Native advertising, which is consumed in the same way as program content, has ebbed and flowed across media categories for decades. In digital media, the trend has been upward for a few years. 2014 has been a year in which the streaming audio market has embraced native campaigns, and signs point to increased adoption by advertisers, and increased offerings by publishers.
A recent report in eMarketer, based on data from Mixpo, shows that over half of U.S. publishers offer native ad solutions. eMarketer reports that other datasets indicate even higher adoption. “Native advertising is here to stay,” eMarketer declares.
Headlines verify the trend. High-profile web publisher Vox Media obtained a major funding round, and simultaneously hired Lindsay Nelson from slate to head Vox Creative, which builds custom native campaigns for brands.
Native in Streaming Audio
In audio, RAIN News has explored native customizations created by Pandora which integrate brand presence and brand messaging deeply into the Pandora listening experience, far beyond standard spot purchases. In addition to elaborate one-off customizations, Pandora launched “Sponsored Listening,” a platform in which brands co-create and present playlists that can be added to a user’s listening lineup.
Cathy Csukas, co-founder of ad-repping firm AdLarge, told RAIN that the trend is broad. “Native advertising is definitely on the rise. Native advertising integrates the advertiser with the direct interests of the consumer. Advertising doesn’t get any better than that.”
Csukas mentioned that the rising popularity of podcasting expands possibilities for advertisers. For that perspective, RAIN News talked to Lex Friedman of Midroll Media, an ad network of podcasts — Friedman is EVP of Sales and Development. He told us that native is Midroll Media’s exclusive product.
“All we offer across all 170 of our shows are live host reads. It’s the podcasters themselves who are reciting the ads during show breaks. The more personal we’re able to make those spots, the better they do. I encourage advertisers to provide talking points instead, so the host can have more freedom to ad-lib around the copy, inject their own personality.”
What Do the Advertisers Think?
We asked how enthusiastic advertisers are about delivering a loose message that a podcast host can riff on.
“That varies according to both the podcaster and the advertiser. The advertiser can provide a script, and the host can read it verbatim. but many of them are eager, and we see a lot of bullet-point copy. I think both types can and do work. But when advertisers hear samples of hosts having more fun and freedom [when delivering spots], they’re eager to get that style.”
Intimacy is a key ingredient in the effectiveness of native ads in podcasts, according to Friedman.
“It’s an intimate medium. When you listen to the podcast, it’s the host right in your ear. A kind of trust and respect develops for that host. The host can leverage that reputation with the listener: ‘Look, you trust me, and here is a vetted advertiser, and I think you’re going to be interested.'”
Friedman notes Midroll Media’s host-veto policy — both the advertiser and the host must agree on the campaign for it to run.
For Cathy Csukas of AdLarge, the key value of native is relevancy to the listener.
“Brands are finding new and unique ways to embed themselves into the fabric of each show and the consumer is exposed to a marketing message that is molded to their active listening session.”
It seems to be working at Midroll Media. Friedman told us that his stable of advertisers has grown from 40 a year ago to 150 today, and that 90% of clients re-up their campaigns after the original run. “It’s very clear that the ads are working.”