SXSW: The future of native advertising

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From being catfished on Tinder to retiring the term "native advertising," panelists weigh the future of content

AUSTIN — More-invasive native advertising is a good thing for consumers because it will set "the quality bar higher," according to Nikhil Sethi, co-founder and CEO of Adaptly.

Speaking on a panel at SXSW today about the future of native advertising, Sethi said that the rise of native and connected experiences means only "the best brands, the best products, the best services will win — there is great opportunity if we constrain the medium."

Sethi discussed news about a campaign that catfished people looking for a SXSW hook-up on Tinder. As Adweek reported, an attractive 25-year-old woman called Ava on the dating app, flirting with attendees at the event, turned out to be a spoof to promote the movie "Ex Machina."

"Is it OK if advertising is so native people don’t know it’s advertising?" Sethi asked. 

If brands manage to get over the "creepiness line," then the experience can be "magical," he said.  

Mitch Brandow, executive VP, engagement strategy and analytics, Energy BBDO, said that as we have more connected experiences, brands will have to focus on delivering more value and utility for their consumers. 

Read more about connected content at SXSW

"Where we are headed is towards something that is a pervasive topic at SouthBy this year — brands producing content and connected experiences that bring value to the consumer," he said. 

He said that the term native advertising, however, "should be retired" (especially after that John Oliver rant) and "we should think about how we can build content and experiences that consumers actively want to participate and engage in."

Brandow talked about the importance of partnership, when it comes to creating native content. "Ultimately, I think the creative agency will evolve into the role of system architect.

"When you think about content and connected experiences, what we will really start to do is build connected systems. The notion of having a creative agency produce every piece of that content is challenging. 

He said that as we move from a world of historical push-based advertising to more pull-based advertising, "the notion of 'predict' becomes more important."

"From push, to pull, to predict, where you can use data in the programmatic space to predict the content that the consumers will find valuable," he said. 

As native becomes more prevalent — and the landscape more fragmented and connected — there will be a huge amount of data to help advertisers create better content.

However, transparency is key, argued Jill King, SVP, marketing and partnerships, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, particularly when thinking about GenZ and the rise of people who want to go off the grid. 

"Native advertising as trickery doesn’t work for us or our audience," she said. "The best native advertising is creative and driven by transparency."

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