Since native became the hottest buzzword in advertising, digital marketers have struggled to agree on what it is, giving rise to an untold number of articles and panels devoted to the subject. Native is often used interchangeably with other, non-disruptive forms of advertising, like sponsored or branded content, and so while some would say native has been around for years in the form of newspaper and magazine advertorials—even fashion ads in glossies—others would define it more narrowly (cynically?) as advertising that closely resembles editorial. In practice, native advertising is often limited to a single media platform and is sharable across social media, but whether that’s fundamental to being native is up for debate.
Now, the IAB is trying to bring some clarity to the Babel-like confusion with the creation of a new Native Advertising Task Force. The task force will aim to come up with a concrete definition for advertisers, publishers and ad tech providers.
“Native advertising is gaining in popularity, but stakeholders need to coalesce around definitions and best practices, if we’re going to be able to drive the native movement to scale,” Susan Borst, IAB primary staff liaison, wrote in a blog post.
It’s doubtful this is going to be a quick and easy process. The group, co-chaired by Dan Greenberg of Sharethough and Patrick Albano of Yahoo, had its first meeting this week, and a number of weighty issues immediately came up, from how native should be delineated from pure editorial to how metrics should be defined. The companies represented by the participants—there are more than 70 of them—all not only define native very differently (there's The New York Times, Facebook and Gawker, to name a few), but are shaping the very market they're trying to define.
Potentially further complicating matters, IAB also created a Content Marketing Task Force, and by IAB’s own admission, it’s unclear if the latter is a cousin to or umbrella of the first. In any case, the content marketing group has a stated goal of defining the market by August.