What’s All This Talk About Native Advertising?

 - October 7, 2013, 11:15 AM

There has been plenty of chatter lately in marketing circles about so-called native advertising and its role in the promotion of products and services. Even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been weighing in on the matter.

Still, the concept remains a mystery to some marketers. So let’s explore what is being said and what you need to know.

Wikipedia defines native advertising as “a method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing valuable content in the context of the user’s experience. Native ad formats match both the form and the function of the user experience in which it is placed.” By that definition, native advertising isn’t so new. Think of print advertorials as well as product placements in films and television.

One concern is that lines begin to be blurred when native advertising appears in a digital format—on a publisher’s website, for instance—or in a print publication next to editorial content that looks the same. Some advertisers have considered that a benefit of native advertising. In fact, though, it can be confusing to readers and may diminish their trust in both the publisher and the brand being promoted.

With this in mind, social-media sites have developed some fairly strict rules about native advertising and how it must be labeled and presented. The FTC, meanwhile, is hosting a workshop on the topic and has released guidelines for native advertising on social media.

Robert Rose, writing for the Content Marketing Institute, makes some excellent points about why marketers should avoid native advertising that mimics editorial and promote their products more directly. He argues that it really isn’t to a marketer’s advantage to have his content look and feel like editorial. You’re better off with advertising that stands out from the editorial, he argues.

Content marketing is here to stay, which is why the Content Marketing Institute made Inc.’s 500 fastest-growing companies list for the past two years. But the key to success is creating content that helps and motivates readers rather than confusing them.