Native was once considered a standalone tactic used in reaching our audience – in a non-intrusive and relevant environment. Now we find ourselves increasingly identifying more tactics as ‘native’ when developing media strategies as the lines continue to blur with publishers, mobile platforms, video networks, commerce sites and social networks all offering some form of native advertising.
Native continues to gain more share of display dollars as publishers are finding ways to make ad experiences better – or at least less blockable. Native advertising is estimated to make up 74% of total display revenue by 2021 according to Business Insider. The ad environment is clearly shifting, which raises the question, when will we stop identifying tactics as ‘native’?
If you are unsure of just how much native advertising surrounds you on a daily basis, consider this scenario:
You wake up, grab your phone and immediately check Facebook. While on Facebook, you see a few suggested posts. You click on an article from USA Today from your Facebook feed. From there, you read that article, which plays an in-stream video half-way though. Then you notice a sponsored ad promoting an app that helps you slim down in 8 weeks. Why this ad? Well, the article that you clicked on was about eating a more organic diet.
Now it’s time to get up and get your butt to work. Morning routine done, you’re out the door and into the car. At the stoplight, you remember the ad you saw promoting the weight loss app. You use that moment to search for the app name on Google and you see a search ad for the app. The light turns green so you’ll have to remember to look for the app another time.
You arrive at work and log into your computer, the MSN homepage immediately pops up. You browse the headlines and see a handful of sponsored articles, all relevant to the headlines. Now you quickly switch gears to dinner meal planning, before you dig into your day’s work. You check Pinterest to search for “easy dinner ideas” and ultimately decide on a recipe from Kraft, which was indeed a promoted ad.
Native advertising has been engraved into our everyday lives. The term, ‘native advertising’, was developed from the term, ‘native monetization’. It was first coined by Fred Wilson during a keynote speech at an OMMA conference in 2011. It has since taken off, leading to a lot of debate amongst industry leaders and confusion for brands and marketers.
By definition, there is no solid definition of the term. Helpful right? It does however, fall within one of these two basic concepts:
Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.
Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations.
See the difference there? This is where some of the debate comes in. If the second is true, then a search ad or a promoted pin would not be considered native, because it is not within the editorial of a publication, but rather a platform.
The IAB established a guide to understanding native ad executions, though it was never actually intended to establish standards. The IAB buckets native advertising into the following:
1. In-Feed Units
2. Paid Search Units
3. Recommended Widgets
4. Promoted Listings
The FTC also established native advertising guidelines, but a recent MediaPost article reports that nearly 40% of publishers don’t comply with FTC’s Native Ad Guidelines. By failing to adhere to the guidelines, publishers are completely missing the point. The whole concept behind native advertising is to deliver ads that do not impede the user’s normal behavior. We, as advertisers, need to challenge publishers to comply with these guidelines in their native advertising offerings.
Despite the lack of a solid definition, we can all agree that native is no longer a standalone tactic. Native advertising encompasses numerous media touch points throughout a user’s day, giving us a plethora of opportunities to reach our target audience. As the digital media landscape continues down a highly-fragmented path, more tactics will be expected to feel more native by increasing relevancy and enhancing the user experience.
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