With the introduction of faster internet speeds and additional access points to web data, the marketing world has changed permanently. Native advertising is a product of the ‘net’s evolution, as brands experiment with new ways to place products, services and custom content in front of web searchers.
However, there’s also debate over the ethical implications native advertising brings to the table. In January 2013, The Atlantic published what seemed to be an article touting the amazing accomplishments of the Church of Scientology over the past year. This publication alarmed the internet world, causing readers to use social profiles to voice their negative opinions about the magazine’s willingness to publish such a piece. Of course, consumers’ rage touched on their distaste for the spiritual and religious practice, but the story got even juicier after The Atlantic pulled the piece and issued an apology. The article was actually an advertorial, and the content wasn’t produced internally by the company. This is native advertising.
The whole point of marketing and advertising is to communicate with the public in ways that compel them to buy into ideas or actual products. Whether people believe in what Scientology preaches, it’s hard to argue the piece in The Atlantic wasn’t a fine bit of promotional work from the Church’s internal marketing team.
A study from Sharethrough, in conjunction with IPG, found that consumers view native ads 53 percent more frequently than display ads – like banners, CTAs and promoted search adverts. Thirty-two percent of surveyed consumers also said they’d share native ads with their family members, which was only supported by the enormous social traffic the Scientology ad experienced in January day.
Native advertising is also served with a hint of black hat ideologies. The whole point of the web – in Google’s eyes – is to provide web searchers with the best possible experience. The search company lobbies for transparency, even when it can’t own up to its guidelines, and native advertisements like the one published in The Atlantic seem to cross the line.
Google’s Search Engineer Matt Cutts certainly acknowledges this in a recent Webmaster Help Video, saying that the company will take a firmer stance against this type of content creation and promotion in the near future.
So, the question remains: Is native advertising something creative teams should consider for their brands? The answer is still unknown, but Brafton firmly believes organic content marketing and distribution provides prospects with the best possible brand experience on the web today.