One trend I’ve been hearing a lot about lately is native advertising.
Also known as branded content or sponsored content, this is advertising that mimics the appearance of the medium on which it appears. It feels like editorial content, and it’s meant to – but it’s paid advertising.
I think the best way to understand native advertising is through examples, but keep in mind that native advertising is not limited to the following media. Branded content is found in online media, social media, and print. It’s used in YouTube pre-roll ads and has even made its way into the New York Times.
The best example for me is Buzzfeed because they use this type of advertising so much.
This post mimics the look and feel of other Buzzfeed posts flawlessly. It’s just that it was posted by Nair. If the consumer misses the author, then it’s easy to see how they might not realize that the post is advertising until they get to the end of the post and read, “Skip the shower trauma with Nair and get a smooth that lasts longer.” Even then it’s possible that they might not realize Nair published the post themselves.
The question, then, is about ethics.
I personally don’t mind if brands want to churn out their own content. I’d rather see a sponsored post because I enjoy the content and can read the slogan tagged onto the end pretty quickly. It’s a lot less of an interference than pre-roll ads that prevent me from reaching the YouTube content I want to see.
So if these are the choices…
a) Advertisements that disrupt my reading/viewing/websurfing experience
b) Advertisements that try very hard not to disrupt my experience
c) No advertisements…but I have to pay for my experience
…I’m definitely partial to b) native advertising.
That said, what’s best for me isn’t necessarily best for everyone. I recognize branded content, but I also run an advertising blog. Is it okay that half the people who see these ads don’t even recognize them as ads? Is that manipulation?
I know what this means for me, but what does it mean for the whole media-advertising relationship?