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June 20, 2016

According to Business Insider, spending on native ads is slated to hit $21 billion by 2018—up from just $4.7 billion in 2013—so now is a great time to revisit your native advertising strategy. Companies that invest in native ads are seeing their investment pay off: Marketing Land notes that a Mobile Market Association study shows consumers spend 40 percent more time interacting with native ads than traditional ones.

As consumers become wary of advertising in general, native ads' organic look and feel is an asset, whether they're on a media site or in a social news feed—but if you're not seeing amazing results yet, how can you track your native ad performance and know whether to stay the course or pivot your strategy?

Signs It's Time to Pivot
Sometimes a strategy turns out not to be the best approach for you. While it can be difficult to know when it's time to try something new, there are a few key signs to look out for. If your current strategy has any of these characteristics, it may be time to pivot and change course.

You're Not Diversified
Marketers are most familiar with native ads as sponsored posts. However, today's native ad landscape is rich and diversified, including social content, videos, recommendation widgets, and in-app content. If you're not taking advantage of all that's out there, you're missing chances to connect with customers. For example, Purina targets their Facebook fans with highly shareable Purina Dog Chow "Puppyhood" videos that can win and grow brand attention, while over on Buzzfeed, a quiz to determine your dog's personality can reach an audience of young millennial dog lovers, and onTwitter, they ran a fund raising campaign around the hashtag #RollOverHunger to reach an audience of pet owners who are passionate about helping homeless pets. Failing to take advantage of such diversity in your native campaign is one sign that your current strategy is too limited and that it may be time to shake things up.

Your Click-Through Rates (CTRs) Are Low
Business Insider reports that mobile native ads have a CTR of 1 percent, with desktop CTR at 0.15 percent. Consider your campaign's performance against these industry benchmarks and publication/platform benchmarks. Though CTRs aren't everything, if users aren't clicking, your creative or channel may be misaligned with the target audience.

Your Ads Aren't Reflecting Your Voice
There's a strong emphasis on native ads blending with the visuals and voice of the target publication, but if there's a disconnect between your ads and your brand, it's time to rethink your strategy. Native ads should be on-brand to connect with your ideal customers. When Warner Bros. was promoting Batman v Superman, they published a spotlight on film villain Lex Luthor Jr. and his fictional company LexCorp in Fortune. The format and the tone echo that of the publication, but not without a tantalizing hint of comic book drama. Here, Warner Bros. wisely makes the most of the host platform without compromising their brand voice.

Signs It's Time to Hold
Sometimes, even though you may not see the results you want right away, it makes sense to keep at it and give your campaign time to take hold. Here are three signs that your strategy is headed in the right direction.

Your Conversions Are Strong

Your native ads may not be driving a significant amount of traffic, but that traffic may have a high conversion rate. If so, your ads are well-targeted and driving highly qualified leads. Despite a low CTR, strong conversions are a sign you're on the right track and making a positive contribution to the bottom line.

Your Brand Performance Is Improving
An Opera Mediaworks and comScore study found that native ads can drive mobile brand recall at 2x the control. Native ads that showcase your brand name, products, or visuals may help increase awareness with audiences: something that's hard to do in today's sea of content. Positive brand-related ROI is a sign to stay the course.

It's Getting You Onto Mobile Platforms

A brand's mobile presence is critical as mobile device use grows. However, some brands struggle to find the right format to connect with mobile customers. If native mobile ads are getting your brand into your customer's smartphones and tablets, it should remain part of your mix. Try different messaging and formats until you determine what resonates for you on this channel. 

One thing to consider if you want to improve your in-app performance is to advertise within an established app rather than creating your own. People tend to access the same handful of apps every day, so while they may love your app for the first few days after they download it, it's not uncommon for usage to wane afterward. Think about apps that people will access every day (such as Waze). You can reach users every day if you buy native ads within apps like this that have high usage, as opposed to trying to create your own app and enticing people to use it.

From in-feed units to recommendation widgets, native ads are providing marketers with another channel to reach consumers. Evaluate your strategy to make sure you're generating strong results, and don't be afraid to experiment with new things. Brands are still learning what works with mobile—so now's the time to invest in what's right for you.

Need a Shortcut?
1. Native ad spending is projected to grow to $21 billion by 2018.
2. Pivot your native advertising strategy if your ads aren't diversified, don't generate strong CTRs, or don't reflect your brand voice.
3. Stay the course if you're generating qualified leads, improving brand recall with your target audience, and establishing a sustainable mobile presence.
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