The Roadblocks of Native Advertising

Clients and agencies need to get out of the way

Could native advertising be hitting a wall?

Marketers and publishers continue to fall all over themselves to create messaging that doesn’t look like advertising and that doesn’t annoy the reader. But the format is facing growing pains.

“Agencies aren’t ready to turn on a dime and do this,” Rey Peralta, svp, director of creative technology at Deutsch, New York, said during a panel discussion last week hosted by Livefyre. “Everyone has to get in the same room. It’s incredibly challenging.”

Jordan Kretchmer, founder and CEO of Livefyre, which acts as a middleman between publishers and advertisers by amplifying social conversation about brands across the Web, also pointed the finger at agencies. Seeing as they work on native ads for no extra money and are not set up to corral all those who need to be involved in the process, agencies “currently aren’t incentivized to really push for native ads and, therefore, are many times the blocker in getting a native campaign pushed through,” Kretchmer responded in an email. The process is ineffective and needs to change, he added.

Like agencies, clients often aren’t structured to take on native, often finding it is easier and faster to buy programmatic ads.

This friction is a problem for digital publishers that are banking on native and other premium-priced ad formats to stem the rush of ad dollars to lower-CPM programmatic ads. For marketers, it’s a chance to move beyond the hated banner ad and create messaging that’s more engaging.

It also doesn’t help that there’s no agreement on what native advertising is or on how to measure its effectiveness. And that’s before the content itself is even created, a process that by its nature is fraught because the ad has to serve the advertiser without annoying the reader.

The lack of a universally agreed-upon definition of native advertising is a drag on the process and can lead to missed opportunities.

Peralta recalled one case in which Deutsch handled the creative and another agency, Starcom MediaVest, did media planning. “There was nothing to point to and say, ‘This is what we’re doing,’” he said. “I had to get on 20 phone calls a day to explain it to all the partners.”

“We need to make it easier for our sellers to understand,” added Adam Solomon, vp of digital ad products and services at Time Inc.

For all its roadblocks, there seems to be agreement that native advertising isn’t just the flavor of the month. In a recent survey, 73 percent of Online Publishers Association members said they offer native ads, with the potential to reach 90 percent by year’s end.