One of the criticisms often levelled at native advertising is that it isn’t scalable.
While each advertising instance might have significant impact, the bespoke nature of the creative can mean that it’s hard to reach a wide audience.
In one way this is a justified concern. When running traditional, editorial native campaigns the cost and complexity of creating bespoke content for each and every media outlet can quickly become prohibitive.
However, as we’ve seen, editorial native isn’t the only option out there. There are a range of solutions that can enable native-type impact in a scalable format.
Third party content
One of the reasons that native can be hard to scale is the difficulty of creating unique, proprietary content for a range of media outlets.
Native content needs to be aligned with the readership of the host publication in order to have impact and, in the traditional model, this has meant writing bespoke content for each outlet.
However, some native advertisers are side-stepping this issue by using pre-existing content from third party publishers. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, advertisers can licence high-quality, branded content assets as the vehicle for brand messages.
Clearly these won’t have the same brand focus as a bespoke piece but they can be aligned through visual branding to create a native-type brand engagement interaction.
Another barrier to scaling native has been the variety of formats required when running advertorial-type native. Different page sizes, layouts and printing formats can require content and imagery to be laid out again and again.
Conversely, creative native formats often use non-standard units requiring individual negotiations with publishers.
This issue can be overcome by hosting native within standardised advertising formats, letting advertisers use a standardised content format across multiple outlets.
Clearly, traditional banner formats offer limited scope for native creativity but newer, large scale formats such as the IAB’s Rising Star units give a lot more space (literally) for advertisers to experiment with native-type implementations.
Programmatic is rapidly overtaking native as the digital advertising buzz phrase of the moment, but the two are not mutually exclusive.
If advertisers start to use scalable formats and content as above, these standardised native placements can then be purchased using programmatic approaches.
Indeed, the data rich targeting capabilities of programmatic can enable intelligent and diverse placement opportunities, especially when multiple native iterations are created using different third party content providers.
A key issue in building broad-based native strategies can be the complexity of creating a media schedule across multiple publications.
If each native placement is bespoked to an individual title a media plan can quickly become a forest of negotiations.
To avoid this issue, advertisers can use a range of vertical publisher networks offering packages of sites within specific interest or demographic groups.
By identifying these networks, advertisers can potentially place multiple instances of the same creative across multiple sites without losing the editorial link to the host site.
As social advertising formats become more advanced, the potential for creativity has expanded.
Moving beyond the basic ‘your friend likes…’ mechanic has enabled social advertisers to integrate rich content and broader brand messaging into their paid social engagement strategies.
Using third party content, brands could use social advertising inventory to drive deep, native-type engagement with their brand content.
As with many debates about moving native on from its editorial roots, some would argue that scaling native compromises its engagement and integrity.
To some extent this is true, creating comparable engagement levels is necessarily going to be harder when attempting to add a generic element to native campaigns.
However, the alternative is that native remains essentially a niche advertising media, useful only for those campaigns that speak to a small and highly focused audience.
With scalable native it’s theoretically possible to maintain the higher engagement levels associated with native but to apply them to a far broader audience.