Shading boosts clicks on mobile native ads

When designing native formats for branded content, publishers are walking a fine line between clearly marking these promotional units and adhering to the overall design and aesthetic of the website.

Polar examined 65 of our partner websites containing 137 native ad placements to present a comprehensive look at how publishers approach disclosure for branded content within native ad placements. With this research we can confidently present an industry first look at the The State of Native Disclosure.

We examined a variety of different design elements that could potentially affect CTR performance, including:

  • Format shading

  • Distinct borders

  • Disclosure term positioning

  • Font colour

  • Info icons

Let’s dive deeper into format shading.

Format Shading

Format shading in the background is what the native ad’s text and other features are set upon. For the purpose of this research, if the entire background is a thumbnail image it is defined as not having a background. This is common on fashion or technology sites, where most of the time headlines are overlaid on a photo related to the story in a distinct color.

Native Ad Shading Showcase

How often is shading used in native ads?

  • Roughly two thirds of native ad units analyzed do not use shading.

  • The other third shade the native ad to clearly delineate the promotional unit from other headlines on the page.

The Impact of Shading on CTR Performance

Average CTR Performance by Device (With Shading versus Without)

On mobile, shading works

  • It may seem publisher's trepidation for this design practice is unfounded; on mobile, the CTR of native ads with shading heavily outperformed those without shading by 81 percent.

  • On desktop, the impact of shading on CTR performance was relatively smaller than mobile. Non-shaded native ad units performed slightly better with a 10 percent higher CTR.
  • Shading performs better on mobile due to the format’s limited screen real estate; shading affords publishers the ability to grab a reader’s attention as they scroll the page.

  • There is little data to support the effect of shading color, though anecdotally most publishers utilized light shades of grey, yellow, and beige in their promotional units.

Publishers take note

Visual effects, such as the shading of a native ad, correlates to different CTR performance results between the two main device types, desktop and mobile. In this case, the difference between shading and not shading on desktop might be negligible when compared to the larger spread on mobile. Thus, publishers should incorporate more visual differentiation, like shading, on mobile native ads.

Need to know more about best practices and measurement in native disclosure for your branded content program? Download The State of Native Disclosure: How Premium Publishers Are Disclosing Native Promotions Of Branded Content.