The Death of Native Advertising?

Mashable’s CRO has just called for a ban of the term ‘native’ in advertising, claiming that it means ‘too many things to too many people.’ Does this signal the death of ‘native’ advertising as we know it, or is he on his own in his opinion? And what does this mean for mobile?

A lot has been said about ‘native’ advertising over the past year. But does anyone know what it really means, or is just the latest jargon that will dry out once a better term comes along?

First thing’s first: what is ‘native’ and how is it different to other forms of advertising?

  • 1. Unlike banner and display ads, native ads appear in the flow of the editorial content.
  • 2. Brands producing native ads normally work with individual writers or marketers instead of simply commissioning content
  • 3. Native ads are produced to be more engaging and more shareable than other types of ads


Ok great. That all sounds pretty simple. So where does the confusion lie?

Well. Namely, how is that different from sponsored content?  There isn’t a clear answer. Reuter’s Felix Salmon contends that “native content tends to aspire to going more viral.” Other experts argue that ‘sponsored’ content is supposed to be less biased, and unlike advertising, is there to inform rather than sell. Of course we all know that this isn’t strictly true either, as there is always a business motivation behind that insightful white paper or article.

What do we think? Yes, sponsored content is more editorial and in essence, less biased. But no matter how a brand gets in front of an audience, the business objectives will always be along the same line. And as native advertising evolves and becomes more engaging, the line between the two will continue to blur.

Ultimately, whether we call it ‘native’ or ‘branded content’, the move towards more engaging advertising is undoubtedly a good thing . It puts the audience first, and shows how brands are striving even harder to engage what is becoming an increasingly sophisticated audience. It emphasises quality and attempts to understand and engage the audience in a way that banner and display ads never could.

However, this drive for better user experience and engagement still seems to be lacking in ‘native’ ads on mobile, as a recent survey by City Numbers has highlighted mobile ads as one of the least popular forms of marketing, (falling way behind traditional TV, print and direct mail). Users consume mobile content far differently on their smartphones and devices than they do online or in print. So as more and more brands move the bulk of their marketing budgets to mobile ads, the challenge for marketers today is exactly how to present ads on mobile in an unobtrusive, more engaging, and more targeted way.

When it comes to mobile, ‘native’ advertising isn’t dead. It is only just getting started.

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