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Native Advertising: Is it for real or just phony?

There are enough and more articles and whitepapers on Native Advertising sitting on the Internet, which is why I am going to skip the whole bit on what Native Advertising is all about and present my view on the form and function of the format and how that ranks against Banner Advertising.

Why I think native is the real deal.

It does not bark, it purrs.
The inherent problem with Banner Advertising is that it’s intrusive, annoying and unpleasant and the vast majority of ads often get completely ignored. At the same time consumers have also learnt to tune things out with the help of with ad-blocking tools or even subscribing to ad free platforms to avoid that constant distraction.

Native ads on the other hand command attention. Native ad is something that consumers read and interact with. It captures their attention and if they like it they even share that ad. That is something banner ads can never do.

Native ads match the visual design of the experience they live within, and look and feel like natural content. They have duration and a storytelling arc that makes them engrossing and shareable.

“According to research from IPG media lab, native ads are viewed for the same amount of time as editorial content and is much more likely to be shared than a banner ad (32 per cent versus 19 per cent of respondents said they would do so).”

It has 9 lives.
Banner ads are bought on a standard campaign model where by the end of the campaign period the banner units are pulled out. You cannot find a trace of the ads anywhere after that. Native, by contrast, works on a very different model: you spend a certain amount of money putting it together, and then it lives online forever. You don’t have to pay a dime for the duration it stays on.

Why I think native is phony.

It will burn a hole in your pocket
Native is hard work. It’s creatively driven. Its efficacy primarily rests on high quality of creative output. The amount of time and effort that goes into a native campaign is enormous. Also it is a continuous process and it doesn’t decrease much once the campaign is up and running. If you were to run a banner campaign would you stick to the same creative? In the same context running multiple creatives on the native format will cost a bomb and would be vastly greater than the daily cost of buying banner advertising. Then there is the factor of optimisation. It would be very difficult to understand what is not working – is it the headline, the content or the topic itself. Finally, all of that effort is going into reaching a relatively small number of people rather than a mass audience. As a result, any brand wanting to reach the mass market is going to have to use native as just one part of a much bigger strategy, which also means the long-tail approach network buying will not work.

It’s my way or the highway.
Scale, efficient automated buying and adaptive creative are all valuable tools to advertisers and part of the reason why they turn to digital in the first place. This format is still in flux — still emerging in the online ecosystem. In many ways, we’re still learning the rules of native advertising. And by definition, there are no real industry standards — a native ad on Facebook is inherently different than a native ad on a news site. There is no rule, benchmark, metric or even pricing logic.

Truly speaking
Native is not entirely a new format, but the relevance of it has drastically peaked in the last 24 months. This is owing to many reasons but the most alarming is the steady fall in the efficacy of banner ads. However for native to become mainstream, there needs to be a concerted effort to standardise it, make it accessible, affordable and most importantly make it work. After all it’s a form and function of advertising and it needs to work both for the consumer and the marketer.

Sushobhan Chowdhury

A footballer-turned-marketer, herding immigrants through the digital world, Sushobhan is a Culture Hacker and a Digital Evangelist" with international leadership experience. He has over 15 years' experience in this industry and currently the Head of Strategy at Hungama Digital Service. Over the years, Sushobhan has had the opportunity to work for various national and global level brands such as Apple, Coca Cola, Orange, Samsung, UNICEF, TOI, ABP and GSK. He likes to solve real world challenges and believes impeccable execution is the key in building a long-term client relationship.