Native advertising was all the rage this past year, as online publishers and marketers grappled for new (or repackaged) ways to get the attention of ad-weary consumers. Brands and publishers created entire divisions to produce the ads that mimic editorial content, while vendors sprang up to try to scale their distribution. The IAB took steps to demystify the format by offering standardized language, while watchdog agency FTC raised concerns about the potential for consumers to be deceived by the ads. We asked some active users of the form to predict what's up ahead in 2014 for the trend.
Matt Turck, publisher, Slate: Custom experiences will continue to grow in 2014; however, advertisers will demand a better understanding of how custom helps their marketing efforts. Creating great content is essential, but expect an increased focus on the metrics and what those metrics really mean moving forward. For scale and economic reasons, more advertisers will create their own content and simply use publishers as distribution systems. And, effectively adapting the custom experience to mobile is a must next year, if it isn't already. Clarity in demarcating custom content will remain strong with credible publishers, but vary by publisher, as will format, promotion, style, etc. It should, as it is customized to meet specific needs for brands, environments, consumers and advertisers.
Stephanie Losee, managing editor of Dell global communications: I don't know if this is a prediction or a wish, but I hope, or think, brands are going to understand the value of adjacent content. I continue to be amazed at what continues to be a misunderstanding of what native advertising should showcase. People are using it to say, ‘I can say anything.’ Advertorial is soul-destroying. The content should not be promotional. It's an opportunity to publish content that’s interesting to an audience that is interested in your company. At [Forbes] BrandVoice, we were inviting Pulitzer Prize winners, The Wall Street Journal writers, to write about thought leadership. We were asking them to write about their expertise on a page that just happened to have Dell’s name.
Steve Rubel, chief content strategist, Edelman: The big thing that’ll happen next year is, some equilibrium will come in where the prices will fit in with what marketers feel they should be paying. We know [native] is great for thought-leadership, but I don’t think it’s been proven yet. The sell side and the buy side are not in sync yet. I suspect some of the publishers may be having a tough time selling this in because they're ahead of the buy side. With that, pricing is higher. Case studies will come into the marketplace. The Sharethroughs, the Outbrains will take some of the margins. There’ll be more case studies. That begins to create a marketplace.
Joe McCambley, co-founder, creative director, The Wonderfactory: Demand for native content will outstrip the supply of creative talent. As a result, most native experiences will be unremarkable. Consumers will begin the inevitable process of learning to avoid native content the same way they've learned to avoid banners, email ads, radio and TV ads, and direct mail. Some intrepid advertisers will spend the money necessary to attract the right talent, and will create native experiences that are so entertaining, informative, or educational that they rival the quality of the world's best journalism. Like all advertising, some native will be great, but most will be unremarkable.
Kevin Gentzel, chief revenue officer, The Washington Post: 2014 will see the emergence of the “native product.” Native products are start-to-finish collaborations between news, technology and advertising that take content marketing beyond text, images and video. They leverage tools, platforms and technologies for a better user experience and greater audience engagement. If display advertising and programmatic buying are about scale, native products are about deepening relationships with a more targeted audience.
Mike Kisseberth, chief revenue officer, TechMedia Network: With the recent release of the IAB's Native Ad Playbook, we’ll see continued standardization of native ads and native ad serving. Disclosure and transparency in native advertising will continue to be top-of-mind for the industry. Expect stronger guidelines and standards to be considered by the FTC in the New Year, with the industry encouraging self-regulation, as seen with the IAB’s playbook.