Native Ads: A Thing of the Past (and Future)
The term "selfie" entered our lexicon only recently, thanks to the ease with which they can be taken and distributed via cell phones and mobile data connections. But the practice of taking a photo of oneself is decidedly not a new phenomenon.
Last week, I did something I don't often find myself doing: I watched live TV. I landed on The Voice for a while and caught a Nissan commercial/music video featuring the contestants on the show. This reminded me of the similar ads American Idol used to produce with Ford. While my friend had a visceral reaction to the ad ("It doesn't make me want to buy a Nissan"), I spent less time extolling the virtues and necessity of branding and more time thinking about what these ads are: they're native.
Online, publishers like BuzzFeed, Business Insider, The New York Times, and others offering so-called "native ads" work with advertisers to create sponsored content appropriate to their sites and audiences. In a report released earlier this year by my colleague Ryan Skinner ("Boost Brand Engagement With Native Advertising"), Forrester defines native advertising thusly: Any form of paid or sponsored content that directly and transparently contributes to the experience of the site or platform where it appears, by aligning with the format, context, or purpose of that site or platform's editorial content. In theory, these spots on American Idol and The Voice are no different from those online but for the medium in which they appear. Producers work with the advertisers to create ads in the spirit of the show, featuring familiar faces from the show, in the fun spirit of the show, and so on.
Now, I wouldn't go so far as to call those old P&G soap operas or series like Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom "native ads" in the way I call the Ford and Nissan commercials native ads. But the underlying idea of "native advertising" really isn't new–it's just grown more complex and omnipresent and earned a name due to the Internet (see "selfie"). It's easy to tell where a TV show ends and a commercial begins. It's not quite as easy, especially for a non-marketing pro, to distinguish between core publisher content and a native ad or story. It's up to advertisers and publishers to treat native advertising with care.