Native advertising has many faces and the industry doesn’t always agree on what good native is. Some believe native always has to be completely tailor-made for one specific publication or platform. They call this true native. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who swear by programmatic. And then there are all those in between.
At the Native Advertising PowerHouse Podcast, we had a chat with David Landes on this exact subject – whether native can live on one platform only, or if channel-neutrality is the way to go. David Landes used to be Head of Commercial Content at The Local, but in early 2018 he shifted to the agency side and is now Content Director at Tale Content Creators.
And as someone who’s been on both the publisher and the agency side, he might be able to offer some perspective worth considering.
So what does he believe is the right way to think about native advertising?
“Native is particularly interesting because it does allow a brand’s story to appear on other platforms and meet the audience where the audience already is. And the reality is that most people don’t spend time on corporate websites. Most people spend time on platforms like social media or newspaper platforms and so you need to go there – where the audience is,” says David David Landes.
Can the same piece of content work across multiple channels and platforms? Maybe not. But the same story can work across multiple platforms and channels.
One story, different pieces of content
But perhaps your audience is on different platforms and then, what do you do? Can you have both a channel-neutral approach and still create true native? And is true native really the best and only way to go? How about scalability? Can you take the same piece of content and distribute on a wide range of channels without it being non-native?
According to David Landes, this is just as tricky to answer as the questions are. And moving to the content agency side from the publisher’s side at The Local, he admits that his thinking has definitely changed as his own career has evolved.
“At The Local, we did true native and for me, native by any other name wasn’t native. It was paramount for us at that time to make sure that everything we put up felt natural on The Local’s channel,” he says.
And even though he is still a firm believer in true native, he is now inclined to make a distinction – between talking about a piece of content versus the same story.
“Can the same piece of content work across multiple channels and platforms? Maybe not. But the same story can work across multiple platforms and channels. I think you can find a narrative, a story that has the ability to be tailored and tweaked and optimized to different platforms. And that approach, I believe, is potentially more efficient.” David explains.
Because according to him, a lot of the hardest work is story sourcing – finding the different ingredients — the voices, the settings, the actions — that go into cooking up a great story. And then assembling those elements in a way that makes sense.
“When you create a story, you capture audio, video, photos and text. And when you have all those elements, you can sort of mix and match to make it fit different platforms and publishers. Think of it like a salad bar where you have all the ingredients you need to put together a good meal. But depending on who walks up to the salad bar, you might put a little bit more of one ingredient and a little bit less of another,” he explains.
Why should a great piece of content have to be stuck on one publisher platform?
So there might be a way of creating true native that can live on different platforms. But does that mean that the show is over for publisher’s native ad studios since most of them only distribute on their own platforms?
No, not necessarily, if you ask David Landes. But there is an evolution going on, he believes.
“There are clear advantages that brand studios have and the biggest one is this direct access to the audience. They have their own channels and that’s something agencies don’t have. And that gives them access to audience insights and data and that gives them the advantage of keeping their finger on the pulse in a way that you can’t if you’re not literally sitting in a publishing house,” he argues.
“But I can also turn it the other way and look at it from the agency perspective,” he continues.
“We at the agencies are, on the other hand, free to work across multiple publishers and platforms in a way that a specific brand studio might not. So instead, you can argue that agencies have access to different audiences. Why should a great piece of content have to be stuck on one publisher platform?”
Wouldn’t it be nice if a smaller agency just delivered a story that was 80-90% finished and all you had to do was wrap it up and put a bow on it to fit your platform?
A collaboration between brand studios and agencies
Therefore, David Landes sees potential in agencies and publishers working together, as it is becoming harder and harder to tell great brand stories.
“It’s costly. It requires a lot of investment and sponsored articles just don’t cut it anymore. You need to have digital animation, drone videos and what not, which suddenly is a very different animal to deal with. And I think a lot of publishers are struggling to scale their studios to meet that demand,” he says.
It’s not about picking a winner or a loser, though, he says. Some studios will be able to evolve into something that resembles traditional agencies. But for smaller publishers, it might make more sense to collaborate with external agencies that can take care of the labour-intensive story sourcing.
He asks, “Wouldn’t it be nice if a smaller agency just delivered a story that was 80-90% finished and all you had to do was wrap it up and put a bow on it to fit your platform – but you could still charge a great amount for less effort?”
Download the report “Native Advertising Trends 2018 – the Magazine Industry”