It was known as “advertorial” for a long time but then along came the internet and social media and it is now known as “native advertising” and is one of the hottest topics in marketing at the moment.
In essence, native advertising describes the process whereby an advertiser places an ad and its design is created to mirror the editorial content which surrounds it.
Publishers will tell you that there is no intention to deceive readers and, indeed, most publishers and editors are fiercely protective of their integrity and content. Having said that, user trust is key to native advertising success. The content should be clearly badged as an ad to ensure complete transparency. However, the content has to match the platform so it’s a fine line to walk.
Many see this approach as blurring the lines between editorial and advertising, arguing that
If the content looks too much like the editorial content that surrounds it publications can be accused of misleading the reader.
Native advertising is also now rife across all social networks, the most common being sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts or ads on Facebook. Not only are these tactics native to their host, they also carry the power of recommendation, with the sponsored content often implying that ‘Your friend likes this”. Some 65% of native advertising is made up of blog posts.
Social native is attractive not only for its impact, but also for the sheer scale of its reach. With Facebook now being used by well over 1bn users, the potential is huge.
However, the creative limitations are significant as social content makes it difficult to tell a detailed brand story. There are usually a few short characters and, if you’re lucky, a thumbnail image.
There is a worry that social networks might become victims of their own success with users being turned off by the amount of advertising with which they are bombarded. Many publishers, including Facebook and Twitter, have started to limit the amount of native advertising they carry even though it is an exceptionally lucrative revenue stream for them.
An interesting addition in the world of social native is what has become known as “display social”. In this, advertisers piggy back third party sites to increase interest and, hopefully, engagement. The ad becomes, ostensibly, a link to a site of interest such as a fashion site being promoted on a lifestyle site. When the user clicks through, the advertiser’s ad is featured on the fashion site.
The ad then becomes semi-editorial rather than a straightforward ad and the advertiser has his ad appearing alongside editorial relevant to both the user and his proposition.
There are currently no real performance measurements for native advertising because it is still such a new category. The advertiser can see how many shares, likes or retweets a post gets and, from that, extrapolate the amount of interest he is creating.
It is also possible to monitor the number page views the advertiser’s website is receiving and relate them to the appearance of a native ad. However, it is extremely difficult to measure the level of engagement engendered. And that is still the golden fleece of all marketing activity. Or, it should be.