By Eric Berry
Ever since the term “native advertising” was coined a couple years ago, entrepreneurs, web publishers and advertisers have endeavored to reach the tremendous potential of this form of advertising. The precise definition has remained elusive, allowing several dubiously-native forms of advertising to benefit. For a brand to reap the genuine benefits of native advertising, an ad must actually be native.
A native ad is one that is related to the content of the page and presented in a context. A native advertisement is one where, without otherwise being identified as an ad, it could be considered genuine content. The most obvious distinction between a native ad and conventional advertising is on Facebook. Sponsored stories are the sort of content generally consumed on Facebook, and appear in a fashion where it can be organically consumed with the rest of Facebook’s content. Meanwhile, the banner ads on Facebook are completely without context on the page, and are not in any way part of the user experience. Thus sponsored stories are native advertising, whereas banner advertising on Facebook is not.
Some other examples of truly native advertising include StumbleUpon’s promoted discovery, Outbrain’s sponsored links, and Solve Media’s sponsored captchas. Fundamentally, all of these units are content that is integrated in the page (or widget) and consumed in the normal flow. To this end, one may consider TV advertising to be archetypal “native” in the sense that consumption of the medium continues seamlessly, and without the user diverting their attention, between the show and the ad. Thus TV ads continue to command the greatest attention and highest value, given the huge and highly engaged audience (as well as the rich multimedia experience). The slow, but ongoing shift of dollars from TV to digital should be further enhanced by an increasing inventory of native ads that provide true consumer engagement in a highly scalable format.