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Guest Column: Native advertising is a game-changer for the Indian marketing industry: Neena Dasgupta, Zirca

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Guest Column: Native advertising is a game-changer for the Indian marketing industry: Neena Dasgupta, Zirca

Consumers have become savvier about the way they consume content online. They have several tools at their disposal to block your ads and are smart about which ads to ignore even if they see them.

Advertisers and publishers are therefore employing new techniques to improve the user experience and make the audience feel more engaged with the content, thereby driving more clicks and better brand exposure. This is where native advertising plays a crucial role. It solves a problem for both publishers and advertisers by providing consumers with content that does not disrupt their online experience and is more likely to be seen by them.

Native content is designed to fit so closely with a publisher’s content that it appears to be a part of it. Examples of native ads include everything from interactive graphics and long-form video to sponsored stories and paid content discovery. Not surprisingly, global native advertising spends are set to double in the next few years; increasing from $30.9 billion in 2015 to $59.35 billion in 2018, as per the Native Advertising Institute.

Brands and marketers are no longer relying only on the old ways of advertising to reach their target audience. Native ads are the new standard in digital advertising—for brands to enhance the ad experience and for publishers to deliver superior user experience to their readers.

They are fast becoming one of the more lucrative advertising mediums for marketers in India and globally. Indian publishers like The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Financial Express, Indian Express and many more are adopting native advertising to drive better engagement with their readers. In fact, Hindustan Times created its own native advertising arm HT Brand Studio in 2015, following a trend set by international publications like Buzzfeed, The New York Times (T Brand Studio) and Mashable. Native ad studios like these are on the rise. Among publisher respondents in the 'Native Advertising Trends 2016: The News Media Industry' global study, 33 per cent said they provide their native advertising solutions through their own native ad studio.

Native advertising isn’t just good for marketers, it’s good for publications as well. The challenge for marketers and agencies in India, however, is to fully grasp the shift that’s taking place in digital advertising and to stop treating native advertising as a substitute for other forms of advertising, because it’s not. It’s an excellent content format for lead generation, helps advertisers attract potential customers into their sales funnels and build long-term engagement with their target customers online. For publishers, native advertising serves as a new revenue stream.

Interestingly, people are not always averse to consuming brand-centric content—as long as it tells a relevant and engaging story. A September 2016 study conducted by BBC Advertising and Voxpopme revealed over 80 per cent of affluent millennial internet users in India said they want brand content, compared to 73 per cent worldwide. In short, native advertising is evolving as a marketing technique for distributing informative, data-led and valuable content in a consistent manner to acquire a new audience and drive profitable consumer behaviour.

Here’s a closer look at why brands and publishers are choosing to use native, and why you should too:
• Native ads help tackle the problem of ad blindness.
• Contextually-relevant ads help drive product sales.
• Native ads that strike the perfect balance between a brand’s audience-specific message and editorial guidelines boost the consumer’s trust in your brand.
• They provide a seamless user experience and don’t hoodwink readers.
• Ads have always been a source of revenue for publishers and native advertising with its innovative formats offers publishers a chance to boost traffic and attract new audiences.

Native advertising is proving to be a game-changer in the digital marketing ecosystem. Not only do publishers stand to benefit from this popular ad format but also advertisers stand to engage and contextually connect with their target audience globally. As long as native content tells a story your audience can relate to, it will continue to gain massive traction. Advertisers who take note of these crucial lessons will, undoubtedly, be rewarded with better results.

Neena Dasgupta is the CEO and Director of Zirca Digital Solutions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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