So-called native ads are all the rage. The knock on them, other than those saying they’re nothing new, is by definition they won’t scale since they’re not standardized. That’s not true.
For my purposes, I’ll define a native ad as one that is so well-integrated, it feels like it’s part of the page. Native ads must be user controlled; they shouldn’t “do” anything unless a user takes a deliberate action to manually expand them. Native ads should also have custom content. A perfect example of this is work being done by The Atlantic,Funny or Die and Forbes. These are native to their particular publications, but Forbes is moving forward with custom content framed within a standard IAB unit, one of the Rising Stars.
Sure, we need to adopt standards, but these standards needn’t be limiting. Allow, if you will, the car as a metaphor for the scalable ad: A car has certain required elements that must appear in a particular spot on the vehicle. We’ll call them “the standards.” These might include things like a steering wheel in the front with brake and gas pedals underneath it, a windshield, gearshift, and seatbelts. They would probably also require an engine, headlamps, and a few other necessities. So these “standards” are in place, but in no way do they limit the scalability of the car. You can still have a Mini Cooper and a Land Rover, a Chevy Suburban and a Corvette. You can have hybrids, plug-ins, and cars that run on week deep fryer grease. They’ll all conform to these standards, while still appearing vastly different…and they all scale.
The IAB has essentially created standards for native advertising in their adoption of the Rising Star units. In particular, the Portrait is a fantastic way to go native. With three content modules in each ad unit, there’s a great opportunity for the publisher to showcase custom, sponsored and/or highly relevant content in one module, while the advertiser has a broad range of content-based branding opportunities within the other two. Imagine, for example, that Estee Lauder is running such a unit on Elle magazine’s site. Estee Lauder may run an HD skincare tutorial video in one module, a store-finder app in another, and in the third, Elle may run links to a skincare feature article that is sponsored by Estee Lauder.
The Portrait is an elegant, expandable ad unit that integrates seamlessly into most sites. It’s far more engaging and far more exciting than a standard banner. It meets every criteria of a native ad unit.
And oh, yeah, it’s completely scalable.
Skip Brand is CEO of Martini Media, a digital media and content platform for audiences with the most money and influence online.