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B2B Native Advertising

B2B Native Advertising Takes Over Online Spend

Online advertising for B2B — and specifically native advertising — featured prominently in our latest blog post on the four types of B2B advertising to watch this year.

B2B Advertising Recap

In that post, we highlighted the shift from print to online advertising in Year-over-Year spending from 2017 to 2018. Online B2B ad spend increased a full 40 percent.

What we found interesting was that, even with that increase, cross-platform advertising is not as common among B2B advertisers. Only 11 percent of B2B advertisers are running their ads across both print and digital channels, regardless of the publication.

With this increased investment from B2B brands in online channels, we saw the majority of ad spend online going to direct buys — and the percentage of B2B ad dollars going to direct placements has been steadily rising over the past 2 years.

B2B Online Spend by Quarter Direct v. Programmatic Chart

Most of the growth in direct advertising online is attributed to native advertising. This leaves us with a question: what is it about native advertising that makes the format so appealing for B2B brands?

In this post we dive into both how the native advertising trend has taken shape and what it looks like in practice.

Trends in native advertising growth for B2B

When looking at how the growth trend unfolded throughout 2018, we see native advertising had a steady increase in adoption, with growth in every quarter.

B2B Native by Month Chart

When compared to mobile, video and display ads, the format that saw the most growth in 2018 by B2B advertisers was by far native content.

B2B Brands Advertising with Native Content 2018

We want to clarify: native advertising saw the biggest growth year-over-year between 2017 and 2018 and display ads saw the smallest. But display ads remains the most dominant format used by B2B advertisers by far. This is a discussion of growth, not volume.

The top categories driving this increase in native B2B Advertisers were realtors, legal services, and tech recruiting.

B2B Advertising Recap

B2B native advertising in action

B2B brands with a budget can now place advertisements directly in front of their business audience on major news sites and blogs without having it appear as an ad.

Instead of a digital display ad, native advertising articles typically appear in line with the website’s offerings with a disclaimer — albeit a relatively small one. The idea isn’t to hide the fact that the brand is advertising. It’s to be honest about the fact that the brand is ‘partnering’ with the publication to provide relevant content to both their audiences. It’s for everyone’s benefit.

Example: Lake Whillans in Above the Law

This article on litigation finance is posted like any other blog post on the Above the Law publication, or any other business blog post from Lake Whillans, the sponsor of the content. The difference is that this post can be positioned high on the home page or under the ‘finance’ section, and features the Lake Whillans brand prominently.

Lake Whillans

Example: Slack in The New York Times

This headline could fit in well with The New York Times’ business or tech section. Slack provides an honest overlook of the topic, but also positions their tool to answer the problem posed in the article.

Slack NY Times Ad

What native advertising has to offer B2B brands

Native advertising offers the same thing to B2B brands that it does to B2C brands: the audience is more likely to look at and engage with them.

The ‘advertorial’ examples above do not immediately push the solutions that the sponsoring brands offer. Instead, they engage with a conversation that the audience is likely already having.

Writing at the Native Advertising Institute, Chris Richardson writes that native advertising allows brands to “create more brand-centric ads but packed in a well-written story. Advertisers will not hide the brand promotion anymore, they will expose it completely. This type of honesty will attract users with its sheer simplicity and openness.”

If publishers are not already offering native advertising, they should give the prospect a more serious look. If they already are, it may be worth exploring how to expand the native ad and ‘advertorial’ opportunities for the publication. With native advertising, publishers can simultaneously offer new formats for advertisers and more value for their own audience.

B2B Advertising Recap