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Tumblr exec: Leverage mobile native advertising to humanize brands

NEW YORK ? A Tumblr executive at ad:tech New York 2013 said that brands should view native advertising on mobile as a way to interact with consumers in a natural and human fashion that fits in with the spirit of the site.

During the ?Go native: Making native ads work for mobile? session, executives from Tumblr and Quartz discussed best practices for native advertising on mobile. The session was moderated by Tom Foran, North American general manager at Outbrain, New York.

?At the end of the day the idea that a brand can put content out and that content happens to advertise at the same time, I think that?s pretty amazing,? said David Hayes, head of canvas at Tumblr, New York.

?On the Internet you can?t really tell the difference between a brand and a human being,? he said. ?The idea that native advertising makes brands act more like human beings, if you want to be native, first study your user?s native behavior. Eventually you can act like native and then in the long run you will become native.?

Be human
Tumblr is a platform that lets users post multimedia content in short-form blogs. Its dashboard interface lets users follow other bloggers, and Tumblr integrated a native advertising platform into the mobile dashboard this past April.

The mobile ads take the form of standard Tumblr post but are marked by an animated dollar sign.

While Tumblr may not be as popular as Facebook or Twitter, its user base is loyal to the space, and if properly targeted, could be valuable consumers for marketers. The user base also tends to be younger and more tech-savvy consumers who may not be as receptive to simple banner ads.

According to Mr. Hayes, brands need to understand the soul and essence of a community in order to infiltrate it and provide natural content that happens to also advertise a brand.

At Tumblr, brands are asked to start blogging within a community before placing any native ads. That way they can get into the minds of their target audience and provide content that is truly native.

Mr. Hayes also advises that brands first and foremost respect their consumers. Instead of trying to jump straight to the click-throughs, it is important to take the time to create a strategy that will engage consumers in a meaningful way.

One specific native mobile ad that Mr. Hayes touted was GIFs. Three out of four of the top ten ads on Tumblr are in GIF format.

GIFs are moving images that loop automatically and do not require a consumer to click at all.

?Gif?s have a trendy stereotype, Mr. Hayes said.  ?I tend to think it?s the best part of the video and photo put together. They?re collectible.

?You don?t have to get anyone to click a button for anyone to receive your brand message, they just start to loop in front of you,? he said. ?I think that is the dominant format of our generation.?

One brand that successfully placed a GIF on Tumblr was Converse. They used a GIF of a dancing shoe in order to infiltrate the artist and GIF community on Tumblr.

According to Mr. Hayes mobile native ads on Tumblr see a three percent engagement rate, which is about three times the standard mobile engagement rate. Thirty days after releasing a mobile native ad on Tumblr, brands tend to see engagement rates increase by around 30 percent.

Mr. Hayes believes that the content is the driver when it comes to native. It is all about finding the right messaging and imagery to naturally reach your target audience.

Placement practices
For Jay Lauf, senior vice presidentt/group publisher at Quartz, New York, however, placement is ultimately more important than the content when it comes to native advertising.

Mr. Lauf believes that  properly placing an ad leads to a consumer encountering it the same way he or she would encounter normal content on the site, leading to higher engagement.

?I think when you talk about native, in my mind one of the things that defines it is placement,? Mr. Lauf said. ?Is it encountered in the same way that the other content on the site is natively encountered.

?I think that actually does make a difference because it makes it feel like, ?OK this is something I want to engage with. It has the same feel as what I came here to read.??

Mr. Lauf also thinks that native advertising needs to be native to not just the specific site but to general functions of the Web in general. For instance, a native ad should be shareable just like any content on the Web.

?I think it?s not that long ago that the two constituents of the pyramid got fixated on their own interests, advertisers who wanted to control their message stick to their talking points without giving any though to those at the top of the pyramid,? Mr. Lauf said. ?What has become crystal clear is that we both, [advertisers and publishers], need to be focused on the reader.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York