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Starcom Turns Old Stories From Time, Forbes and Martha Stewart Into New Ads

"Real time" and "native" ads, featuring stuff you may have already read from Time, Forbes and Martha Stewart.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

New digital advertising conventional wisdom: Banner ads are dead!*

But native ads, which use “content” that’s supposed to look like “real” content — those are cool and new!**

One big problem in turning this conventional wisdom into reality: It’s hard to scale “native” ads, because someone has to go create the “content” for them. And if you did that every time you wanted to run a native ad, then that process would be just as cumbersome as actually … creating content!

There are a bunch of folks trying to tackle this, of course, because solving it seems like a lucrative thing to do. Here’s one version: A new program from Starcom MediaVest Group, which lets advertisers create ads using stuff that real publishers — like Forbes, Martha Stewart Omnimedia and Time Inc. — have already published.

The offering, built using software from ad tech startup Flite, gives advertisers a library of stuff to choose from that has already been published, identified by different categories — perhaps you’re pushing shampoo, and want a piece about the benefits of essential oils — and lets them plunk an excerpt from the articles directly into a display ad.

The publisher gets a piece of any revenue the ad generates, as well exposure for their stuff and a link to their site. The advertiser gets to associate itself with a “real” publisher. Here’s an example from Kellogg’s, using a story previously published by Martha Stewart:

starcom content at scale kellogg's martha stewart

You can argue with the notion that Starcom’s “Content @ Scale” ads are “true” native ads, because they’re still banner ads that will run adjacent to “real” content. Some people think of native ads as ones that completely mimic the real thing. In any event, it’s still an interesting idea.

And since the ad assembly and publishing can happen on the fly, Starcom also notes that you could use its new program to do one of those “real time” ads that lots of people are also very interested in. The pinnacle of that concept, so far, was the famous Oreo Super Bowl tweet/ad a year ago. (The nadir might be Gogo’s Justine Sacco quip last month.)

Again, given the relatively regimented nature of the boxes Starcom is offering right now — which ladle a dollop of content in the middle of a conventional banner — it might be hard to come up with something truly memorable with this format. But it’s easy to see it evolving, too. And instead of being limited to exposure on a platform like Twitter or Instagram, the ads can run anywhere a banner could appear.

So I bet you’ll see more of them. And I bet you’ll see more publishers reselling their old stories in them, too.

* Or maybe not dead, but something like a $10-billion-a-year business in the U.S. Take your pick!

** Even though they’re a concept that has been around since the 1800s, if not earlier.

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