Major properties like Google Maps and Apple’s App Store are embracing native ads as an innovative way to generate revenue off of relevance.
If you’re an app store purist or a long-time fan of Google Maps, you might want to sit down for this news: Both platforms intend to offer native ads through their app-based services.
For Google Maps, these ads will come in the form of “featured pins.” According to Search Engine Land, these will promote a business or a branded promotion on a map independent of, or tangentially related to, the map search being executed. Apple’s App Store, meanwhile, will provide search-based ads to developers for the first time ever, ending an era in which apps were discovered based purely off of their relevance to search queries, per Tech Crunch.
Nothing is sacred, it seems. But that might not be a bad thing. In many ways, Google and Apple are making advertising decisions that align with the preferences consumers have made clear. Which means interrupt advertising is going out of style, and fast.
In announcing these new advertising channels, Google Maps cited the ability to deliver “customized experiences” to users, while Apple cited the “relevant environment” of its App Store. While revenue is at the heart of this move, it’s unlikely either company would make a money-minded move at the risk of alienating its users. Rather, the tech giants are simply calculating that native advertising will be well-received by their regular users.
The End of Interrupt Advertising
If you’re annoyed by telemarketing calls, pop-up and banner ads, autoplay ads, and other interrupting forms of advertising, you’re in luck: These long-held means of reaching consumers are on their way out. Consumers hate to be interrupted, and in the case of older forms like telemarketing, they always have.
But online, the average user has much more control in what they see, and when. Ad blockers have shifted control into the hands of consumers, and younger internet users are extremely aggressive in pushing these ads to the periphery. According to HubSpot, 59 percent of 18-to-24 year-olds eitherhave an ad blocker already installed, or have plans to get one. Even among the 45-and-over crowd, 27 percent of ad blockers in place, and another 18 percent want one.
This simple software effectively kills banner, pop-up and other forms of online display advertising. But publishers and platforms need the revenue advertising has to offer, while businesses need outlets to dispense their brand message, connect with consumers, and create customers. So instead of ads disappearing from the internet, companies are simply finding better methods of delivering these ads.
Instead of seeking out workarounds to present the same type of ad, they’re taking cues from consumers and trying to provide a better experience. Native ads are the next big thing in advertising, and it’s easy to see why: Not only can they dispense a brand message and reach a large audience, but they can also be crafted with a high degree of relevance and displayed in ways that don’t offend the consumer.
Relevance as a Guiding Light
It comes down to personalization for the digital consumer. Everyone wants to feel like the internet was made exactly for them. Even if that’s not entirely true, it’s clear that consumers want personalization. They want the data they share with brands to translate to better experiences, customized service, and relevant content everywhere they turn.
Native advertising fits perfectly into this mold. This content is typically targeted to a specific audience—in some cases, a very small one. The content is also designed to be highly engaging, using best practices for content creation. And the content, when delivered to that targeted audience, is highly relevant to their interests.
Apple’s App Store ads are a perfect illustration of how relevance is understood and valued by brands. The advertising platform built into the app store will prioritize relevance above all other factors, and use an app’s metadata to build ads, rather than having ad creators build the ads themselves. This will ensure ads are more relevant to consumer interests, and that the ads more closely reflect the content of the apps. App publishers won’t have as easy a time trying to bend the rules to expose their ads to a larger audience, while frustrating consumers at the same time.
Apple is betting that it can monetize its App Store, and as long as the paid ads don’t lead to a decline in relevance to consumers, they won’t offend their users. Given what we know about consumers and native advertising, it’s not a bad gamble.
Borrowing from Success Stories
Google Maps isn’t launching in-map advertising on a whim. The company is responding to changing behaviors among its users, which are heavily mobile and increasingly local: The company noted that local searches are growing 50 percent faster than overall mobile searches.
Consequently, the market for local advertising has opened up. And Google Maps isn’t the first such app to try and monetize its mapping technology. Waze, which is owned by Google, has already been offering location-based ads that promote restaurants and other businesses, sometimes by offering a promotion to users. It’s likely Google used insights from Waze’s success to build a framework for native advertising on its primary mapping platform.
And years before Waze, MapQuest was embracing a bold new strategy by offering paid ads in its maps. In some ways, MapQuest’s strategy shift toward discovery and explanation was right in line with the experience-centric mobile strategies that have proven so effective in recent years, according to Search Engine Land. Google Maps has always been more utilitarian, while Waze’s features have blended Google’s information and accuracy with engaging map experiences more akin to what MapQuest has sought. Now, however, Google’s data has aligned with the ad strategies these brands have pioneered. The result is “Featured Pins.”
Native advertising may not be everywhere yet, but it’s clearly becoming more popular for publishers and pushing brands into innovative territories. If consumers develop native fatigue from the impending slog of content, remember: They were the ones to open the floodgates.