Seem a little incomprehensible?
It isn’t. However, with everyone trying to ‘explain’ native advertising in their own terms, many are left grappling with the question of what this term actually means.
It’s an important topic. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) itself, no less, has entered into the native advertising debate. Not to be left behind is the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) which has set up a task force to come to a consensus on this. Altimeter did some research recently and tried to shed some light on native advertising and the National Advertising Division (NAD) has also done some assessment on the topic.
So, let’s cut to the heart of it and see if we can define native advertising in simple terms:
“Native advertising is a form of advertising where advertorial content appears in the form and style of non-promotional editorial content of the website.” It’s a digital form of the advertorials that run in print media, which too, have attracted controversy in the past. It’s called ‘native’ because its execution is ‘native’ or unique to the media it uses.
We hope this made the term ‘native advertising’ clearer to you!
Popularity and Forms
Native advertising is not popular for no reason. It has spawned a host of products that aid brands in the easy practice of native advertising.
Here are a few examples of different forms of native advertising:
The content of Facebook Promoted Posts is exclusive to its format and looks like regular Facebook content. Facebook has recognized the importance of native advertising and made it really easy to create native ads. You can turn any post into an ad with every Facebook post offering the option of promoting it. So your ad blends right in with the rest of the Facebook posts. The only visible difference between a regular and a Promoted Post is that the latter is marked as “Sponsored”.
This again is an ad format that is completely “native” to Twitter. As like non-promoted tweets, these ‘paid for’ tweets also embrace the Twitter 140 character limit which is the most defining element of Twitter.
The newest “native” kid on the block, Pinterest Promoted Pins is another example of a native advertising format. Promoted Pins have some similarity with Promoted Facebook Posts and Sponsored Tweets wherein they also are marked as promoted content. The only difference with Promoted Pins is that it encloses content in a different format with more emphasis on images.
YouTube Pre-Roll Ads
The ads screened before the actual video plays on YouTube are also an example of native advertising. The ad content is modified to suit the needs and tastes of the YouTube audience. The only way in which YouTube pre-roll ads are different from other formats is that the format is audio visual.
If we examine every one of these above ad types, we can clearly see that they embody all the characteristics of native advertising.
Now that’s settled…
Let’s give some advantages of native advertising a look:
Choice of Native Advertising Products
Native advertising may be relatively new, but there already are a few products available that cater to the norms of native advertising. All of the products mentioned above help marketers target audiences by blending almost seamlessly into those sites. The promotional content is better absorbed by customers because they view these messages as content and not advertising. As a result of this, their resistance/cynicism to sponsored messages doesn’t come into play.
As the popularity and effectiveness of native advertising grows, no doubt more models will crop up that will help make this strategy work better. The current forms of native advertising have already sparked a lot of interest in the digital marketing community.
Captures Attention Better
Native advertising does a better job at capturing the wandering attention of consumers since it blends in well with the site’s non-promotional content. Though the most notable part of native advertising is that it is almost indistinguishable from the host site’s content, the biggest positive is that these ads will ease their way into the site audiences’ attention instead of say, clanging into their consciousness.
Lack of Differentiation from Editorial Content
Despite the advantages it offers, a shadow has been cast on the validity of native advertising because of the way it blends with editorial (non-advertorial) content. The claim of purists here is that editorial content should be distinct from advertisements so that it is very easy to separate the two.
While some prospects may see such ads and welcome the fact that they saw a relevant message that they may not have seen but for native advertising, there are some who may be infuriated by the fact that the brand is still targeting them with advertising in the guise of content. The latter may accuse brands of deceitful practices to gain their attention. This may taint the brand and call the brand’s character into question.
Questions about its Scalability
Native advertising has also had people questioning its scalability because it requires customization for each individual site. The kind of intensive efforts required to blend into the content of a website restricts marketers’ ability to do this across many websites simultaneously, the way one runs other online campaigns.
‘What’s the incremental benefit of native advertising as compared to traditional advertising?’ is one important question that many marketers have when it comes to this subject. Given that it is more effort intensive and not really scalable – the results have to be dramatic to justify its use.
The arguments for and against are equally compelling.
We’d love to hear about your take on this topic! Drop in your comments in the box below.