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What’s the Future for Native Advertising?

Occasionally I come across a term that I don’t really, fully understand, so I spend a few hours trying to understand it, then regurgitate that into a coherent form, hopefully imparting something that could be classified as insightful.

Native advertising is a form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears.

This be here an attempt at one of those type of blogs.

Whilst trying to get to grips with native advertising I initially had some palpitations, as my old, enigmatic friend ‘Content Marketing’ did not seem too far away, and apparently, not fully knowing what native advertising actually is and how it works is a concern for a significant portion of marketers.

But there was nothing to fear.

The oft-maligned Wikipedia could arguably serve us best here. Well, certainly better than some people who should know better. Quite simply:

Native advertising is a form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears.

It’s not far off being that simple.

This ‘native matrix’ doesn’t seem to get us very far, and confuses what is actually a simple, effective concept. For all the faff, ultimately it just reaches a piece of prose conclusion that:

Sponsored content is designed to be read; native advertising is designed to be shared.

Sponsored content is designed to be read; native advertising is designed to be shared.

Not sure you need a matrix for that. And it still doesn’t tell us what it is. It’s not a good Matrix. It’s The Matrix: Native Revolutions.

I actually have quite a lot of time for native advertising. It might just be the infatuation of newly met lovers, who have just got back from watching 50 Shades, but it has subtlety and is understated. Certainly a lot better than vulgar banner ads, which disrupt and offend the eye (although I think humans have certainly started to develop ‘banner blindness’ now).

What’s an appropriate metaphor? Ah, yes: if banner ads are the Terminator T101 of marketing, then native advertising is the T1000. It can masquerade and morph, with chameleon-like attributes. It has to be malleable and quick to evolve to its surroundings.

Native advertising’s biggest obstacle to overcome is almost certainly the notion that it is tricking people into watching advertising. A point well made on this entertaining 10 minute piece (a warning for those with nae time, but ‘tis funny) from Tonight with John Oliver.

There are concerns about transparency, but if you increase transparency then you lose the essence of what actually works about native advertising. It then just becomes sponsored content. Which is unimaginative. We don’t need more than that.

It’s a bit worrying that 66% of marketers in a poll referenced in this decent Adweek article feel that native advertising has to have clear disclosure on its person.

Basic law of logic: if native advertising becomes transparent, it ceases to exist. If you hear anyone calling for transparency in native advertising, then you should be severely questioning the decision to trust them with your 100k marketing budget.

The positives outweigh the negatives. To be able to assimilate your brand with the trust, authority, and credibility of another site, and then make use of all that promotional goodwill, is a great opportunity. AT&T’s ‘Surround Sounds’ app, launched on Spotify, is a good example of quality native advertising.

Some talk of the lack of data and standardization as a negative. But surely, when we are saturated with so much data and poor quality, similar content, this is a positive? A fresh canvas to try some new creative stuff.

Sometimes, you just have to run the risk of pissing a small minority of people off. If someone lambasts you because the very good content they have just enjoyed was not clearly marked as an ad, well, how big a problem is that exactly?

We need more enigmatic, curiosity-arousing things in our lives.

Surely native advertising is set to grow in popularity and usage.


Postscript: Ski ‘Jumping’ identity rant. Utterly unrelated.

I’m sorry but as impressive as the recent world record is the sport should really be renamed Ski Gliding. The entire process is on a downward trajectory. It’s gliding at best. Could even just be falling diagonally. Clearly this is massively important, so lobby your local MP’s and let’s make this a subversive election issue.

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