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Industry Insight | Winter 2020

20 Native Advertising Trends for 2020

As Meredith’s custom content studio, The Foundry is the hub of all things native advertising that flow through the company, so we’re immersed every day in what’s happening in the advertising and native content world, and over the years have seen trends come and go.  Herewith, our take on what some of the biggest native content trends of 2020 will be.

  1. A Clearer Distinction Between Editorial and Native Content: The pendulum has swung back and forth quite a bit on the rules separating “church” (editorial) and “state” (native advertising). We’re predicting that separation to become more clearly defined, as audiences become even more savvy, and the advertising regulations become stricter and better enforced.
  2. Embracing “Less is More” for Content Volume: We’ve all faced the challenge of stretching production budgets and building as many assets as possible for a native campaign. But does all that content doesn’t actually move the needle with an audience? Look for “Less is More” to become a fresh rallying cry in 2020, at least when it comes to standout content. We’re seeing clients leaning into campaigns with higher production values, combined with a diversified distribution strategy for a stronger impact.
  3. Publishers Looking to Optimize User Experience: Banner blindness and advertising fatigue are real—even when ads are aesthetically and contextually relevant. Audience engagement is paramount, and publishers are raising the bar on interactivity and personalization of content to provide audiences with a deeper and more engaging content experience.
  4. Interactive Content & Personalization: One way publishers will optimize user experience in 2020 is through interactive formats across digital, social and video. Think 360°, “Choose Your Own Adventure” or hot-spot video formats, AR-enable mobile advertisements, and more quizzes, infographics and polls. If you provide ways for the viewer to interact with your content beyond reading and watching, the more time they’ll spend with your content and the more personalized experience it will be.
  5. Interactive Social Media: We’ll continue to see content creators leaning into the interactive capabilities that social media platforms are rolling out, such as Instagram’s polling sticker and Q&A widget, which not only help to counteract mindless swiping, but can also help content creators determine what native content to publish in the first place.  Instead of guessing what the audience wants to see, why not just ask them?
  6. Ephemeral Content: TikTok, Instagram Stories, Snapchat. While the Gen-Z-popularized ephemeral content isn’t new in 2020, we expect to see smarter utilization of the content type by brands and publishers alike. Ephemeral content—or short-form content meant to disappear after a set period of time, usually 24 hours—instills a sense of FOMO in viewers in a snackable format ideal for short attention spans.
  7. Native Content Shoppability: Native content has never been just about driving awareness, but that is more true now than ever before.  Advertisers are looking to publishers to turn inspiration into action—now.  In 2020, this means further use of interactive tools like QR Codes in print, shoppable modules that drive directly to purchase in digital native articles and videos, and impactful social content that clicks or swipes directly to an advertiser’s site for purchase.
  8. Brands Experimenting with Longer Forms of Storytelling:  Much native content is short and sweet. But if there’s room to experiment, longer-form content—podcasts; episodic video; branching, choose-your-own-adventure storytelling—offer great opportunities in 2020. Longform can help a client align subject matter with a passionate audience or build a more complex story around a brand or product’s attributes. Total engagements may be fewer, but the quality of that engagement can provide a more lasting connection for advertisers.
  9. Advertisers Looking for Further Synergies Across Platforms: While many agency buying teams are still siloed between print, digital, and TV, we expect to see increased asks for more synergies across platforms.  As the ease of use of mobile technology continues to grow, so too does the population interacting with these tools, so making cross-platform connections will only become easier.  Tools like QR Codes, which have been around for years, are now easier to interact with than ever, and publishers are looking for new ways to leverage them in native content.
  10. Leveraging Content Partners for Traditional Digital Media Campaigns: As part of these synergies, agencies are also looking to consolidate who is making the content. Rather than working with separate entities to create digital advertisements; banners and print ads; social media campaigns; and custom content, many are turning to publishers to address them all.
