Rethinking Native Advertising

Adam Broitman is vp of global digital marketing at Mastercard. Follow him on Twitter @adambroitman.

It is human nature to categorize things. It helps us understand the world. It helps us differentiate one thing from the next. Yet sometimes we as marketers go too far.

Take “native advertising,” which needs a more meaningful and useful definition for industry professionals. The most common understanding of the term “native advertising” casts it as in-context advertising. While theoretically intended to be discernible from the editorial surrounding it, native advertising fits snugly alongside or within the editorial itself, often confusing readers as to its purpose.

Many would say the need for this sort of advertising is based on “banner blindness,” where readers either consciously or unconsciously ignore information that is presented in banners. Others simply say that banners do not work.

As a veteran of the industry, I can tell you that banners do work when they are relevant and well targeted. The big challenge facing current forms of advertising is rooted in the proliferation of screen sizes and the ever-changing ways that people interact with content and services. Modal context is a necessary addition to the current definition of “native advertising” since embedded advertising will be extremely effective and should be a critical consideration for those looking to cut through the clutter. The Nike+ FuelBand activity tracker, which users wear on their wrist, is an example of embedded advertising, or truly native advertising. It is embedded because the advertising is baked into the product.

It is not new to talk about how advertising formats have tended to adopt the form of the medium, which preceded it. Under the definition in this article, one might conclude that the day television advertising took full advantage of sight, sound and motion, it became native.

So why has the term “native advertising” surfaced today? The shift away from purely screen-based media and the proliferation of the smartphone has integrated media into our lives in an incredibly personal and human fashion. Our smartphones are increasingly “running in the background” constantly performing functions for us, and in order for advertisers to truly find a way to be native on mobile devices, they must find new means to derive value for their consumers – ways that are native to the experience that a media channel creates. When a brand creates something that affords it a willful initiation into the life of consumers, all the while creating value, tremendous growth is inevitable.

 Image via Shutterstock
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