Publishers use native advertising to address this challenge, effectively monetising their sites in a way that enhances the user experience rather than detracting from it. But simply enabling native advertising on their websites isn’t enough; publishers must work with their monetisation partners and advertisers to ensure copy is both persuasive and emotive if native impressions are to have the impact they need.   

The value of native

Most publishers understand the benefits of native advertising in adapting seamlessly to its editorial surroundings and minimising intrusion – no irritating pop-ups or blaring autoplay videos allowed. Native ads with imagery, headlines, and a body of text are strategically placed within content or in-feed to engage users when they are in a highly attentive mindset, searching for interesting and relevant information. This integration with content means native ads receive more attention and visual focus than standard banner ads – which are typically positioned on the periphery of the web page, hindering absorption of ad messaging. Native ads, on the other hand, are read in the same way as editorial headlines resulting in greater engagement, recall, and influence.

But while the visual appearance and placement of native advertising is vital, its performance also depends on an engaging narrative that reflects the reader’s interests and captures their attention to drive engagement. To achieve this, the value of native ads increases in three key ways:

Trigger words appeal to the individual

Ad campaigns are inevitably designed to echo brand values and sentiment but that doesn’t mean they can’t be adapted to reflect what the user wants too. By gathering accurate insight into individual behaviour including search activity, purchase history, and social media interactions, advertisers can understand what the user needs or is currently interested in. This insight can then be used to personalise native advertising using specific trigger words and phrases that will activate positive cognitive associations, influence message perception, and make the user more likely to engage with the ad.

Headlines capture interest

The headline is the first component of the native ad the user sees and provides a window into the story the content will tell. Native ad headlines should be relatively long – ideally over 20 words – to mimic the surrounding content and provide enough information to increase the reader’s interest in the message on a subconscious level. The headline is the ideal place for advertisers to insert trigger words and phrases such as frequently used search terms tailored to the individual user.

Use storytelling to gauge emotion

Native content should evoke an emotional reaction from audiences, whether that is amusement, compassion, sadness, or joy. A native ad that achieves this by telling its own compelling story is more likely to connect with audiences, and achieve the perfect balance of minimal disruption and impactful messaging. Ad campaigns that rely on emotional appeal perform twice as well as those that use rational persuasion and factual information due to the brain’s ability to unconsciously process emotional content and its more effective recording of emotional stimuli. By telling a story native content will earn consumer attention rather than forcing it, because readers will find ad content genuinely valuable and will engage with it for their own entertainment, enjoyment, or interest.

Native advertising is a stabiliser in the publisher balancing act, increasing revenues from high performing ads while positively contributing to the user experience. By working with advertising and monetisation partners to ensure trigger words are included, headlines are effective, and content tells an emotive story, publishers increase the value of their impressions while enhancing the user experience. With compelling native copy, every word counts.

Ally Stuart, Managing Director EMEA, Sharethrough

About Sharethrough:

Founded in 2008, Sharethrough is the leading global native advertising platform, helping publishers maximise revenue and brands earn meaningful attention by powering ads that fit into – rather than interrupt – the audience experience. Sharethrough’s flagship product, Sharethrough for Publishers (SFP), is a Supply Side Platform that powers over three billion monthly ad impressions for the world’s leading publishers, including CNN International, Time Inc., Wenner Media, USA Today Sports, and Forbes. Sharethrough is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, Detroit, London, Tokyo and Toronto.

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