Native ads take over San Francisco

There’s a lot of industry buzz around native advertising at the moment, which Sharethrough (the US-based native publisher platform) has taken to a new level by covering a whole city with native bill boards.

The stunt is in part to advertise the Native Ad Summit, taking place in San Francisco this week, but also a way to get advertisers and publishers to think about what the concept of native advertising really means.

At the concept’s core is the idea of ads taking the form and function of the environment they’re consumed in; which translates as making the ads look and feel like the online publisher they appear in. The thinking behind this is that interruption is counter to user engagement, so if you use an ad format that doesn’t interrupt a user is more likely to engage.

Fleshing out the idea of interruption being bad, is the concept of contextualisation – which is what native is all about – and which again this bill board campaign illustrates. Contextualisation is arguably one of the most important values of advertising; it’s the reason why old-school big publishing houses can justify the high cost per milles across their publishing network. But it has become increasingly forgotten in a world of programmatic advertising where algorithms don’t take into account the environment around an ad, only the actions linked to the ad.

Amusingly, Sharethrough also touches on the negative sides of the wrong environment for ads, with a cheeky dig at ads that can’t be seen – whether that’s because of trees or because they’re stacked out of the site of the website user.

Chris Quigley is co-founder of social video platform VAN and meme meet-up #KittenCamp