It raises two questions for me. Given the huge issues ad fraud and viewability, as well as the fact that one-in-three Millennial males now block ads (just ahead of young women), is this not completely inevitable?
Put it this way. On the one hand media planners know that advertisers are seriously questioning how much budget actually goes on media human beings see. Estimates will always vary but ISBA, the voice of the advertiser, has confided in MediaPost that audits of some major brands have put the figures as low as a half of total spend. So, if you're concerned that there is so much bot traffic out there and so many middle men to pay for technology platforms to get a message out there, it's hardly surprising you might consider being a part of the editorial timeline, with a "sponsored" disclaimer, a very attractive proposition.
That attraction can surely become too strong to resist when you consider one in seven British internet users now block ads, according to the IAB. In fact, nearly one-in-four males do and, when you drill down to Millennials, the figure rises to one-in-three.
So, if you have a channel you're concerned you're paying too much for and it's one in which there could be a whole bunch of wasted ad dollars going to crooks and you have the issue of people being able to block the ads, it surely becomes a no-brainer to consider native?
It's also interesting to see reaction to Google's Phantom 2 update. This obviously deals with SEO and so speaks to the digital content work brands put in to getting their copy self-published as well as distributed across the Web for free. Google has again apparently turned the screws on content farms and those who just print endless poorly-written articles which just mention keywords over and over. In so doing, the tech giant deserves a huge round of applause. So, the opportunity is there, but Google is rewarding the guys who put in the most effort in sharing their content in the right circles to engage readers, as well as run serious blogger outreach programmes to get their brand names referenced far and wide.
It leaves us with a content situation very similar to social, which has split between organic and paid. Brands can go from the natural option of getting content populated around the Web, which will boost SEO rankings, or they can buy the space to place articles which, if done properly, will have "no follow" tags to let Google know the space has been bought rather than earned. The organic path obviously has search advantages while the latter paid-for route has the benefit of guaranteed coverage and raising of brand awareness, just without any SEO uplift.
The one word of caution I would throw in, however, is that brands I have spoken to have been pretty unimpressed with some native platforms that spray content around the Web. A lack of transparency and an absence of any data as to where their content has been seen and by whom are common criticisms that seem ironic as these may be issues that have prompted brands to consider supplementing display with native.
As native becomes an increasingly attractive proposition, then, it's a very good idea to consider direct deals with publishers and to only work with third parties that can supply the level of reporting that you require.
It's important to get this right because as display's reach, particularly with young males, becomes challenged and advertisers become more concerned about the channel's transparency and the potential for fraud; the same concerns can't be brought in to digital content sharing.