Bobi Carley, Commercial director, Disneymedia+ UK & Ireland, The Walt Disney Company
The term native advertising, and the debate about it, seems to have gathered momentum over the past few months, and I have no doubt it will continue into 2014 as marketers and the media seek to get to grips with the possibilities it presents.
Especially given the news that publishers, including Forbes, Financial Times, Yahoo! and Buzzfeed are looking to incorporate a higher proportion of native advertising; not to mention the Sunday People, which is set to relaunch its website to be solely funded by it.
What remains to be seen is whether native will attract headlines for the right reasons in 2014.
Creating great-quality, engaging content that will fit seamlessly within editorial – or, ideally, better it – will be the challenge for many brands, especially if adequate creative resource is not available.
Matt Fanshawe, Global brand director and group COO, Havas EHS, @mattyfanshawe
It’s not necessarily the marketing story of 2014, but it will certainly be one of them.
The problem is that it is getting increasingly difficult to get a brand in front of consumers – getting reach means ever-more competition for space, while achieving a depth of engagement means being interesting or relevant enough for the audience to be bothered to look.
Look at catch-up TV: why watch the ads when you can fast-forward past them? What’s the incentive? Instead of looking for ways to stop fast-forwarding, native advertising looks to service real consumer needs and desires – to pull, not push – and that has to be a positive thing.
It may not be the biggest story of 2014, but the people who get it right will certainly make a splash.
Bryan Scott, Former marketing communications director, Metro UK, @lifeofbry
There certainly seems to be a big trend of brands wanting to be closer to content.
Native advertising is today’s equivalent of the best advertorials – great campaigns that fully take advantage of the media-owner voice to engage.
The biggest challenge will be for marketers to trust content-creators to deliver this advertising in the way that has greatest impact, resisting the opportunity to become editors themselves.
We have seen that consumers are more receptive to brand messaging written in the Metro voice as opposed to that of an advertiser brand (providing they are not being hoodwinked).
It is vital that brand-owners do not try to shoehorn a single piece of content in across all platforms. Getting consumers to read, click on, interact with or share content all may require a different approach.
Katie Lee, Group marketing director, Leo Burnett
The big challenge facing brands right now is how to behave more like publishers, with content – in all its many forms – being the big conversation.
Native advertising could come as quite a relief. We have all lived with advertorials for decades and know how to make them – you sell your brand in the style of the editorial; job done.
But herein lies the issue: if we treat native advertising like advertising, then it will fail quicker than you can say “banner”, because consumers will ignore it and the advertising model will quickly devalue.
Native advertising doesn’t exist without content and succeeds only if the content is good. Get the content right and native will be set to fly in 2014. Native advertising is not the big story – but it is a useful tool in your marketing armoury.
Martin Moll, Head of European marketing, Honda, @MPM_1
It’s set to be one of the big consumer stories of 2014.
By definition, it’s not about marketers, but consumers.
Ultimately, native advertising is the timely resurgence of the well-established argument for a customer-centric marketing approach – one that helps to establish some principles in this sometimes slightly overwhelming new-media world of ours.
It’s about high-quality content that’s seamlessly part of a customer experience – less intrusive, more relevant marketing.
From a consumer point of view, such discipline probably cannot come soon enough.
It offers a real opportunity for brands, a way to build trust and engagement among ad-weary audiences and re-evaluate the content that they create, and where it lives.
But it will fulfil its potential only if we stay true to its underlying principles and don’t force it into places it doesn’t belong.
Simon Binns, Managing director, Spark44
Arguably, native advertising is the rebranding of advertorials or sponsored ad formats for the digital age. So while there’s nothing “new” per se in 2014, this is certain to continue to be a hotly debated topic. Reinvention is what we do best in the industry.
As brands seamlessly blend brand messages into the editorial style of the publisher, there have been some distinctive incarnations of the format.
Commercially, this shift in media is driven by publishers embracing a new revenue stream. Media-owners can call on talent, resources and, importantly, their audience to help create partnerships with brands, while brands’ content-creation is becoming more inventive and relevant to the consumer.
It is about context; the time and investment necessary for a “one-off” often doesn’t pay back in the long term. How these projects are integrated within the ongoing marketing plan is more critical.
Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more on membership, visit www.marketing-society.org.uk