By adaptive - September 19th, 2016

Native social advertising is one of the fastest-growing mobile ad formats but are these campaigns scoring with consumers? Susan Kuchinskas reports…

As social networks offer advertisers the ability to target by location, BIA/Kelsey expects spending on location-targeted native social to take a bite out of search and display ads.

Native social will increase its share of location-targeted mobile ad spending from 19.8 percent in 2016 to 28.1 percent in 2020, the research firm said. This forecast includes ads that are delivered based on a mobile user’s location, as well as content that is relevant to that location, such as an ad for a retail store designed to trigger offline conversion.

The most common examples of the native social format are Facebook’s news feed ads and Snapchat Stories, but it includes Instagram and LinkedIn.

If a campaign aims for conversion, “Location will enhance relevance and improve performancemetrics if done right,” says Michael Boland, chief analyst and vice president of content for BIA/Kelsey. “That is certainly the case when calls to action are included.”

Boland says calls to action such as a button to schedule an appointment, book a table or buy something to pick up in a store produce better results for local advertisers.

Drivers for native social

BIA/Kelsey sees many other factors influencing the growth of spending on native social ads. First, native social ads perform better because they’re suited for smaller screens and vertical scrolling. And young people, who are growing in influence and purchasing power, are more receptive to native social units than to traditional formats like banners. Finally, they’re immune to ad blockers.

“Native social has come along as a more natural, integrated form of advertising. Advertisers that do it right are working on clever ways to integrate brand messaging in ways that are native to the kind of content you would otherwise see,” Boland says.

At the same time, social networks continue to expand their ad formats and targeting capabilities. That’s especially true when it comes to location-targeted mobile ads.

Social networks tune location targeting

Recent announcements point to a growing emphasis on location by social networks.

In February 2016, Snapchat began offering custom geofilters, allowing businesses to publish their own. Heineken used them to promote its stage at the Coachella Music Festival, according to Digiday.

In early June, Facebook said it would use GPS to track signed-in users to determine when ads drive in-store traffic.

“That full-circle attribution -- for an advertiser to know that someone not only clicked on an ad and opened a map, but actually went to the store-- is another point of attractiveness. Because of that, we believe a lot more advertisers will shift budget over to Facebook,” Boland says.

A week later, Snapchat opened its APIs to partners that can provide ad buying, management and analytics.  Most recently, in July, Snapchat introduced Memories, a way to save, search for and share Snaps and Stories.

“This will be very interesting for advertisers,” says Guillaume Lelait, executive vice president and U.S. managing director of Fetch, a mobile strategy and app-marketing agency. He thinks that Snapchat will begin to store data related to stored Memories items and allow advertisers to target or retarget based on this additional information. “We see them as the next platform for geotargeting,” he says.

Fetch works with many travel clients, as well as Uber’s international marketing – and it increasingly uses native social ads. For example, a recent ad Fetch created for Sephora is personalized to each user’s location, showing a map and the distance to the nearest store.  

“We see strong results,” Lelait says, “particularly on Twitter and Facebook.”

Facebook has been raising its rates, according to Eleni Marouli, principal analyst of IHS Technology, and she credits this in part to Facebook’s improvement of its ad formats and expansion into native social advertising. According to Marouli, in June 2016, the average Facebook CPM in the UK was $8.1, up from $3.9 in May 2016 and $1.5 in January 2016.

According to Lelait, Facebook has another local-advertising enhancement in the works. Right now, a business with multiple locations needs to develop a separate Facebook Page for each location in order to do local ads. Soon, Lelait says, “If you are a retailer, you will only need to use your global brand page to launch a campaign. Facebook will match the most relevant store and location to individual users.

Slight decline for mobile search

The rising influence of location-targeted native social ads comes at the expense of search and display advertising. While search will continue to take the largest share of location-targeted ad spend through the forecast period, according to BIA/Kelsey, its share will decrease from 57 percent in 2016 to 42 percent in 2020. That may in part be due to the relative ease of Facebook’s self-service ad platform for small to medium-sized businesses.

“One of the challenges in small-business advertising is keeping it simple. Even Google AdWords still has some complexities,” Boland says. “Facebook has cracked the code of appealing to lay people for launching and managing a campaign in an intuitive way.” 

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