Use “ad nativity” to increase the performance of your Content ads.


By Bob Kemper

Director of Operations,
Marketing Experiments

When you visit many websites, contextual advertisements gaudily frame the content that you came to find. They form banner ads at the top or towers along the sides and seem to shout to you from the sidelines to abandon what you came to see and click on them instead. Based upon our own research experience, and upon anecdotal reports from others, click through rates from these ads are low… typically a fraction of one percent.

So, why are so few content seekers clicking on these ads? We don’t have a definitive answer to this question, but we do know from our tests that ads which looked “native” to the site or “blend in” received noticeably higher click through rates.

One contributing factor is the growing threat of computer viruses and adware which makes many people reluctant to click on anything that they didn’t specifically request. Others may not even “see” the ads per se. In a variation of banner blindness, elements of a page to which we came for specific purpose, such as a game score or How-to home repair article, are filtered subconsciously as “not what I came for”.

The primary goal of these contextual (a.k.a. content) ads is to garner a click, not to close a sale; this is the job of the landing page. With this in mind, ads that appear native to the site may pass through the “not what I came for” filter and better serve the central purpose of contextual advertising – sparking enough curiosity from a person interested in an offer-related topic to garner a click.

In a recent Web Clinic, Marketing Experiments shared the findings of three tests on “ad nativity” to study why ads that blended in with the content of a site consistently outperformed traditional ads that stood out from their surrounding content. An audio recording of the web clinic and the complete Journal Brief “How Matching Ad Design to Context Improved Conversion by 127%” is now available at the Marketing Experiments Journal.

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