Advertisers pay to interrupt the experience and reach these
And audiences put up with interruptions to keep the content
The model has remained largely untouched because it works. Even
large-scale disruptions such as social networking have yet to dent
this equilibrium because the behaviors on large screens remain the
same: Content begets eyeballs, which begets interruptions.
The rapid proliferation of small screens and pocketable devices,
however, dismantles this covenant, putting the ad-media industrial
complex at considerable risk.
Speed of Change
What's different this time is the speed and depth of change.
Smartphones are the fastest growing technology of all time,
according to Forrester. Nothing -- not TVs, not computers -- comes
close when it comes to adoption. Nielsen reports that more than 50%
of Americans own at least one smartphone.
As millions of people gain real-time internet access, behaviors
are already starting to change. Pew reports that most smartphone
owners use their devices as their primary gateway to content.
Interruptive experiences simply don't work on phones. Hard stop.
This means agencies, media companies and marketers must adapt or
they could suffer. Some aren't waiting around to find out.
The social networks are paving the way by embracing what some
call "native" advertising formats. These ads allow marketers to
seamlessly integrate their messages into existing audience-friendly
structures (e.g. tweets, posts) but pay to have them amplified.
Twitter's two primary advertising programs (promoted tweets and
promoted trends), as well as Facebook's sponsored stories are
native ad formats. They blend the advertiser's content into the
rest of the environment like chameleons. And early data indicate
both work well.
Media companies, too, are slowly going native.
BuzzFeed's entire model has always eschewed banners in favor of
sponsored content. Toyota, for example, worked with BuzzFeed to
create a branded feature showcasing places you "have to see" before
Beyond Content Marketing
Meanwhile, Quartz, a digital-only business publication that The
Atlantic is launching this month, will go live with a native ad
format called Bulletins. All four Quartz charter sponsors -- Credit
Suisse, Cadillac, Boeing and Chevron -- are creating Bulletins that
will live as ads in the stream.
While one might see "native monetization" as the natural,
continued evolution of digital advertising or as another iteration
of "content marketing," it's not. It's way bigger. It's a sea
change. And it's a clear and present danger to the existing
ad-marketing industrial complex.
There are early signs of who may win and who may be poised to
For starters, as more consumers spend more time with content on
mobile devices, they will undoubtedly favor advertisers who create
native content that adds value to the overall experience.
Any marketer, agency and media company that aims to blend in
rather than overwhelm will surely succeed in a more native
On the other side sit the agencies, technology vendors, ad
networks and media companies that treat ads as pork bellies and
automate the entire process. They could stand to lose billions as
marketers race to adopt content partnerships and highly customized
approaches that help them stand out as native monetization gains
There's no part of the marketing ecosystem that will go
unscathed by the mobile tsunami. And so far, there are advantages
for early adopters.
I'm convinced that the shift away from interruptive ads toward
content-centric experiences is good for everyone who participates
-- the marketers, the media, the agencies and, above all, the
But it won't come without some pain.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Rubel is exec VP-global strategy and
insights for Edelman.