On February 27, I had the opportunity to represent Pandora for the first time and speak at the Native Advertising Summit in New York. The event was put together by the team at Sharethrough and was a great testament to the work of the past two years from taking native advertising as a concept into a fully fledged investment area for marketers.
My talk (posted below) focused on how developers/publishers should consider building their native ad solution, based on market trends and what I’ve learned in my time at Google, StumbleUpon and now Pandora.
Here are the accompanying slides:
It’s been fun to see the native advertising space legitimized and even more fun to be a part of building the next wave. What have you learned from taking your own attempts at building or buying native advertising?
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I’ve been towing the line between advertising and engineering for just about every day since I knew what it meant to purchase something. My parents were raised in communist Poland and lived there until their mid 30s until we moved to the US in 1987. Needless to say, the concept of a brand was just about as foreign as the English language when my family came stateside.
My dad was (still is) an electrical engineer by trade, so my earliest memories involve building a transistor radio from spare parts we picked up at Radio Shack… which seemed easier than convincing him why I should own the latest pair of high end Reeboks.
I remember trying every explanation in the book:
me: the quality is better! they won’t fall apart
dad: your feet grow too fast, they won’t matter in 6 months
me: they will make me faster!
dad: can you show me how that is possible?
me: no (the Internet could have probably helped on this one, sadly Prodigy was not advanced enough at the time)
me: Shawn Kemp wears them! (still pining for these shoes)
dad: so what?
None of them worked. Reason couldn’t explain why I wanted to pay a premium for something that was priced 3x what you could buy at Payless. For what it’s worth — we tended to net out at buying Nikes or Reeboks from the racks at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx (compromise: another lesson learned for another post…)
A lot of my childhood was spent trying to solve this question: why did I want these Reeboks so badly? I could understand how soldering some transistors could translate radio waves to sound, but I couldn’t figure out this problem that was so seemingly simple.
It turns out that the answer was not exactly simple, but could be explained with the irrational: I wanted them because of how they would make me feel, and not the physical utility I would get from them.
This is what makes building advertising platforms so fun: it forces you to apply rational problem solving toward an end game that succeeds best when it triggers the most irrational thoughts.
Red Bull gets what it means to push the limits. I like the feeling of being in a circle of like-minded people who also like to push the limits.
Audi understands what it takes to engineer high performance F1 cars and R8s — I want to feel like one of those drivers.
Intel gets what it means to push the limits of technology. I trust that what they build will work in a high tech way.
We use brands to inform how we feel when we consume their products, almost more than when we purchase them. That’s the beauty of advertising.
That’s why we have such memorable moments from advertising:
Grant Hill drinks Sprite?!
I wanna be like Mike!
The problem is that we haven’t really moved beyond TV ads telling us stories in 30 seconds to help move and drive those beautifully irrational feelings. There has got to be a rational mechanism to inspire people to feel these ways with the power of social technology and portable mobile devices.
That’s why I love building ad products. I want to bring these stories to life for my generation and the next one. That’s why I’m taking my next step and joining Pandora next week. With over 60 million people tuning in each month, the door for making these connections exists. And I’m really looking forward to building it (and also one day buying those Reebok Kamikaze’s).