Native advertising has quite the rap. It involves brands integrating their messages directly into content (oftentimes it’s in print or online format, but it takes other forms such as podcasts too), which means it looks and seems like an editorial piece. The problem with this, of course, is that it often feels like the readers and consumers are being tricked to read a piece of content marketing as opposed to an editorial piece. Many people view native advertising negatively because of this, which is entirely understandable. Native advertising seems to often blur the lines between editorial content and advertising (or “church and state”, as it’s referred to). I love myself some John Oliver, and I think he explains the conflict quite well:
Besides this, native advertising has other drawbacks in comparison to traditional advertising. The analytics for it are mediocre, and targeting isn’t refined enough for it to be more appealing than digital usually is. And even with analytics, it’s hard to tell if brand awareness is created by the native ad itself or all the PR surrounding it. The folks from the StartUp podcast discovered this, and spent a whole podcast discussing it.
But here’s the thing – native advertising has the potential to be really innovative, and often is. When done properly, it meshes beautifully with the editorial content it appears alongside, and delivers its own creative and relevant content to boot. All while being aesthetically appealing! And, as Ad Age points out, it should be transparent. In the video above, John Oliver is totally right: sticking a tiny logo somewhere on a piece of content isn’t being very transparent. As marketers, it’s important to be honest with the audience you’re providing content to, regardless if the content is presented through native advertising or some other format. Emphasizing the clear line between advertising and editorial content upholds journalistic integrity and creates trust between the brand and its audience. While some publishers aren’t being very upfront about the sponsored content they post (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed), others are looking to improve native for the better.
The Wall Street Journal’s Custom Studios, their take on a native advertising platform, clearly defines what is sponsored but also catches the audience’s eye by delivering quality content. The New York Times, Forbes, and the New Yorker all do this as well. Maybe it just takes publishers known for good journalism to get the job done right? It comes down to having standards on both sides, and the best content (in either form) you can give to readers. Putting compelling advertising next to high-quality content, and delivering it to the right people at the right time is what good content marketing is all about, and excellent native advertising is a perfect example of this.
Another big trend in paid advertising is programmatic ad buying. It’s complicated (even when it’s explained to you like you’re eight), but seems a whole lot like eBay (or eTrade) for ad space. Instead of bidding for media space in the more traditional way, much of it is now done automatically similar to trading stocks online. It’s a billion-dollar industry, and (as I keep emphasizing) it should come down to making advertising better for the audience. ComScore recently announced its plan to provide better insight for media buyers in programmatic, that will create trust for both publishers and buyers while (hopefully) making for better paid advertising and content. Programmatic’s benefits are immense, and it factors in consumer data, marketing goals, and more to help deliver the best quality content through formats such as native advertising.