There’s a lot of discussion about banner ads fading into the sunset while native ads rise to their zenith in a blaze of glory, but what are we really talking about? If you could measure the effect of native advertising and exactly how the old banner ads were analyzed, it’d be easy, but it isn’t that simple.

It’s a little like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, they both are tree fruits, but they are not the same thing. I’ll use mobile advertising as an example because the smaller screen size makes the ads very noticeable.

Banner Ads Are Standardized & We Can Tune Them Out

The measurement guidelines for mobile advertising were finalized after a lot of discussion between various marketing groups. This means that you can collect data and be able to analyze it. We know what we’re dealing with here.

We also know that people tune these ads out a lot of the time. It’s like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons…”bwaaaabwabwabwabwaaaa” and you hear the noise but don’t get the words.

You have an easily-measured format that is also easy to automate, and there is some effectiveness despite the tune-out factor. It’s flexible and relatively inexpensive, but it’s easy to click on accidentally and easy to ignore.

So the push to find an alternative to the easy-to-ignore banner ads is a sub-category of content called native advertising.

Native Ads Are Not Standardized & We Interact With Content

The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) is working on native advertising standards, but it’s still very much in discussion mode. Here’s where the measuring stuff gets tricky, because nobody has clarified exactly what we mean when we say “native ads.” There are some excellent discussions out there, and if you focus on ethics instead of numbers, it’s better for business all around.

The reason native ads are so popular is because they are content that we interact with, which leads to further engagement. You should clearly label the ad as an ad or risk being seen as deceptive, but if your content is carefully crafted to add to your message, it works to bring people to your site. The trick is figuring out what to do, how to do it, and who you are targeting.

This Isn’t A Question Of What Wins, It’s A Question Of What Works

I really think that instead of focusing on what kind of advertising we invest in, we should focus on our customers and keep them in mind. It’s too easy to get sidetracked into the number games of “numbers of clicks” and “number of retargeted ads” and lose sight of what the customer is saying about our business.

If we are using advertising as tools instead of goals, it’s easier to adjust to the variables in the algorithm maze. Ads are tools, no matter what kind of advertising is being used. The skill of the marketer takes that tool and uses it to get a message out to the world – and the message is the important thing.