Native Advertising: The Irony and the Reality

According to Sharethrough, the world’s largest in-feed advertising organization, native advertising is a form of paid mass media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.

This is growing particularly popular among advertisers in the digital space and is a contributing reason to why mobile-ad spending has now surpassed advertising dollars spent on traditional media such as radio and newspapers. As successful as this tactic has been for advertisers, the public is starting to catch on to what many are saying is leaving them feeling tricked and/or deceived. Specifically, a recent study by a company that pairs brands with writers to produce native ads reported that two-thirds of respondents said they felt deceived when they realized that what they thought was genuine editorial content was really sponsored by a brand.

I can’t say I blame this group; my initial reaction is a feeling of deception, too. But, when you take a look back, brands have been doing this for many years in print, radio and television media. Only now does the development of the digital space give them an opportunity to further the evolution of this idea.

The simple equation that many content consumers forget is media outlets exists because of advertisers. Advertising dollars pay the bills for these outlets to research, create and publish content; subscriptions are only a very little slice of the income pie for print, radio, television and digital outlets because consumers are not willing to pay high prices for media consumption.

And now, as consumers try to hack the content in the digital space to get around pay walls, outlets are feeling the heat from advertisers to get their ads as much exposure as possible – hence, the concept of native advertising.

The Irony: Native advertising exists and evolves as consumers try to avoid paying for media content and as media outlets try to combat this avoidance to please the hand that feeds them – advertisers.

The Reality: Native advertising isn’t going away any time soon, unless consumers decide to start paying for all content they consume and outlets see an overwhelming subscription response as a result.

But, don’t forget that advertisers are trying to show they are listening to consumers through native advertising, as well. Many of these ads are videos, images, music and other media designed to be engaging based upon feedback from consumers.

Native advertising shows all the signs of a tactic that is here to stay. My advice would be to pay close attention to what media you consume, and if you are invested in the subject of the content, read articles, watch videos or listen to broadcasts from multiple sources to form the most educated opinion on something. Remember, as a consumer you have the responsibility of taking the necessary steps to be accurately informed.