Native advertising is a good idea and a better name for an old idea. With the past few years attention on social media marketing and Facebook's defining approach to social advertising, media companies of all types are ecstatic to bring us something completely new, sort of,....native advertising.
We all need ways to scale content programs and align advertising to changing tastes. Native advertising makes it easier for brands to deliver actual content via an ad channel. And, no, it's not new. It is the same premise as advertorial...yet different. We all know those extra pages in the Sunday magazines with "advertising supplement" stamped at the top. The bite-sized nature of digital content and the personalization or 'targeting' capabilities of ad and content serving has made the advertorial an attractive model again.
But we can screw it up. WARC covered a story about the UK's Committee of Advertising Practice suddenly paying attention to the potential abuses of native advertising, ""Marketers seeking to innovate should be wary of integrating content to an extent that it is no longer identifiable as an ad," the CAP warned."
The Ethics Are Clear
We will win with native advertising when brands work hard to deliver authentically valuable content to their readers/customers. Success will be evaluated in part by engagement and sharing metrics that ratify the content is valuable. We will win when all native advertising is labeled clearly for the reader such that they can make the judgement as to whether to trust the source.
Sound familiar? For some of us it ought to. These are the same criteria defined by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) in their ethics policy and disclosure guidelines. As the practice in the US of reaching out to pro-am bloggers and Twitter-based influencers to try product or have a brand experience expanded several years ago, the Federal Trade Commission spoke up and issued guidelines around testimonials including this type of "stimulated content" in social media. The principles are the same. Let people know where the content comes from and let them "vote" with their fingers, so-to-speak.
Let's Do It Right
Full disclosure is the ethical way to deliver native advertising. Google has been doing it for years with paid search results. Facebook has tried to do it but remains in the early days of really matching content to a user's interests. In some ways, publishers and media companies are better suited to delivering native advertising as they are content destinations. People are looking for valuable content. They care if it comes from a Forbes journalist and editor versus an advertiser like IBM but if both are equally valuable, they are very likely to read on.
Check out WOMMA's Ethical Guidelines. They will help you stay on the right side of native advertising, hold your publishing partners responsible and preserve the value of native advertising.
See the UK's CAP guidance here
(thanks to Imedia Connection for the graphic)