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Mobile fuels the native advertising debate at Advertising Week Europe

By Julian Smith |

April 3, 2014 | 4 min read

I spent Wednesday at Advertising Week Europe visiting a number of panels focusing on one of the most widely discussed and hottest topics in the industry: native advertising.

Julian Smith

Alongside programmatic buying, native advertising – and its close relation branded content – seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment. And yet not everyone can agree as to what it is, how and when to use it or its overall future importance. Some marketers still react to the subject with ‘confusion or dismay’ according to Piers North of Yahoo.

To ease some confusion, during a Yahoo panel dubbed ‘The Native Revolution’, the ‘native spectrum’ was outlined and explained, from classic content marketing (the advertorial stuff), to the long established online native formats of paid search, to now the new ‘in-stream’ advertising formats seen within social media – ie a branded animated gif within Tumblr.

In essence, the idea of native advertising is of integrating a branded message into the content experience rather than interrupting or intruding upon it. And it’s something that is increasingly being recognised as suiting the confines and contexts of mobile usage perfectly.

It's why, as we all spend more and more time staring at our smartphones, it's gaining in prominence and industry buzz. In fact, it’s the mobile screen, and how we all use it, that is really fuelling the native advertising debate. That’s where it is increasingly manifesting itself.

As our mobile minutes grow, predominantly in social media conversation streams or in content feeds, it is native advertising, rather than classic banner advertising, that is starting to be seen as the more attractive solution for both advertisers and audiences.

Especially when targeting the younger, Gen Z demographic. While they are constantly glued to their mobile screens they will only give content the most fleeting of glances. As such it is claimed that you now have about one second to impress and impact this audience on their mobile screens. Which is why contextually targeted, bite-size, in-stream advertising content is looking like the best option for cutting through.

Yahoo is studying this group to understand how they are driving new behaviours in mobile consumption – driven by ‘needs-state’ and relevance – and the advertising that will connect with them.

Native advertising on mobile is seeing strong results both from a brand building and direct response perspective. During Tapjoy’s panel ‘Turning Mobile ROI Into Reality’, mobile agency leaders agreed that native advertising options were increasingly in their consideration set, alongside their more traditional mobile performance media options.

And yet despite this, I heard, in another session, entitled ‘Beyond Native’ hosted by the Guardian, one panelist salute the ‘bravery’ of advertisers, such as Linda Boff of GE, for focusing more on native branded content than traditional advertising.

My take on the debate is that, very soon, it will not be a brave client who forgoes traditional advertising formats for native, but a foolhardy one that doesn’t.

Julian Smith is head of strategy and innovations at Fetch

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