Ask marketers to describe the beauty of native advertisements, and most will tell you they work well because they don't look like ads. Just don't tell that to a Google employee. The company's spam expert Matt Cutts took to YouTube warning brand marketers and agencies they must make it clear to consumers that the native ad content they are reading is an advertisement.
Cutts points to several unnamed sites in the United Kingdom that he believes crossed the line.
In the video, Cutts explores the issues surrounding advertorials, editorial content, and native ads. "Advertorials, native advertising content or paid content hasn't been disclosed adequately, so people don't realize what they're looking at is paid [content]," he said. "We have had longstanding guidance since 2005."
One of the biggest issues that Cutts wants marketers to consider involves ensuring that the content doesn't contribute to the Web page ranking in the search-engine query. He says paid links should not contribute to PageRank, so be sure to use a rel="nofollow" tag when optimizing the content.
Some ad units are clearly marketed as native ads, such as Facebook Sponsored Stories or Tumblr in-stream ads that recently rolled out on desktop, according to Aaron Goldman, Kenshoo CMO. "He's talking about running ads and writing sponsored articles," he said.
Andrew Susman, founder of Studio One, said the content management company clearly identifies sponsored content. The Style Mom site's "The Style Glossy" page clearly identifies Pantene as the editorial content sponsor. "In many cases, native ad can be an updated term for advertorial," he said. "Advertorial, in my humble opinion, is worse than an ad. At least an ad says I'm an ad."
Content marketing creates media challenges. Susman said the media lacks standard Interactive Advertising Bureau formats. Distribution, search and social all need to work in concert. There are measurement challenges, such as measuring the impact of engagement. Plus, there are special creative challenges like weaving in brand equity without seeming like an advertorial.
"You can tell useful stories about a brand without overtly promoting the product within the content," Susman said. "Look what happened to banner ads. The industry made it so easy to buy and sell them that they destroyed the unit."