You probably know that native advertising is all the rage on social networks, websites and media outlets.
What you may have missed is how native advertising is being executed in the ever-expanding and highly engaged mobile messaging space, a category where companies are making very big bets, with some of the most noteworthy examples being Facebook's $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp last February and Snapchat's recent $10 billion valuation. As the messaging audience quickly approaches 1 billion users worldwide, it's no surprise this is becoming a highly valued medium.
Interestingly enough, these big messaging players aren't harnessing their audiences for advertisers. We have—and here's what we've learned.
One of our recent campaigns was for a new season of a bawdy cable TV comedy. The goal was to push the limits of mobile media and increase viewership of the season two premiere.
Pinger targeted people "sexting" on our network, tagging 130 mild to extremely raunchy keywords. When these words were used, they became clickable and linked to the TV star's landing page where she told users her show was returning.
To cap off the campaign, targeted users received a truly native text message delivered to their inbox from the comedienne, complete with profile image, tongue-in-cheek teaser text and, once opened, users could get a full message from the celeb complete with a video trailer for the show's new season.
The campaign results were staggering:
- The native "inbox message" sent from the title character garnered a 40% CTR, in stark comparison to most mobile benchmarks, which hover around 0.5%.
- The sexting keyword CTR's averaged 0.95% but went as high as 45% depending on the nature (or, shock value in some cases) of the term.
This comedy network isn't our only client jumping on the opportunity to make keywords actionable and natively get their brands into the conversation by engaging with audiences in a 1-to-1 environment with rich messaging sent directly to their target demo.
Another success story was Virgin Mobile, which targeted people complaining to their friends with phrases like, "I hate my phone" or "I need a new phone," which both exceeded a 3% CTR.
A Nike campaign targeted running gear to people talking about "going on a run" or "to the gym." Combined with dayparting, Nike even hit people on their commute home, right when many people are thinking about working out (or should've been).
For the recent "Ninja Turtles" movie, whenever a user texted about "movies" or asked, "What are you doing this weekend," a "Ninja Turtles" ad would be targeted to the user; individuals fitting that demo also received messages, content and movie trailers sent directly from the Turtles themselves. For "The Quiet Ones" and other horror films, advertisers targeted haunting messages to users. As an add-on to these targeting capabilities, rich media units let users watch trailers and even search movie times via Fandango, right in Pinger's messaging app and right in their conversation.
Only time will tell if WhatsApp and Snapchat will harness messaging for advertisers. But since native advertising on mobile is relatively new, the bigger comparison is how these success stories stack up against native units on the desktop.
Overall the biggest difference between the native ads we see online and what's happening in mobile messaging is this: On social media, blog sites and editorial publications, branded content is dropped in front of consumers out of context. It's peppered in between what the user is on that site to do or see. Even if the content is well-produced, it can be flagged as advertising and subsequently ignored. In mobile messaging, native ads are born from the words the user is typing, giving brands a unique opportunity to tap into a relevant conversation and often, add something interesting to it by delivering unique, relevant content in a conversational way that feels more like a personal message for the user than an ad in the middle of their feed.
So what's this look like by the numbers? Well, calculating native advertising solely on CTR doesn't do it justice, but it certainly sheds some light on the matter. Buzzfeed boasts a 1%-to-2% CTR on its sponsored content, which is almost 10 times the industry average. Facebook saw a 187% higher CTR when it began moving ads away from the all-too-ignored right column and into news feeds. According to several industry studies last year, native mobile ads deliver an average CTR of 1.37%.
For Pinger, the 40% CTR of our "sexting" campaign was obviously an outlier due to the nature of the execution. But the average native inbox messaging notches a 20% CTR—still far ahead of the industry average.
Overall, when native is done well and done in the right place, it's more relevant, effective and well-received than ever. Right now, it seems like native messaging has found its sweet spot in mobile messaging.
About the sponsor
Evan Woock is national sales manager at Pinger and has a degree in marketing from the University of Colorado. In the past, he has worked for Sterling Rice Group, a Boulder, Colo., advertising agency and later began his tenure at Pinger as a product manager, helping design Pinger's core line of products on both iOS and Android. He now leads Pinger's sales efforts and has been instrumental in the launch and subsequent growth of Pinger's mobile advertising efforts. Most recently, he has been a part of CLIO-nominated mobile campaigns for large brand clients and has been working to scale new native advertising products for Pinger's communication applications.
Pinger has been creating new and surprisingly simple ways to communicate since 2005.