Native Advertising: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

11 years ago   •   3 min read

By Marcia Kadanoff

Actually, the news is not all bad.

First lets define what native advertising is. Native advertising is defined as advertising that appears to be native to the media that spawned it.

Banner ads are not native to websites – they are intended to interrupt the flow of your interaction with that website.

Mashable ran a recent post on the topic entitled: “What Is ‘Native Advertising’? Depends Who You Ask.” They – and other industry experts – are starting to define native advertising as paid media that meets 3 primary criteria:

  • Adopts the appearance of the surrounding website or other content in which it appears
  • Seeks to be a seamless part of the content being consumed
  • Adds value to the user’s experience in some tangible way

The Good

The interest in native advertising is good news for content marketing, because some of the new units being developed allow advertisers to leverage their investment in content marketing into placements on websites where they have the potential to reach large audiences of people, get them interested, and drive them back to their website for a more detailed (and intimate) experience that will generate a lead. Some of our clients are doing it all wrong – however – placing their most valuable content as “sponsored posts”. Sponsored posts are a form of native advertising:

But if you put all of your content on a site like Mashable you aren’t giving your prospect a reason to click through to your website to become a lead. So this is an area where it pays to think through your strategy with care.

But generally speaking we think the development of more and additional forms of native advertising – while neither new nor revolutionary – is a good thing for our clients.

The Bad

There isn’t a lot of innovation in the native advertising units we’ve seen to date. We are still waiting – for example – for a native advertising product that supports lead generation “on top of” video. You Tube has an offering but we don’t feel it is appropriate for B2B clients and don’t recommend it for that reason. It is not common to ask for information before allowing a prospect to view a video yet videos are some of the most expensive and time-consuming content we produce as content marketers. So there is a disconnect here. The most expensive content to produce (videos which can cost up to $10K per minute!) are given away while less expensive eBooks and white papers live “behind” forms. The rationale for this is that videos are made to be shared but it is actually much harder to produce a video worth sharing than one would think. And viral videos – at least in the B2B space – are few and far in between.

The ultimate example of native advertising is Google Advertising – of course. These small text ads that appear on the top and side of the search-engine results page look like search engine results and create real value by pointing out companies, products, and services the user otherwise might miss out on.

So the bad news is that native advertising promises a lot and has not delivered all that much – yet – especially in the video realm, a realm where we’d really like some help and innovative thinking.

The Ugly

The ugly side of this is what you’d expect. It is easy to deceive users with native advertising, make people feel they are being exposed to “real editorial” when in fact what they are interacting with is commercial material. So ethical standards are needed. We look forward to seeing the IAB or the Mobile Advertising Associate – two organizations on the forefront of creating and enforcing standards that all advertisers and publishers try to abide by – lean in here.

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