Why Native Advertising Is So Polarizing | Organik SEO

Content Marketing

Why Native Advertising Is So Polarizing

by Organik
on August 26, 2014

3 minute read

Wayne's World Native Advertising
Spam. No one likes it. The marketing and PR world rally against it daily. We’ve begun to define best and worst practices:

  • Posting the same content to multiple social media channels at once is a ‘don’t’.
  • Don’t ask for favors from people online that you have yet to build relationship with.
  • Don’t abuse the ‘breaking news’ label to garner more page views.
  • Newsjack with extreme caution, if at all.
  • Don’t blast news releases to anyone and everyone.

The list goes on. But there’s a communications trend that has an increasingly polarizing affect: sponsored content. Organik SEO’s most recent weekly Twitter chat, #OrganikChat, was dedicated to the do’s and don’ts of online advertising, but the primary point of interest quickly became whether or not sponsored content, also popularly known as native advertising, is ethical.

The Case for Sponsored Content
Marketing and advertising evolve. Many argue that if sponsorship is clearly displayed on content, it is not only acceptable to employ sponsored content, but a beneficial marketing strategy, as a recent Vocus article suggests.

Here are a few questions to ask before embarking on a native advertising campaign:

– Have you done your research? Be sure to have a thorough understanding of your target audience.
– Does the sponsored article offer value to your audience?
– Be smart with your ad placement. Is it relevant to your brand or completely off topic?
– Is your content interesting?
– Does your content fit in with what your audience is already consuming online?
– Have you displayed the ‘sponsored by’ information prominently?

Food for thought: A chat participant said the following, “Native ads aren’t limited to online. A recipe in a magazine that calls for a certain product is a native ad. It’s not digital.” With this in mind, should we consider an article on Runner’s World (this is hypothetical) about first-time marathoner tips that is sponsored by Nike spammy or valuable? Perhaps people will consider the brand sponsoring the ad as a knowledgeable resource?

The Case Against Sponsored Content
The best websites and blogs provide value to a consumer and in doing so, create trust and build relationships with readers. Sponsored content, when woven into an existing content structure in a subtle manner, often feels deceptive and disruptive to those who happen upon the very small ‘sponsored by’ disclaimer. Is the content truly of value? Can the consumer trust the publisher or is the brand willing to publish anything to make money?

The debate rages on.

Is it perhaps the newness of online advertising, specifically sponsored content, that makes it so polarizing? Were magazine, television and radio advertisements met with equal amounts of scrutiny in marketing and communications circles when they made their debut? Or does native advertising take it a step too far?

We’d love to hear what you think.

If you’d like to see what our #OrganikChat participants think about the ethics of sponsored content, view our transcript.  Join us for our weekly Twitter chat, every Thursday from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET on Twitter at #OrganikChat for more stimulating discussions!

If you found this information helpful, be sure to check out our post “The Rise of Content Marketing”. The Organik SEO team is passionate about helping businesses grow by tapping into the power of social media and SEO. To discuss how we can help you grow your business, contact us today! 

4 responses to “Why Native Advertising Is So Polarizing

  1. I think what we really need to do is make a distinction between “native advertising” and “sponsored content”

    Example: In your Facebook feed, you see tons of “sponsored” posts, which the brand has paid to place in feeds. This is not native advertising. Facebook may refer to it as that, but it’s really not. In that sense, it’s no different than any other display ad with a blatant call to action.

    Native advertising is much more subtle, and really doesn’t have much of a call to action, if any at all. It’s more of a credibility builder for a brand. For example, when the Moto X phone launched, they went to style and fashion blogs, and had articles written about how the phone can be customized to match your personal style. There was no call to action on the post itself, it merely gave information about the product. The information on the product was “native” to the environment which it existed, i.e. a fashion/style blog. That is what native advertising is.

    Motorola was also smart enough to display actual IAB ad units alongside the blog in their usual locations (top/side) which did have a CTA for more information about the Moto X phone.

    That’s where you the power of native advertising is. It build credibility for the brand, so when you see an ad with a call to action, you’re more likely to take it. That’s how an integrated digital campaign should be structured. This is just a small piece of it.

    1. You make an excellent point, Mike. Many digital marketing practitioners (see the Vocus post cited in my article) do not make a distinction between native advertising and sponsored content, but as you say, perhaps it’s time that a clear line is drawn. Would you call the New York Times post mentioned in the Vocus blog post native advertising or sponsored content? As it is sponsored/paid for by ‘Orange is the New Black’, I’d still say calling it sponsored content is accurate. My question is, how subtle should native advertising be to avoid being defined as sponsored content. How do you define ‘sponsored content’? Its current definition spans across Facebook and editorial content, but I agree that a clear distinction between native ads and sponsored content would be helpful. Love what you had to say about this! If you’re interested in writing a guest post for Organik SEO, we’d love to feature you.

  2. I didn’t realize before the chat that the topic was so vast and subtile on top of being polarized. We’ll have to do it another time now that we are more informed, possibly by clarifying the vocabulary before. Thank Mike to shed some light on the topic for us.

    1. Hi Bruno – Mike brings up a great point, doesn’t he? I noticed while moderating our last #OrganikChat that there were a number of people, Mike included, who had a passionate response to the native advertising and sponsored content discussion. I agree that another chat in the near future on advertising in the digital age would be great. It’s an evolving, important discussion point.

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