While native advertising is no longer a new phenomenon, it is one that few creatives have really mastered.
That is the view of James Mok, who explains: 'The whole area of native just keeps on evolving at a massive rate. So while anyone might be an expert for a moment, it just changes. No-one's an expert yet."
That lack of expertise is currently a hindrance for brands, publishers and creatives. Native advertising isn't going anywhere - it is the fastest-growing display advertising medium globally. So, the VMLY&R Auckland Managing Director says it is a competitive opportunity for agencies to get really good at the medium.
The problem, Mok told the audience at Verizon Media's 'Native Decoded' event, is that traditionally creatives at advertising agencies are more concerned with finding the "big idea", which does not necessarily fit with the view of native advertising.
He explains to the audience there is a chance to really explore and be creative in native, where other digital mediums are perhaps more functional: "That test and learn culture is pretty fundamental to success and fundamental to actually validating the strength of any format, native in particular. It feels like we're under indexing on that massively compared to the rest of the world.
"If we can validate the ideas we're putting out there to actually become experts until the next format comes out, then we have to start exploring again."
Mok explains that to be successful with native advertising creatives need to follow a few simple principles:
1. Don't do clickbait
"We live in a very media-savvy world and no-one really likes to be duped. Even though clearly clickbait does work, I think that we have to have a long term view about how we want to connect with our audiences.
"If we create sensationalised headlines with underwhelming content we really risk the potential of burning our audience and they will eventually learn not to engage with the format. We have to have some responsibility in delivering quality and really engaging content in order to really maximise this format."
2. Think about the human element
"Empathy is a real route to connection. The context of native is that it lives in an editorial environment. Once we understand the human needs before the client's product or service, people can really get involved in their content and enjoy finding out more because they want to find it."
3. Be useful
"While advertising uses entertainment and intrigue to pique interest, I think the real power of native is for the brand to be useful. People are reading the news and then there's the entertainment in their feeds they need to compete against. All of this is about feeding their personal interests.
"When a brand unpacks information or gets people access to a product and service, they are far more likely to get into it because it's useful information to them. Arguably they might even like the brand more because the brand is actually offering stuff that is useful to them as opposed to just interrupting their lives. It's pretty provocative."
Mok explains the real opportunity around native is a new route to creating connections through a new format. And, quoting Sir John Heggarty, he explains that while the practice of creating these ads may change, the principles should remain the same.
Ultimately, Mok believes native is the future for brands to create cut through, explaining: "An ad is generally seen as an interruption and our challenge is to not be an ad. Great native fits seamlessly into its environment and then its language and the way it looks and feels is like editorial, therefore easier to consume, unlike a big ad which automatically says don't look at me."