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Twitter beats the drum for native advertising

Good advertising has always entailed matching the message to the medium; classy photography was always largely wasted on newsprint; radio invented the ubiquitous jingle to overcome the fact that there was nothing to see, and direct mail tended to be a production compromise because most of it went in the bin. It’s all part of the incredible human ability to both adapt to new circumstances and also, to adapt anything we have to our needs. We live in worlds that are constantly changing, both the real world with our development of technologies to meet challenges such as global warming; and in the virtual world where we are moving our window onto that world from our large screen computers to our smart phones.

For an internet company such as Twitter the use of smart phones is quite a major issue; more than 80% of tweets are sent from or viewed on mobile phones. Generating advertising revenue from a small platform that is probably on the move, or being accessed while the owner is also doing half a dozen other things at the same time, is always going to be a challenge. That may be one reason why Twitter’s UK MD, Bruce Daisley, recently said that native advertising is ‘potentially the next saviour of internet business’. 

While he acknowledges that the concept of native advertising owes much to the advertorial approaches of the 80s and 90s, designed to overcome the saturation of display ads, albeit in a rather covert way; there is no doubt that ensuring ad material is good content in its own right is simply recognising the strengths and the demands of the hardware trends. The sort of streamed material that is so important to the mobile user, lends itself to being integrated with native advertising streams, which, instead of bludgeoning the user with mighty headlines dressed in ever more extreme fonts and graphics, simply provides a valuable and interesting story that seems more of a user choice than a visual hijack.

Being ‘respectful’ to the user was how Bruce Daisley put it in his speech to the Digital Media Strategies Conference; providing native content that is both relevant to the editorial content and complementary to it; is a much more intuitive relationship.

Certainly, Twitter is putting its money where its beak is, so to speak, through its service. Native advertising material is released when the streams are relevant; advertisers pay in proportion to the engagement they receive. No customer engagement means no payment. It’s a great model, and one that also creates a really positive challenge for the native advertising industry. If there was one problem with the old advertorials it was that they were visually pretty dull; mostly a few text columns with a confessional single word ‘advertorial’ at the top.

Advertising is very much a part of our visual world and to lose that would be a great shame. Great native ads can still be very visual ads; perhaps different, more informative less attention grabbing maybe, and when you start to include the full multi-media spectrum they are going to ensure that the native ad world is really going to be a pretty damned exciting place.