  11. “Turnstyle” Mobile Video Format: Vertical video has been the talk of the town since the proliferation of Stories (Samsung even unveiled a vertical TV at CES), but Hollywood-level storytellers have remained tied to horizontal filming. Quibi, the much talked about new mobile-only streaming company, is combining both by requiring all filmmakers on the platform deliver two cuts of every episode so viewers can see optimized content no matter how they’re holding their phone. We’re excited that this technology allows us the opportunity for out-of-the-box filming techniques and storytelling opportunities. No matter the success of Quibi’s April 6 launch, we expect this dynamic format to continue into maturation.
  12. Increased Focus on Storytelling Diversity: We believe the message of a final piece of content is intrinsically linked to the POV of its storytellers (directors, writers, editors, producers) and we can tell more inclusive stories by having more diverse voices behind the scenes. We love that movements like Free the Work and #SeeHer are gaining prominence and advertisers are taking note—we at Foundry are here for it!
  13. Clients’ Interest in Podcasts Will Reach New Heights: Podcasts are not new, but in 2020, more advertisers than ever say they want to harness the medium’s power for their brands. This will happen, in part, because podcasts have a unique ability to engage. For a society wedded to earbuds and mobile devices, they provide a perfect complement to our daily routines. For brands that care about storytelling, the podcast form is incredibly malleable—from interview-style conversationals to single-voice, highly produced narratives and beyond.
  14. Audio: It’s Not Just Podcasts: As mentioned, podcasts have been hitting a major stride—but it’s not the only audio game in town!  As the penetration of smart home and audio devices increases rapidly, we’ll see a more sophisticated use of these tools for personalized native content experiences.
  15. Sophisticated Audience Targeting Strategies: As competition for whitespace and consumer awareness grows fiercer, custom content is being designed according to specific audience preferences to ensure campaign success and drive the highest return on ad dollars. Ad targeting strategies are becoming increasingly more focused on individual consumers than channels or platforms.
  16. Retargeting to Strengthen Content ROI: Native content is driving an ever-greater share of display ad dollars, so it only makes sense that we see native playing a bigger role in advertisers’ retargeting efforts. Native sits at the top of the funnel, helping drive awareness and creating a more meaningful engagement between consumers and an advertiser’s message. A sound retargeting strategy helps clients go deeper down the funnel, with display advertising retargeted to those consumers with a clear product message. We’ll see retargeting with native content become even more valuable, helping to further educate interested consumers and steer them toward purchase.
  17. Navigating the New Rules Around Data Usage: While on the one hand, audience targeting is becoming more and more sophisticated, on the other hand, the next two years hold many changes in store for how publishers will be able to use audience data. GDPR and the CCPA are just the beginning—expect to see further privacy laws impact the way the media industry does business and targets content. The good news for advertisers? Even in this environment, publishers like Meredith are in a great position to continue to create targeted content due to our wealth of first party data.
  18. The Rise of Bespoke Media Brands: Consider the success of a magazine like Magnolia Journal.  In an age where everything is custom and personalized, niche brands are primed to be the perfect complement to broad audience reach. Niche brands provide advertisers with the opportunity to align native content with editorial content that reaches a specific audience, and publishers like Meredith are in a perfect position to support these niche brand launches while simultaneously providing advertisers access to a massive audience.
  19. Relatable Influencers are Trustworthy: Influencers earn sales, trust and advocacy for brands. In a 2019 study conducted by Edelman, 63% of participants said they trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves in their advertising. The study also found that the relatability of the influencer was nearly twice as important as the influencers’ popularity to respondents.
  20. Reemergence of Real People and UGC: This trend in relatability and trustworthiness doesn’t stop with influencers—who is more trustworthy than an unpaid customer? In 2020, we’ll see brands put their own staff and their real customers at the forefront with more than just testimonials, but in marketing materials intended to humanize the brand and forge a person-to-person connection.

And there you have it!  Twenty trends we have our eyes on for 2020.  What do you think the trends of the year will be?