Is the success of native advertising sustainable?

Native is a digital display success story and agencies are keen to cash in, but will the boom last, Louise Jack asks.

Native advertising may be a modern take on an old format, but technology and the internet are propelling it to heights never seen before. So is this progress sustainable?

According to a survey into UK agency and industry attitudes for the ad platform Adyoulike, native advertising will account for nearly 10 per cent of total digital display spend in 2014, rising to 14.7 per cent by 2015.

Furthermore, 83 per cent of agencies now offer native advertising as part of their digital offering, and the remainder plan to do so in the near future.

But there is room for caution. Earlier this year, a study by the real-time analytics company Chartbeat found less than a quarter (24 per cent) of readers scroll down through native ad content, while nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) scroll down through editorial content.

Newspapers and magazines have been quick to jump on the bandwagon by rebranding established teams and creating new formats online. Broadcasters, too, are enjoying renewed interest in advertiser-funded programming.

And who can blame them? In 2013, US advertisers spent $2.4 billion on native ads – an increase of 77 per cent on 2012. The Bauer Media head of creative and brand solutions, Clare Chamberlain, says native advertising is a "fundamental element" of its 2015 plans, but adds it is just one option among the creative executions available.

But what of the reader in all this? If you caught John Oliver’s recent rant on HBO, you will know how easily he lambasted the entire concept for destroying the "heart" of publishing and the "integrity of news".

However, a study by the PR company Edelman and the Internet Advertising Bureau found that consumers of business and entertainment news are highly receptive, while this is less so the case for readers of general news. And many believe cracking native in mobile, the fastest-emerging media channel, will be essential to its commercial future.

So is it about the right content in the right place at the right time, and do people even have time for every brand to tell them a story? Will native advertising continue to grow at the current rate?

Vote in our online poll below.

 

MAYBE Will Hayward, vice-president, Europe, BuzzFeed

"The future isn’t really about native; it’s about creating great content, clearly labelled and relevant enough for consumers to share. Disguising ads as editorial, or selling access to the editorial team, is not a sound long-term business plan."

 

YES Paul Frampton, chief executive, Havas Media

"For me, ‘native’ advertising means branded messaging that effortlessly feels part of and, more importantly, complements the organic editorial or content-user experience. Why would that not be an effective model?"

 

NO Andrew Hirsch, chief executive, John Brown Media

"I hate the phrase ‘native advertising’ – presumably invented by the ad industry to supplant ‘advertorial’ with something sexier. Clients should be spending money directly with content marketing agencies, who are the experts."

 

YES Matthew Knight, head of innovation, Carat

"The label ‘native’ will change a dozen times. What isn’t sustainable is thinking about it as a single concept. Brands need to evaluate each platform and develop a strategy. It isn’t a thing you can automate or approach singularly."

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