More and more companies are popping up these days that promise to bring RTB efficiency to native advertising. While it’s good the see advertisers experimenting with native ad campaigns at scale, and it might even be a decent idea, there’s only one problem; the two are diametrically opposed.
For one thing, by definition the native format is not an advertisement at all but a specifically designed piece of content that is used to inform, entertain or add value in some way to a consumer’s experience. In most cases native advertisements are handcrafted for a specific publication and so, for example, a native ad that you might find on Wired’s website won’t be similar at all to the one that you find on the Marie Claire website. As far as offering a new type of ad unit at scale is concerned, companies are already doing that but, by definition, the units that they are offering are not “native.”
Then there’s the problem of utility. In order to sell native advertising at scale, it has to conform to many different specifics. Once this happens, what you’re looking at is an advertisement that, for all intents and purposes, stands out just as much as any other advertisement on the web. Since native advertising is meant to do just the opposite, selling native ad units programmatically is going directly against what the actual purpose of native ads was designed for. Simply put, any advertisement that disrupts the user experience in any way is not a true native ad.
Then there’s the fact that brands, for the most part, want to stay in complete control of their advertising. Native advertising requires a significant amount of consumer research along with a highly customized and creative touch, as well as a focus on optimization. In other words, a well-written native ad is not easy to make. Since brands want to remain in control of this creative process, as well as know exactly where their native ad units are going to appear, they’re going to clash with RTB at every turn because, by definition, RTB is an automated process with far less control for the advertiser.
There’s certainly plenty of room for disagreement on this complicated issue but, no matter what side you’re on, one must know that it’s not merely semantics. Brands have recently discovered that native advertising, when well done, helps them to connect with their market much more powerfully than most other types of advertising. That’s powerful stuff. Unfortunately, if it gets left in the hands of RTB, it may well spell disaster for what’s likely going to be the savior of many brands, and of advertising itself.