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Dale Lovell
Dale Lovell 1 December 2017

Learning Lessons from Native Advertising: How TV is Embracing Digital

I remember a conference a few years ago where Fred Wilson, the tech venture capitalist was talking about something called “native advertising”. Back then it was purely in relation to sponsored content, but now is one of digital advertising’s principle mediums. A sign of things to come then that this conference was centered on online marketing.

Native advertising is growing fast and with predictions of 36.2% growth this year, taking it past the $20 billion mark, we will see it become the main spend of choice for digital display advertising. With this rise in popularity we are also starting to see it appear on television, having the same effect upon networks as it did upon the internet; marketing content is now blurring the lines between advertorial and programming.

This is because TV executives are starting to become anxious about audience apathy to commercial breaks that don’t seem to end and which contain adverts that aren’t engaging. Native therefore stands as a model to learn from, a proven success story where everyone can benefit.

We are seeing this in several places:

1. Content-led ads with longer running times

One example of a network using content-driven advertising is CNN, who are using their TNT and truTV channels to experiment with less frequent commercials, reducing the amount of them by  half. This in turn is allowing advertisers to have commercials with extended running times, providing opportunity for more cinematic experiences which mirror in-house and branded content.

2. Native commercial breaks

What's interesting is that advertisers don’t have to enact a sudden or stark change to their model in order to utilise native on television. The World Series in October saw FOX Sports not cutting to a traditional commercial, but going to their pundits for the usual commentary, this time with a CGI T-Mobile logo imposed on the desk.

T-Mobile was still in full view of an audience who were more receptive and engaged with the content in front of them, just without the distinction of a commercial break: a full synergy of brand and content without distraction.

Indeed FOX called it a “commercial-free break”, a great example of how additional content can be layered with advertising without separating the two experiences.

3. Finding a balance

FOX are leading the way, not just in sports but across their network. Their True[X] subsidiary is enabling programming to be served with interactive advertising, giving audiences choice as to how they receive marketed content. Again, they see less advertising overall but are more likely to engage. Coined as a “marketing-value exchange” by True[X] they see the balance as equally, if not more effective, than a 30 second traditional commercial break.

The landscape is changing

I am relishing seeing more and more native advertising moving into broadcast media, something we’ll see much more of in the near future too. The benefits are obvious as less frequent ads provide increased engagement and interaction, and content is the driving force behind commercials rather than sales. What this all means is that we will be seeing a focus on quality over quantity. I’m happy that native advertising could help out with this shift in approaches.  

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