Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Climbs on the Native Ads Bandwagon

billboard380“Native ads” are the hottest new/old idea in online ads: Messaging marketers pay for that’s supposed to look a lot like “real” content. They’re what we used to call “advertorials,” and they’re often quite easy to mock, but both advertisers and publishers seem to want them, so here we are.

And now, here’s Google: The search giant is getting into the native ads business by making it easier for publishers to run and track the ads on their sites, via its DoubleClick display ads platform.

Google has quietly been testing out the concept with a handful of publishers like Forbes. Now, in a blog post by Neal Mohan, Google’s display ads boss, the company is formally acknowledging that it’s going to make native ads a part of its business:

Making native native … to DoubleClick. Recently, “native formats” have emerged as an important new model. They provide new types of brand experiences, like sponsored stories, that are unique to each publisher. We are investing in models like this to connect advertisers and publishers in a meaningful way, which we believe also creates real value for users. In the coming months, we’ll be developing this technology and in making it seamless for publishers who want to have flexibility in implementing native formats and making the most of them on their properties.

The native ads announcement is part of a suite of product news Mohan is making, most of which won’t mean much to normal humans (and for the rest of you, there’s AdExchanger). He’ll be getting into a bit more detail in a talk he’s supposed to give this morning, though I wouldn’t expect him to spend much time on it.

I think that’s in part because Google doesn’t have its full native ads offering ready quite yet. Right now, for instance, Google won’t help publishers create native ads — if Forbes wants to run its “BrandVoice” units on its pages, it’s going to have to make them itself. But when I talked to Mohan yesterday, he suggested that this might change down the road.

Also of note: If you Google “Google” and “native ads,” you’ll find a bunch of stories about Google warning publishers about the dangers of native ads — including this video from Google search guru Matt Cutts, published just last week. In short, Google has been warning publishers that if they run deceptive native ads, or monkey around with the links in those ads, they could get penalized by Google’s search arm, as well as the Google News team.

If you’re a cynic, you might conclude that Google is telling publishers that the only kind of native ads they should be running are the ones that Google helps them serve up. Not so, said Mohan: He argues that his team has no contact with Cutts and his group. And that, in any case, it’s up to individual publishers and advertisers to make sure their advertorials are kosher.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle