How do you drive brand awareness and sales with native advertising, and how do you fit native into your media mix? The answer: By finding the perfect mix of emotion, information, and sales.

When attending native advertising seminars in Sweden and abroad, speakers often focus on inspiring and cool content, buzzwords, and creative gut feelings. It is less common to see diagrams and numbers on actual ad effects based on data.

That may sound like a boring way to go, but it doesn’t have to be. In 2018, we at Schibsted Brand Studio launched the world’s largest native advertising study to remedy this. Native advertising is trending and growing revenues, and we saw the need to further investigate the actual effects of this form of communication.

We chose to examine this on three of Sweden’s leading news sites — where 16 advertisers joined the study and research partner Inizio collected data from more than 20,000 respondents — to be analysed by the Stockholm School of Economics to measure the advertising effects of native text articles.

Our main objective was to find the tools to help brands create great commercial content, as well as scaling campaigns to maximise effect for the advertiser and revenues for the publisher. We wanted to answer an important question: What can brands and content producers do to make sure the effect is at its absolute best?

Over the past few years, Schibsted has conducted several studies on display ads (short digital exposures), two mobile studies, and one focused on data and context. The native text study aimed to focus on long digital exposures.

Four article content types were identified for the study to see which performed best. Results suggest that each type is effective in different ways.
Four article content types were identified for the study to see which performed best. Results suggest that each type is effective in different ways.

The foundation of the study was the articles written by the editors in Schibsted Brand Studio divided into four types for each of the 16 advertisers that looked at informative versus emotional and product-focused versus category-focused content.

Product-focused articles presented the product with facts and arguments or emotions connected to the product. Meanwhile, category-focused articles either taught with general guidance or evoked strong emotions.

More than 400,000 readers and answers from well over 20,000 survey respondents were then analysed and measured on awareness, brand attitude, curiosity, category interest, brand preference, and purchase intent.

All articles types resulted in significant brand lifts. However, product-informative articles had by far the highest brand lift. The more you mention the brand, the higher the brand lift. But we also saw that this type of article had difficulties attracting readers compared to category-focused, emotional articles, which performed 30% better in terms of clicks on headlines.

Different types of native articles can play a role at each stage of the funnel.
Different types of native articles can play a role at each stage of the funnel.

The conclusion is that you reach people further down the marketing funnel with product-informative articles, while the emotional articles tend to attract new potential customers. Therefore, a mix of these different article types is essential in succeeding with your native content.

All six brand metrics combined into one number shows that some campaigns got really high lifts. The campaigns that performed the best had some things in common: timing, cases, and client testimonials that readers could identify with. The content was also news driven, promoted new products, or had a sense of presenting something new. Since all campaigns ran on news sites, this created higher relevance for the reader.

The optimal way to plan your digital campaign is in a customer journey. Video or Out of Home are good examples on reaching people at the stage where they are less adoptive to commercial messages. Entering the informative or evaluation stage, native text articles are an effective tool to get the customer more interested in either the brand or the product.

Key takeaways:

  • Be active when the consumer enters the funnel.
  • When relevant, mention the brand or product.
  • Teach customers new information.
  • Make people curious.

Display is best added as an “always on” but with different creatives throughout the journey. Our native specialists share insights from the study with media buyers all over Sweden, making sure all advertisers and media agencies can create the best native content possible.