Scale and charlatans: native advertising’s big challenges


The future of the banner ad looks bleaker by the day, and so do the prospects of the publishers who rely on it for the bulk of their revenue.

The industry reaction so far is, of course, native advertising, the catch-all term for ad content that mimics the form and context of the content that surrounds it. But there are kinks in any new paradigm, and native is no exception. Here are some of the key challenges facing the push, according to attendees at the Collision conference in Las Vegas. Their answers, edited for length and clarity:

Shaul Olmert, co-founder and CEO, PlayBuzz
The main challenge with native advertising is scale. It is being produced and distributed by a small number of publishers that claim to have mastered the art of content marketing and social amplifications. Most brands, agencies and publishers feel that native advertising is a mystery which they don’t know how to produce in-house. In practice, like any new form of creative (much like banner ads in the late nineties, for instance), it requires some practice and experimentation, but at the end of the day those who know their brand attributes and story best are in the best position to produce native ads around it.

Dan Greenberg, CEO, Sharethrough
In a world where ads fit in naturally to the stream of other content, the biggest challenge for modern publishers is to maximize revenue while preserving and protecting editorial integrity and user experience. This challenge is especially relevant for publishers and developers that make their native ad inventory available through programmatic channels.

Lindsay Nelson, global head of brand strategy, Vox Media
The biggest challenge facing native advertising is the lack of long-term, sustained investment in content partnerships. We have committed meaningful resources developing sophisticated tools and platforms that empower us (Vox Media) to understand how, why, and where content performs. Without a deep, ongoing relationship with an advertiser, we aren’t able to capitalize on those insights, iterate and optimize, and ultimately share the editorial and institutional knowledge we have access to for their benefit.

Justin Choi, CEO, Nativo
There’s market confusion with new and old ad tech companies offering some sort of “native” offering that’s nothing more than a banner made to look like content: a wolf in sheep’s clothing. True native is a shift away from interruption to engagement with content that adds some value to the consumer. Less focus on the part of ad tech companies to associate buzzwords like “programmatic” and “RTB” to native and greater consideration of the user experience will be needed. Otherwise, “blindness” and “blocking” will become the buzzwords that consumers associate with native.

Adam Singolda, CEO, Taboola
I think the main challenge for native is that while it’s a massive opportunity for marketers and publishers, it’s still a small market. We need to keep innovating as an industry and help $60 billion of display advertising flow toward this area and help marketers find a similar or better return-on-invested that they already see in display or search.

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