While I was at OMMA Native, I was on a panel about getting scale for native ads. I enjoyed the discussion and I think we had a conversation that the industry needs to have and debate. Specifically, we talked a lot about ad technology companies wanting to create “scale” in native advertising and content formats. I thought I’d share a bit here about that conversation and expand on some of my thoughts.
I love scale. I love it when our industry makes things that move people around the world. But when ad platform technologies start talking “scale”, I get nervous. I get nervous about standardization in the name of scale. I get nervous about things becoming “lowest-common denominator” in the name of scale.
Let me explain…
I come from the dawn of the internet and its early marketing efforts. I watched banners become “a thing” and then quickly, “meh”. “Scale”-chasing is what we did with online display. “Scale” gave us standard formats. Networks told us to pepper ads everywhere in the name of “scale”. That “scale” was a driving factor in making 99.9% of us ignore online display units today. Even “social” efforts have been hurt by scale. Engagement rates on Facebook brand pages is starting to look worse than display ads.
The point is, by putting ads everywhere for “scale”, you are driving down the “click rate” by increasing the “see” rate. When you do that, you “pee in the pool” for everyone. I did, in fact, use that euphemism while on that panel. Sorry Mom.
For “native advertising” and the other new types of possibilities brands have to reach people, let’s make sure we focus on the end outcomes for the businesses and not scale.
And as far as indicting a “young media buyer” who values scale, I sorta said that. It’s not meant to be a sweeping indictment of media people. It’s an indictment of how we all can sometime overvalue reach and “scale” over results in advertising.
We can easily make new technology that makes things “scale”. It’ll be harder and more expensive to make the custom, individual, hand-crafted things that people will actually love instead of ignore. It’s also more fun. When we chose the easy way, we might end up with 99.9% of people ignoring us.