With Ad Blocking Up, Native Ads Primed To Expand

JWT’s Future 100 event looked ahead to project the biggest trends of 2016 in consumer culture, tech, and advertising.

Ad blocking is up 41 percent over the past year — but marketers can turn a challenge into a creative opportunity by deepening their commitment to native, branded content, said agency J. Walter Thompson in its “The Future 100: Trends and change to watch in 2016” report.

Native ad example — Vanity Fair

In a panel event at its New York offices on December 2nd, JWT highlighted the a series of trends that it projects will affect consumer culture in the coming year, from making beauty products from all-natural food items — JWT Creative Innovation Director Emma Chiu interviewed LOLI founder Tina Hedges — to embracing AI as part of an interactive toy for children.

One of the most immediate impacts for marketers, though, was the trend toward exploring branded content as a creative way in through the back door of ad blocking.

“With the latest version of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system including support for ad blocking software, the future of conventional display advertising on mobile phones seems to be in doubt,” JWT states. In fact, BI Intelligence estimates spending on native ads will reach $7.9 billion in 2015, and grow to $21 billion by 2018. “Are we nearing a time when native advertising becomes the new norm, on mobile and elsewhere? Increasingly, this looks to be the case. [Even] The New York Times is expanding its native content shop, T Brand Studio, “into an agency in its own right,” according to an October 2015 company memo.

In other words, the time to explore native is now. The formats have already soared in popularity on Millennial and Gen-Z favorite platforms Instagram and Tumblr – where any overtly ad-like content is seen as a distraction from the app’s social purpose — and JWT stressed the need to think bigger, expanding its use in more creative ways to other sites.

Of course, branded content is nothing new; sponsored articles, even dating back to print, have existed for decades. JWT’s proposed challenge to marketers here is to experiment; by integrating seamlessly blended native ads with, potentially, location-based targeting could help retailers blend the traditional advertorial quality of native with the direct-response quality of targeted mobile banners.

“Agencies and brands will have to redirect their attention toward channels where viewers’ interest must be earned,” JWT concludes. “It’s time for agencies to take the truism ‘content is king’ seriously.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.