Why Google’s AdSense Native ads are the tipping point for native advertising

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Google recently launched AdSense Native ads, a series of new native ad formats that are designed to match the look and feel of publisher websites, prompting some to call it “an enormous step forward” that “will propel [Google] further in…dominating the world’s advertising market” and allow the search giant to better compete with native ad providers like Taboola and Outbrain.

AdSense Native ads are available in three formats:

  • In-feed ads fit inside a list of articles or products on a given site;
  • In-article ads allow users to place ads between the paragraphs of a publisher’s pages;
  • And content recommendation tool Matched Content, which is available to eligible publishers, promotes advertiser content to visitors.

The name of the game is offering a better experience to site visitors.

But it’s also a big moment for native advertising, full stop.

In fact, Ben Young, chief executive of native content analytics platform Nudge, called this the “tipping point for native” because it’s a sign native is moving through the adoption curve.

“All the analysis points to native replacing display [as] the bulk of advertising revenue,” Young said. “Google won’t let that revenue go to waste and its strength has always been [that it has] high-end enterprise accounts buying ads through [it], but also medium and small businesses.”

And that’s why Young said the final step in this evolution will be when native ads are available on AdWords as well as this network is huge among small businesses.

“Without self-serve, you won’t get mass penetration,” Young said. “A lot of native is only available to high-end advertisers.”

Nevertheless, Kevin Flood, chief executive of native advertising platform PowerLinks Media, agreed Google’s native ad formats on AdSense will certainly help Google move closer to dominating the ad market. And that’s thanks to what native ads offer.

“If you look at the ad market as a whole, we’ve spent 15 years existing on ad formats that are not built for purpose and they tend to take a step away from creativity and interaction a brand and human would have in an ideal world,” Flood said. “The native revolution for the last two to three years, which is certainly picking up pace now, is an acknowledgement from marketers and from [technology providers] that the user experience needs to be better and the content we deliver needs to have a bit of value and creativity behind it, which is something that was missing for a long time.”

And this is even though Google is a little late to the game here, following even the likes of Yahoo with Yahoo Gemini, Flood said.

“The fact that Google entered the native ad market is an incredible testament to the level of performance native advertising can deliver for a brand as well as the level of engagement it garners from the average human being reading the web,” Flood said.

And Google’s vote of confidence also proves the format enables brands to communicate with consumers with higher quality content and more engaging messaging, Flood said. It further demonstrates native can deliver performance and the native market has matured.

“The targeting is there and the volume of content is there to tell a full story to a user from brand engagement to the decision-making process to conversion,” Flood said.

As a result, Google will likely see an incremental lift in its own inventory given AdSense already has huge reach, he added.

“Making AdSense native will immediately increase user engagement because the ads will look better and will be more mobile-friendly and will be a better canvas for brands to not only deliver direct response, but content messages, and it will be a more personalized experience for people and more visually engaging.”

And now, Flood said, the players that disrupted Google with bottom-of-the-page placements like Taboola and Outbrain may, in turn, find themselves disrupted.

However, Flood also pointed out that even though Google and Facebook dominate the flow of ad dollars in general, major publishers who own the kind of real estate Google is going after are building their own platforms. That includes companies like Verizon after its recent acquisitions becoming content- and data-driven players that could potentially rival Facebook and Google.

“You see that trend across other [players like] News Corp., Time Inc., [etc.],” Flood said. “The battle is far from won, but, all in all, [the adoption of native is] great for users browsing the web, it’s a massive improvement in the quality of the web and, on other side, it’s a big coup for brands to deliver holistic messages and get performance.”

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