I recently attended the Native Advertising Summit, presented by Sharethrough at the W Midtown, Atlanta. There was a standing room only crowd of approximately 400 of Atlanta’s best and brightest in publishing, advertising and marketing in attendance. The format was a well conceived series of panel discussions including: defining native, branded content, the rapidly changing media companies and socially connected brands. To speak on these alluring subjects on the publishing side were: Mark Howard from Forbes, Moksha Fitzgibbons from Complex, Patrick Albano from Yahoo, Andrew Wiedlen from Buzzfeed and Andrew Gorenstein from Gawker. Representing Advertising/Marketing were: Josh Cherfoli from Porsche, Katie Szumowski from Turner Media Group and Neil Bedwell from Coca-Cola. Also, an eloquent and entertaining Keynote Presentation was given by Daryl Evans of AT&T.
I was completely blown away by the energy in the room. The collective intelligence, creativity and most importantly, enthusiasm toward native advertising truly inspired me. What possibilities this format presents…it has the potential to not only alter our existing communications format, but the entire paradigm (or to use their word, ecosystem) for modern media/advertising/marketing. What a monumental opportunity native presents for a marketer to align their products/service within the organic nature of the publisher’s messaging, and an equally organic means for consumer interaction. Or, as Mark Howard, SVP Forbes Digital succinctly put it in describing the Forbes native platform (BrandVoice), “Native for us is enabling marketers to use the same tools, and play by the same rules as our editorial operation”.
So, this leaves us with one important question to answer….is branded content/native advertising a fad or here to stay? With 400 people paying upwards of $400 per ticket, it was revealing when Dan Greenberg, Sharethrough’s CEO (and Forbes 30 Under 30) asked during his opening remarks, “by show of hands what percentage of your annual media budget is allocated for native advertising”, there were no hands raised. Without hesitation he lowered his marker to 5% (while reminding us that Facebook counts!), and there may have been 10 hands proudly stretched high. Which served as a perfect set up for the next slide of Dan’s presentation, clicking on cue…..which read “Native: The Future of Advertising”!