Commentary

The Standardization Of Native Advertising

Native advertising is, for the foreseeable future, the next major online ad type. Based on recent activity, it’s clear companies are getting serious about standardizing and refining their native ad offerings:

*Facebook announced that it will slim the number of ad units it offers.
*Google announced that DoubleClick for Publishers will support individual outlets’ native ad products, “underscoring native as just another format.”
*The IAB rounded out the week announcing a new Native Advertising Task Force.
*All comes one week after Hearst made its decision to cut the number of native ad units it offers from 40 to five, and create a ‘dedicated product portfolio.’

Standardization is a good thing. Even if we haven’t established industrywide standards, it’s encouraging to see major players standardizing internally. But it begs the question, why now?

Reader acceptance is part of it. A study released last month by Sharethrough and the IPG Media Lab showed that, “study subjects were 25% more likely to look at a native ad than they were at a banner, and they looked at them 53% more frequently.”

The success of Buzzfeed’s ads have shown us that native advertising and sponsored content can work when it’s done the right way. As more of these ads make their way into the marketplace, brands and publishers are becoming more aware of what that right way is, hence this trend toward standardization.

The other more urgent need is for an improved business plan. The price paid for banner advertising continues to shrink, along with media spending overall. Publishers are working to find new ways to monetize and replace the lost revenue from shrinking CPMs, ad pages and TV ads.

Until recently, native ads were often given for free by publishers to large advertisers. This could be in the form of content written specially for an advertiser, contests, sponsored Q&As or any number of value-adds given along with a large buy. But demand for native ad campaigns is picking up, and ad sales teams are transitioning to fill that need.

The resulting evolution of native ads is following a similar trajectory to that of other Internet ad types: search ads, banner ads, page takeovers, pre-rolls, geo-targeted ads, sponsored links, etc. Just as each of these once seemed intrusive, all of them are now commonplace, but also potentially ignorable. If native ads aren’t handled carefully, they could suffer the fate of being as invisible as other ads.

The last five years have given publishers and brands significant ‘user testing’ for native ads, what works, and what doesn’t. Now companies can begin formalizing product offerings around what is effective and create the most engaging user experience.

For example, Condé Nast, one of our clients, is collaborating on  best native ad techniques, instituting them across the company. Brands and readers will see the results of these efforts all summer long, starting with the Father’s Day contest on the Details Network.

Native ads are the future of online advertising, and if done right, they will make publisher and brand efforts more effective without detracting from the user experience.


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1 comment about "The Standardization Of Native Advertising".
  1. Matt Cooper from Addroid , June 14, 2013 at 3:44 p.m.
    About 2 years ago, Fred Wilson gave a talk at OMMA. In it, he said, “We believe that each and every Web service we invest in should have a monetization system that is unique and native to the experience.” As prime examples, he cited Google paid search and promoted accounts on Twitter. Standardizing native advertising is an oxymoron. You can not standardize something that by definition is unique.