The Natives Are Restless

As I have now been a columnist for almost a year, I can start doing traditional columnist things, such as end-of-the-year naval gazing. In this effort, I am much aided by the IAB’s Forecast 2017, which focuses on the domination of native advertising.

One of the aspects that caught my intention was IAB’s declaration that “disclosure will remain of paramount importance so a reasonable consumer can tell the difference between the native ad and the surrounding editorial content.” And, “in-feed will continue to make up the bulk of native ad revenue.”

Here we have the fascinating tug of war between native advertisers, whose whole purpose is to blend in with the content on social media sites, and responsible industry watchdogs that want to police the Internet the same way the MPA oversees magazine ads.

I can recall a memorable public forum in the 1990s with Martha Stewart, newly launching her magazine, and print vets like Donna Kalajian Lagani and Jackie Leo, then editor of Family Circle. Martha, sure of her ground no matter how briefly she had been holding it, blithely sketched out a series of special issues with one sponsor (BMW was mentioned) that would focus on driving across the country, or something, with all the pictures featuring BMWs at the Grand Canyon, or wherever. Both Lagani and Leo pounced, squawking that such clearly ad-driven content would violate every MPA rule.



But today, native advertising is getting way more effective, and much smarter. More and more, native-advertising planning is pretty indistinguishable from what anyone else does on social media — blending in with the zeitgeist in a way Martha could have only dreamed about. Blending in with ubiquitous rants on Trump from various people I know is a New York Times ad on my Facebook feed. The subscription ad carries the names of two friends of mine, “Olga Adler, William Kemmis Adler and 15 others like The New York Times.” That appears to indicate that Olga Adler and William Kemmis Adler and 15 others want me to subscribe to the newspaper. That’s a lot more effective than just asking me to sign up, with a typically faceless ad.

Even better was a sponsored ad from Car and Driver magazine. I’m not sure how Facebook knows that 1) I used to work for the company that put out Car and Driver and 2) that I have been getting into classic cars lately. But the ad, with the headline, “Ford Mustang: A Brief History of Zero-to-60-mph Acceleration,” would get my attention. Whether I would focus on it as an ad is another story, as the link just takes you to a story in the magazine. But that’s the whole purpose of it 

These ads are pretty clearly marked as “sponsored,” so perhaps the IAB would be pleased. I don't tend to look at the ads on the right of my feed, but the in-feed ones are so much more likely to get clicked on.

And we’re also impressed with a forecast from eMarketer that “In 2016, U.S. advertisers spent $6.18 billion for digital video ads purchased programmatically, up from $3 billion in 2015. On a percentage basis, this year’s total amounts to 60% of all digital video ad spending compared with 39% last year. By 2018, programmatic digital video advertising will reach $10.65 billion, or 74% of total video ad expenditures. These figures do not include video advertising on social platforms such as Facebook.”

So the future of 2017 programmatic advertising looks like a combination of clever native advertising blending in with social media and an increased focus on mobile digital video ads, with Google’s YouTube capturing about 20.9% of all U.S. video ads, according to eMarketer. And then there’s the easy stuff. Google and Facebook will keep getting bigger and more dominant. Snapchat will have a huge IPO. AT&T-Time Warner will be approved. And MediaPost will keep rocking on.

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