The convergence of social, video and mobile technology is rapidly changing the face of advertising. Just over a decade ago, search and display ads were all a company needed to reach their target audience online. Search-related ads accounted for43 percent of total U.S. online ad revenue in the second quarter of 2013, with display-related ads constituting 30 percent. In today’s evolving online ad environment, companies need creative and out-of-the-box approaches.
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A countless number of startups have emerged to meet the demand, many in the native advertising space. In fact, many industry and business leaders are hailing native advertising as the next big thing. A recent study found that users viewed native ads 53 percent more frequently than display ads. Below are five companies whose innovations helped shape the native, and overall, ad space in 2013:
BuzzFeed – Sponsored articles
BuzzFeed is a news and entertainment website which offers a selection of original reporting and viral content in the form of sponsored posts covering everything from politics and fashion to food. Sponsored posts are central to BuzzFeed’s business model and have proven to be an effective advertising channel. Not only does the site get about 40 million unique views per month from desktops, but additionally it is estimated that once BuzzFeed content goes viral it gets as much as 34 times the traffic it ordinarily would. While some have criticized BuzzFeed for blurring the lines between journalism and advertising, recent hires like former New York Times journalist Lisa Tozzi indicate that BuzzFeed is becoming increasingly serious as a news source.
Taboola – Sponsored recommended content
Taboola is a content recommendation and distribution platform that helps content consumers discover new content likely to be of interest. The Taboola algorithm identifies relevant content based on a host of factors including stories that are trending on social networks, content viewed by others, and the reader’s personal viewing habits. The platform powers a daily average of three billion daily recommendations to over 300 million monthly visitors across publications such as USA Today, TMZ, The New York Times and Huffington Post. Taboola and other content marketing platforms have long been criticized for their lack of transparency. As a result, Taboola recently added “Sponsored Content” and “Promoted Content” indicators to its widget. It also now lets users flag content they don’t like, giving individuals more control of their browsing experiences while helping companies better target their content.
TripleLift – Sponsored images
TripleLift is is an image-based advertising platform which aims to replace banners with meaningful and engaging native image-based ads. The TripleLift platform repurposes a company’s images from social networks like Pinterest and turns them into ads which are designed to blend in with the other images on a webpage. TripleLift tracks the popularity of different images on social networks and repurposes only the most popular images. On the average day, TripleLift analyzes over 24 million images from brands such as Martha Stewart and H&M. Currently these native image ads can be found on sites like Foodgawker and Pictacular among others. Gucci also used the platform to launch its Fall/Winter 2012 digital campaign.
Disqus – Sponsored link
Disqus is a commenting service platform which can be integrated seamlessly into websites and blogs for interactive and engaging discussions. The Disqus platform adds a feature-rich comment system to sites, offering a host of community management features including social network integration and advanced administration. Disqus also offers a Promoted Discovery feature which appears in a box below the Disqus comments section and highlights other articles readers might like. This feature increases the number of pages viewed on average by 56 percent and time spent on pages by 166 percent. The platform has been well received and is being used by companies such as MTV, American Express, Citibank and Intel to advertise their brand.
Songza – Sponsored playlists
Songza is a music platform which provides listeners with playlists tailored to their mood or current activity. In this way, Songza hopes to provide listeners with the best music for any particular situation. The tailored playlists are compiled by Songza’s team which includes music journalists, critics, DJs and musicians. Songza also offers a unique advertising channel which it calls Branded Moments, where any brand can sponsor a life moment such as driving or working out. Some of these life moments have already been sponsored by companies including Nissan, Samsung, Victoria’s Secret and Colgate. By sponsoring a playlist, brands are inadvertently interacting with consumers and getting them to associate positively with the brand.
The online browsing experience is becoming increasingly sophisticated and personalized. Online ads that hope to engage users need to adapt accordingly. The reality is that there is increasingly less room for intrusive online ads. These and other startups are beginning to usher in an ad revolution.