What They're Not Telling Us About Native Advertising's Explosive Growth

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Native advertising is big business… and it’s growing.

That’s the raw news and data from the good people at eMarketer yesterday. The news item was titled, eMarketer Unveils Estimates for Native Ad Spending, and it was based on their latest report. Here is the headline:

“…spending on native digital display ads will make up more than half of all digital display ad spending in the US this year. The new forecast estimates that US native digital display ad spend will grow 36.2% this year to reach $22.09 billion. At that level it will make up 52.9% of all display ad spending in the US.”

Here’s what we know about what is driving this growth:

  • Publisher’s like native advertising, because it has much a higher dollar value than traditional display advertising.
  • Native advertising format is mobile-first by its nature, making it a better consumer experience.
  • Advertiser’s like ads that consumers spend more time with.
  • Native advertising “feels” more like the core content of the publisher, and is less interruption-based (like advertising).
  • Facebook is the 800-pound-gorilla for this format, and brands like being in a place where close to two billion users congregate.
  • Non-social advertisers are waking up and ramping up their capabilities as well in native advertising (they smell opportunity).
  • Video content is driving native advertising (it’s not just advertorial-like text-based articles).
  • Programmatic technology is also driving this opportunity (scale to purchase).
  • The next months (2017-2018) are going to see the introduction of much more technology in this space. 
  • More money is being spent on this kind of media, and it does create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is native advertising going to save your brand?

There was one striking omission from this eMarketer new item. It feels like brands are changing their attitude about what it means to be “in” social media, content marketing and native advertising. Instead of building content on their own publishing platforms, the shift seems to feel like brands are now just publishing directly on these native platforms and – if there is a call-to-action – the desire of “owning” a publishing platform seems to be dwindling. If a native ad can push out a great ad or video, why would a brand make the hefty investment in their own publishing platform? These forms of native advertising and native content don’t seem to make it back to a brand’s own platform. Yes, “native” implies that it’s being built specifically for a unique platform experience. Still, content can have many purposes once it is being created. If all we’re seeing is unique ad format sizes and content that fits specifically to one, unique, platform, all roads lead to one reality: the cost of advertising (from the strategy, execution and placement) is going to be more expensive than ever before. With that, there is no lack of inventory, so that shift from advertising being a scarcity model to one of abundance also forces brands to get better, smarter and bolder with their messaging. It feels like the price and execution increase is being offset simply because programmatic technology makes the media buying that much cheaper?

This was not the promise of digital marketing.

Digital marketing’s true opportunity was to empower brands to place their messaging on more relevant publishing sites, in front of better curated audiences with something other than an annoying ad. That, coupled with the notion that everything would be trackable and measurable, seems to have shifted towards the performance of the placement over the “who did what with it”? Imagine that: we’re in a world where all creative must be unique (by size and what it says) to each specific placement. Plus, the way it which this will scale, is how it will be purchased using programmatic technology?

Is it just me or does something not feel right about this trend?