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Native advertising: A close look at an emerging advertising unit
This paper is a content analysis of a random sample of in-feed native advertising, as curated by the Sharethrough Native Advertising Leaderboard. A native advert is paid content that looks like publisher content and is served in the same feed. Native adverts can earn premium prices for publishers, while giving advertisers a ‘lean in’ format that online readers may actually enjoy. What are these native adverts like? They utilised a mixture of assets including text (almost all), photos (an average of five), videos (almost half had one or more), interactive elements (20 per cent) and GIFs. Only 75 percent of adverts were disclosed. There is no standard for words, placement or graphic treatments used to communicate the disclosure. The adverts also used diverse persuasive approaches. Thirty-four per cent of adverts in the sample contained either no mentions of the brand or just one mention. While some adverts were written with clear calls to action, a few had none and two-thirds had only one. Many of the native adverts used contemporary persuasive appeals, such as ‘click bait’, or teasing the reader to click to gain access to content. Only a few used traditional descriptive headlines.
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David Kamerer is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication at Loyola University Chicago, where he teaches courses in digital media, measurement and public relations, and directs the graduate programme in global strategic communication. He is a former corporate director of communication, and has consulted for nonprofit organisations, startups, agencies and small businesses. He earned a PhD in telecommunications from Indiana University and has accreditations from the Public Relations Society of America (APR) and Google (Google Analytics Individual Qualification).