One of the most significant ongoing debates revolves around whether native advertising encompasses editorial or advertorial content, or both. Let me give you my opinion. Native Advertising is branded content that is editorial in nature only.
By this I mean that the content promoted within native placements – whether they are in-feed, widgets or embedded pieces of content, look and feel like they are part of the site. They cover topics of interest that are relevant to both the brand and the audience; and they are stories that the brand has the authority to tell or be associated with. They also provide utility and added value to the user.
Native advertising is not an advertorial. It is not a description of a brands product. It does not include a product offer. It’s not a placement that highlights “buy 2 get 1 free”, “20% off all purchases this week” or “receive a gift with purchase”. It does not have a huge image of the product on the page.
My biggest concern is that we start to place this type of messaging within what has been earmarked as native placements. If we start to do that we will lose the audience trust.
Currently, users view content largely in the centre of the page or within the newsfeeds. Eye tracking studies visualise this via heat maps that show very little viewing at the top and down the sides of the page – traditionally where banners have been placed. We all know this as banner blindness.
Native blindness: It's the last thing we want.
Users are expecting editorial content where native placements have been created. As long as this content remains editorially focused, provides informative or interesting content, and the brand is transparent about placing the content there, users are and will continue to be accepting.
Unfortunately I am starting to see the migration of performance clients to native in-feed placements in particular as these are providing scalable and alternate solutions to search, performance display or programmatic buying. This messaging is product in nature.
As an industry we’ve allowed click-thru rates to decline; banner placements to be less effective; and an infiltration of disruptive digital ad formats. Don’t get me wrong – digital performance buys have their place. As someone who has run many of these over the years for brands such as Foxtel, NAB and Qantas, I understand they are critical in acquisition activity and in the conversion process.
What we want to protect is the formats that enable us to build brands, build awareness and create long-term engagement and interaction between audiences and brands. Content marketing and the amplification of this content via native advertising is one such area that enables this to occur.
I implore the industry to adhere to an editorial mandate for native formats.