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Native Advertising Won’t Save You

imagesNative advertising is an advertising experience customized to the experience the consumer has interacting with the specific content they are consuming in a way that causes the advertising to feel like part of the content consumption experience. It is a form of advertising that at its best blends with the content in such a way as to be indistinguishable from the content and features an integration that could only occur in the context of that experience.

A practical example of this might be breast cancer awareness month in the NFL. The NFL has players wearing pink clothing, refs using pink flags, and similar integrations where breast cancer research’s signature color is blended into the NFL experience in such a way that it is both unique and inescapable. Facebook, Twitter and Google advertising is similar. Ads similar to tweets and search results are integrated into the search results and newsfeed in such a way that become a seamless part of the consumer experience. In any other context, these ad formats would be inappropriate: I can’t put pink warm-up towels on a billboard and putting facebook newsfeed ads into other contexts is similar in its lack of effectiveness. While people see Google Adwords all over the place, they are a fraction as effective as they are in the context of search results.

So a good native advertisement is one that is tailored to both the advertisers brand and the publishers engagement modality. The effectiveness of these advertising models cannot be denied however the challenge presented to advertisers and publishers is clear: Without massive scale, the burden of developing a truly compelling native ad is offputting. Asking an advertiser to support your wonky native ad format when your scale is not Facebook/Google/Twitter is uncompelling to most advertisers. Even given the effectiveness of a truly compelling integration, the amount of unique integrations that an advertiser can support is limited.

I have recently heard about “native ad networks”. This concept is an oxymoron. Aggregated native ad platforms have no scale attributes that allow them to be used in the context of a network.

I confess (and more would confirm) that there is a lot I don’t know about online advertising. One area that is an interesting area is creative development. To speak frankly, at every place I have worked in the industry, I have found that we did an inordinate amount of creative development on behalf of our clients. And I say that as a representative of the publisher/network. So agencies would say to us, “we don’t have creative, you build something” and we would toss it in for the buy. I think I had always assumed that this was the exception, not the rule. I mean, agencies are creative. They don’t really want me doing the creative development, do they?

For the sake of my sanity, let’s assume that agencies live in a world where they want to build the creative.

Having said that, that is a world where native advertising is impractical.

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