Hat tip to the best of all US state mottos, my former home New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die”. Publishers face a similar choice right now to those Revolutionaries – embrace Native Advertising or face a long, slow and painful death (lower and lower CPMs instead of higher and higher taxes and rule, but still).
Strategic, Direct Approach Needed to avoid pitfalls
Native Ads represent a great way to increase CPMs and develop long term partnerships with key advertisers instead of relying purely on indirect channels like Google Adwords, networks and other programmatic and real time bidding platforms. This overreliance has proven to be a recipe for commoditization of hard earned ad inventory (slow death). A good strategy and a direct dialogue with advertisers is critical to tap into the growing Native Ad trend and optimize the direct/indirect revenue mix.
Savvy advertisers also recognize that the world is changing. Users/readers are sick of old ad units, as evidenced by falling CTRs, ad blockers, etc. Some publishers and networks have also gamed the display ecosystem with junk inventory, below the fold/never seen placements, cluttered pages with increasingly annoying/flashing ads, etc., all equaling massive waste. And legacy ad formats are just not conducive to effective marketing programs on mobile devices. Advertisers are looking for engagement with their content and brands in return for their ad dollars.
Can’t we just automate this?
Ad tech companies are trying to capitalize on this trend and do “programmatic” native. It seems like kind of an oxymoron – True Native Advertising doesn’t really seem like a one size fits all solution, at least right now. Native Advertising done badly can have disastrous consequences (see the WSJ takedown of the Atlantic Monthly/Scientology advertorial). There is a lot of ad tech innovation going on to tackle this challenge and it remains to be seen if someone can truly pull this off at scale (Nativo for one looks interesting). Some others have been hit or miss on quality/execution which is not surprising so early in a complex, quickly changing market (there may even be spots still open on the IAB Task Force to define Native Advertising if you’d like to help sort things out.
In the meantime – the opportunity is immediate for savvy advertisers and smart publishers. The challenge for publishers is to think of your audience – how readers use your site and where in the flow of the user journey can we include engaging, relevant, educational advertiser content that might even add some value for the reader, and at the very least not detract from the experience or deceive, blur or cross the editorial line.
A few good resources as you think about a Native Advertising Strategy:
- Edelman produces paid content and sponsored stories (so do consider it’s a PR firm’s perspective) and just released a comprehensive report with some thoughtfully proposed guidelines and best practices on Sponsored Content
- Examples of some well done Native Advertising that Digiday and Say Media pulled together.
Banners and standard ad units still have their place, but publishers must develop tailored Native Ad solutions to stay aligned with shifting budgets and user behaviors. If done correctly it can result in happier audiences, advertisers, and increased revenues. Advertiser dollars are flowing to native advertising right now. Publishers need a strategic approach and direct dialogue with advertisers and their agencies to capitalize.