Why native ads are the next step in the evolution of “mobile first” marketing


Social Advertising

By Steve Wick, Founder & President, MobSoc Media

More companies are adopting a “mobile first” marketing strategy as so many people today are now accessing the web via their smartphones and mobile devices. According to a study from Google and Nielsen, 77% of mobile searches happen at work or home – meaning that even when people are in a location where a computer available to them, more people tend to prefer using their mobile devices even while at home. “Mobile first” is a leading concept in web design, social media interaction,  and app development, as it often makes sense to develop a site that works well on mobile platforms instead of building a separate “mobile version” of a website. “Mobile first” has also become one of the most established concepts in online publishing and marketing, as more companies are looking to find unique advantages for reaching consumers on the go (such as the SoLoMo movement – Social, Local, Mobile – in marketing).

With all of these broader trends underway, it makes sense that native advertising will lead the way toward the new world of “mobile first” marketing. Native ads (also known as “in-stream advertising” or “sponsored content” depending on the publisher or format) are marketing messages that appear in native format alongside or within streams of editorial content.  In a world where more people are accessing the web via mobile devices, native advertising is becoming the new normal in online marketing – and native advertising reinforces the need for advertisers and publishers to think in terms of “mobile first.”

Below are a few examples of why native ads are the ideal next step in the evolution of “mobile first” marketing:

Facebook Launches In-app Mobile Ad Network

Facebook recently unveiled its new in-app mobile ad network, which will enable marketers to use Facebook’s suite of targeting options to reach audiences within other mobile apps based on the Facebook users’ interests and demographic data provided on Facebook. Publishers that have been announced as partners so far to run ads on Facebook’s in-app mobile ad network include Huffington Post and popular mobile app game “Cut the Rope,” and advertisers include Target, Coca-Cola and Audible. The in-app mobile ad network will offer a variety of ad formats, including banners, interstitials and native ads that are similar in experience to Facebook’s newsfeed ads. According to statistics cited in Ad Age, mobile accounted for 59% of Facebook’s ad revenue in the first quarter of 2014, up from 30% a year earlier. Although Facebook is offering multiple ad formats on its new in-app mobile ad network, more advertisers are likely to choose native ads, since the native ad format has proven to be more effective than banner ads. For example, according to an interview with Facebook-owned Instagram CFO Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s native ad campaigns were five times more likely to be remembered by viewers in ad-recall studies than typical digital ads.

Yahoo! Goes “Mobile First” with Native Ads

Yahoo! recently unveiled its first mobile-first native ads which are designed to look and act like the content around them, and will appear within image galleries, article pages and users’ personalized content streams. More than half of Yahoo’s global monthly active users access the site via mobile device, so it’s no surprise that Yahoo is adapting their native ads to suit the mobile device format. Ned Brody, head of Americas at Yahoo, was even quoted stating that they have “reinvented nearly all of our products to be more visually stunning and effortless for our audiences, and we have always believed that the advertising experience should be just as beautiful and engaging.” Native ads are a great choice for a “mobile first” design because people tend to interact with native ads more often than with banner ads. As more sites like Yahoo! move to “mobile first” design, it’s understandable that they will adapt their mobile ad offerings to suit the new design standards.

L.A. Times Introduces “Sharelines”

On May 5, 2014 the Los Angeles Times introduced a redesign of its website to meet the goal of “mobile first” design, with large images and concise “sharelines” to summarize stories in a way that is easily shared on social media. The new L.A. Times website looks a lot more like a digital-only publication than a print publication – the design is less text-heavy and more centered on big visual tiles which can be easily viewed on a small mobile device screen. The L.A. Times adoption of mobile-first design is another sign that leading publishers are moving to a mobile first mindset.

Native Ads Dominate in a Mobile First World

Advertising dollars are likely to continue to flow in the direction of native advertising, especially as “mobile first” becomes the common refrain in online publishing and marketing. According to a native ad market forecast by BIA/Kelsey cited by Business Insider, an estimated $11 billion will be spent on social ads in 2017 and 40% of that amount will be spent on native advertising – and the author of that forecast said that if he was to re-forecast the native ad market today, he would expect it to grow larger at a faster rate.

Native ads are here to stay, and as more brands and publishers move to a mobile first position, the momentum toward native advertising is likely to continue to grow. More people want to access content via mobile devices; more publishers are designing their platforms and advertising inventory in a way that suits the needs of mobile native ads, and more advertisers are directing their spending toward native ads. All of these trends reinforce the fact that in a “mobile first” world, native ads will be more important than ever before.


Steve Wick is the Founder & President of MobSoc Media, based in San Francisco.

Steve Wick is a former Accenture partner with 21 years of experience in both Technology and Strategy practice areas.  He has served a range of clients including Cisco Systems, Intel, HP, Agilent, Boeing Aerospace, Federal Express, Dow Chemical, VISA, Boise Cascade and Microsoft.  He has been an entrepreneur since 2008, with the founding of FanNewscast, a SaaS company that enables custom content marketing applications for brands and the recent formation of MobSoc Media.   

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