Last year the Guardian ditched mobile banner ads, now they are unveiling new in-house developed native ads.
Last year, the Guardian recognized growing consumer dissatisfaction with mobile banner ads and stopped serving them, this year they want ad buyers to realize that not all impressions are the same. The company has unveiled two new native mobile and web ad formats, with a third on the way, that is meant to be more engaging and less intrusive than the tired old banner ad. And for now, they won’t be sold as programmatic.
“In this brave new world of programmatic, it’s all become like commodity trading. That worries me because if we’re all judged on a single outcome, it’s a race to the bottom,” Nick Hewat, the Guardian News, and Media’s commercial director told Digiday. “I want to reclaim the term ‘premium.’”
That’s why the Guardian recently launched two new formats, “Guardian Frame” and “Guardian Focus” with a “travel camera” campaign from Canon that has so far been well received. The campaign kicked off with a front page takeover, and have since been featured on the Guardian’s network front, travel, lifestyle, tech, and culture verticals.
“Guardian Frame” is designed as a native ad that exists within the flow of Guardian content and does not distract from the page. Readers can choose to engage with the content or scroll past it to the news they want. “Guardian Focus” is an immersive mobile experience that allows users to engage with an interactive sliding gallery designed for strong image-led campaigns on mobile devices within the app and web.
“The Guardian’s new formats are great for showcasing the incredible images Canon cameras can capture,” said Susie Donaldson, Marketing Director, Canon UK. “It’s fantastic to be able to reach the Guardian’s influential audiences in such compelling, beautiful and impactful ways.”
Brands aren’t the only ones who like the new format. According to Hewat, trials with the new ad formats saw click-through rates (CTRs) 20 times better than regular ads. Meanwhile, the ads see better CTRs, Hewat is hesitant to tie those to purchases, especially for big-ticket items like Canon cameras. For him the ads are all about raising brand awareness and impact.
“The average 0.1 percent CTR is not an outcome,” Hewat explained. “We’re all complicit because we end up coming back to CTR, but we’ll look back on how we relied on CTR as a sole measurement of efficiency and wonder what we were doing.”
As part of the “premium” concept, for now, the ads will not be sold as programmatic but rather through direct, custom agreements. This is to stress the added value of the new ad format, especially launch. However, Hewat and the Guardian acknowledge that in time they probably will have to open the form up to programmatic because that is where the demand is.
“We’re at a point where the whole ad business needs to take some real care; things need to be more thoughtful. We haven’t got that with mobile display. Mostly, we’re just slamming people with mobile banner ads which is annoying and frustrating for consumers,” Hewat said.
That’s why there is interest in the new ad products from the Guardian. For example, Liam Pook, head of mobile at Essence, explained to Digiday, “I’d certainly be interested in testing the effectiveness of the formats at delivering against brand objectives set by our clients. One challenge potentially facing the Guardian, and native advertising as a whole is scale. In most cases, better/cleaner ads typically result in a decrease in ad inventory.”
As with most products that are the rub, scale. Ultimately, the success or failure of the new ad format and the Guardian which is facing financial pressure and planning to cut costs by 20 percent in the next three years will be whether they can get advertisers to pay the premium and if they can keep up with the demand they generate.