According to a recent paper from Purch, the native advertising tidal wave continues to roll forever forwards, with predictions of spend tripled between 2013 and 2015. However, along with the tidal wave come some under-currents that are also worthy of consideration and discussion.

The Purch findings show dual themes of increased commitment to native as the engagement of choice, and also increased commitment to programmable buying for digital space that allows very precise targeting driven by the consumer’s own actions.

They also confirm that for 71% of advertisers branding is their main native goal, with 65% also including sales and conversions high up the list too; not too surprising given that, at the end of the day, that’s what we all need and want. It is not, after all, the mantra of native advertising that actually trying to sell something is somehow passé or even immoral, the discussion is more about the relative merits of a quick sale ‘off the page’ as against a sustained customer conversation.

However, the danger with trying to directly link sales and conversions to the nature of the advertising is one that pops its head up with every new channel and every new technology that comes along. 

There used to be a popular saying that ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’; which means that anyone trying to plead a case to the keepers of the company budget purse are far more likely to be favoured if they can back up their pleading with a whole raft of metrics and stats, no matter how creatively rendered.

Back in the 1980’s when computers suddenly allowed us to deal with huge wads of data very quickly, ‘accountability’ became one of the buzz words in advertising. There was a point when almost every ad in a paper or magazine had a cut-out coupon attached, because counting coupon responses at least gave you a metric! The down side was that we very nearly threw creativity out the window to make room for the day’s postbag of competition entries and free prize draws. Of course ROI is important but only as money in the bank, not as a number attached to a campaign.

The same sort of danger could become true of programmable targeting and real time buying; it’s always nice when, as a customer, a company remembers your name. It’s equally satisfying when the system actually remembers what you definitely do not want to buy, because you’ve told them in no uncertain terms, and actually only contact you when they have something right up your street.

But there does come a time when companies seem to know a little too much about you, appearing with freakish regularity everywhere you turn, like some sort of stalker you can’t seem to shake off.

So, just a native prayer, let’s not bury our success under a pile of accountant-friendly metrics, or alienate our consumers with automated intrusion in place of brilliant content.

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Author Adam Rock

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