Branded content is getting more eyeballs online, according to a recent report conducted by native ad platform developer Polar that analyzed click-through rates and the average time users now spend looking at native ads.

Overall, average click-through rates for native ad stood at 0.31 percent during the first half of 2016, an uptick from the .29 percent recorded during the same period last year, which accounts for an increase of about 13 million more total views.


Polar’s “Branded Content Performance” report looked at how branded content is currently performing across six different publisher verticals, including news, business and financial and arts and entertainment, among others. Five of the six verticals analyzed beat the overall Q2 click-through average, with branded content featured by arts and entertainment publishers — traditionally a strong performer — taking the lead at 0.47 percent, even though that category was down somewhat compared to its performance last year. Business and financial publishers saw the greatest click-through growth, experiencing a 76 percent year-over-year increase. Fashion and shopping focused publishers, as well as science, sports and technology, were also strong performers for native content. Branded content used by news and health and lifestyle focused publishers performed below average. News, typically a low-performing vertical for native ads, still managed to show year-over-year growth, and the report suggested that “low quality, questionable advertising content” in health and lifestyle publishing may be responsible for a dip in native clicks in that sector.

How branded content is viewed varies by device. Click-through rates for native ads were lowest on desktop computers (.22 percent), higher on mobile devices (.37 percent) and boasted the highest rates on tablets (.40 percent). However, the average time users spent on desktops engaging with native ads was far higher than any other medium, and the report characterized mobile click-through performance in 2016 as “volatile,” with click-through rates on mobile devices sinking from 2015’s Q2 .44 percent to .37 percent during the same period this year, and also cited a “significant drop from the first quarter this year.” Mobile performance remains strong, however, and still handily outperforms traditional display advertising.

A separate August Polar report, titled “The State of Native Disclosure,” claimed that only about two-thirds of native ad placements currently comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s December 2015 guidelines overseeing native ad disclosure. That study also found that branded content labeled “promoted” achieved the highest click-through rate (0.19 percent), followed by content labeled “partner.” Content labeled “sponsored” — the most commonly used disclosure term — ranked third, with a click-through rate of 0.16 percent. Native content with no disclosure achieved a click-through rate of only 0.15 percent.

Polar’s “Q2 Benchmarks: Branded Content Performance” report can be downloaded here.