Levien Suggests How Native Should Raise Creative

When it comes to publishers, some may think of The New York Times as the father of native content. Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP of advertising at the New York Times, thinks of native as a return to better advertising. In the transition from traditional to digital, "great advertising has been lost and I think native advertising has the power to restore it," Levien told attendees of the MediaPost OMMA Native conference Monday. Here's how.

Native as an adjective, rather than a noun, tells the story of the surrounding content and inspires us to emulate a higher level of engagement, per Levien. 

Several factors have led the industry into what Levien calls the future of native advertising, or "native next," pointing to Google's launch of cost-per-click pricing in AdWords that produced a surge in efficiency. Today, as much as two-thirds of digital advertising is bought and sold through search or performance-based metrics. The other factor -- adjacency -- pertains to banner advertising, which is intended to complement the copy on the page. Most of what marketers expect from digital advertising began with efficiency and adjacency. It's what marketers expect from direct marketing, but it's only part of the story.

Levien describes three forces -- mobile, social and a need for a better business model -- driving native advertising. Brands on social were native from the start, and the disruption in the shift from desktop to mobile still happens faster than any other. She said the ad revenue model for native aligns better with the way consumers view advertising.

Where does the industry go from here? The New York Times focuses on five operating principles based on the way the media company thinks about "native next." It's not about branded content masquerading as editorial content, but rather becoming more transparent and gaining engagement on the metrics of that content. It's about a new way of thinking about an old topic. The New York Times, for example, tells the stories on print and online through graphics and interactive content. Levien points to stories The New York Times conveyed about the changes Major Bloomberg accomplished during his time in office as Native Next.

Reach -- once something bought in the world of radio and television advertising -- has transitioned into advertising bought and earned in digital, Levien said. "The brand is really the subplot and the opportunity in native is to find the main plot," she said. "It's not about the brand, but the brand finding the story most interesting. It might sound obvious, but it's pretty hard work."

How a marketer tells the story matters as much as the story itself, she said.

2 comments about "Levien Suggests How Native Should Raise Creative".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, May 19, 2014 at 4:19 p.m.

    The broadcast folks -- you know, the guys with the lion's share of the big branding bucks -- would suggest to Ms. Levien that she research the media dynamic of reach, because reach was originally intended (and still only makes sense) as an audience measurement -- actual viewers/listeners -- and not the supply-side metric that she portrays it as here. I hope the business reasoning behind this theory isn't part of the NYT Innovation Report (referenced in Bob Garfield's piece today), because this native advertising foolishness smacks of nothing more than a desperate concession to the failure of the legacy publishing model to adapt to an on-demand universe.

  2. Alison Morris from Triggit, May 28, 2014 at 8:35 p.m.

    Great article. As you pointed out, native advertising has traditionally been used for branded content. What's relatively new, however, is 'native retargeting' used to drive direct-response performance from commercially viable ads, such as FBX News Feed ads. Combining the incredible relevancy and intent signals from dynamic retargeting with in-feed, native retargeting ads where users are already engaged, it's no surprise that native retargeting drives 15X higher CTRs than traditional banner ads. Check out what Triggit CEO has to say on why the banner is dead and native is the future:

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