Native advertising is booming. eMarketer projects $4 billion in U.S. native ad spending for 2015 while Business Insider forecasts $8 billion. If we meet in the middle that is a $6 billion market and more of the travel sector should join this party. Yes we have seen some early adopters embrace Native like Marriott, Virgin Atlantic and jetBlue but we should see many others in 2015 and into 2016 as roughly two thirds of marketers plan to increase their Native budgets this year. Native advertising is when the ads are interwoven with the content to match the look and feel of the website. Native ads often add value and are more engaging than traditional banner ads. Since 50% of banners are not even viewable it makes sense to try alternatives for your digital campaigns. Native ads can be editorial, photos, videos, email, social or sponsored listings.
Tourism is very well positioned for Native advertising since you are often not quite sure exactly where you want to go and you can be nudged in a certain direction with the right content. Perhaps you are exploring a variety of destinations in your dreaming and research phases. You are watching videos and reading blogs to get a better feel for the potential vacation you might take. A well executed Native campaign could give your destination a chance at this spontaneous leisure traveler. It is possible not only to capture some of the last minute demand but also to influence the longer trips and vacations that require more planning. Many travelers are looking for activities and experiences on their vacation so positioning your destination as one that offers certain options can help you steal market share. Maybe travelers are looking to go horseback riding or hang gliding and they normally would not think about your travel brand until you educated them with sponsored content relevant to those activities.
Tourism Whistler proved this concept with a 16% bump in purchase intent from users exposed to their Native campaign with Yahoo. They also reported an impressive 33% lift in users saying they would recommend Whistler to friends after seeing the mobile Native campaign. Travel Nevada saw similar solid results from their Native ad campaign they rolled out with BuzzFeed. I know everyone likes to hate on BuzzFeed and their listicles but they must be doing something right as they have over 175 million uniques and didn't nab an $850 million valuation last year just because they are funny. These results speak for themselves and were verified by Nielson. Users that saw the Nevada program on BuzzFeed were 77% more likely to think Nevada was a great destination for outdoor activities.
Be sure you set your expectations accordingly. If your main digital campaign goal is visits to your site or sign-ups to your email newsletter, then do not buy banner ads and look for CPC options instead. We recommend that our tourism clients shift dollars away from traditional banners/display ads and into our email and CPC offerings in order to increase their ROI. Native editorial is great but is usually sold on a CPM basis since it gives you plenty of room to tell your story. It does not lead to tons of clicks and sign-ups so you need to have different goals and expectations for different media programs.
It's great to see Native growing but keep in mind we have a long way to go as last year Native only accounted for about 5% of the digital marketing pie. That might be why we still in mid 2015 do not have tons of white papers and stats of other travel success stories with Native advertising just yet. But it's hard to argue with the Nevada results regardless of the campaign running 2 years ago. The future looks bright for more measurement with Native as publishers start to provide additional metrics to gauge success beyond simply impressions or clicks. It will be helpful to know shares, time spent and other similar attention type stats to better evaluate your Native ad campaigns down the road.
As you start planning for the end of 2015 and even 2016 be sure to carve out some ad dollars for Native in order to try something more engaging. We've already seen a few of our DMO clients and their agencies starting to shift some display dollars toward new Native programs. And since we have already confirmed that there are not tons of great tourism case studies out there centered around Native you have an amazing chance of getting some extra exposure if you can share your success.