Native Ads: Finessing Fuzzy

I guess that years of being bashed left big business feeling a little shy about announcing itself, but the handwringing over native advertising is amazing. 

The hottest issue in advertising, apparently, is disguising it enough to fool the observer, but not enough so that it’s totally impossible to figure it out. 

To me, it sounds like the balancing act behind a good sexual double entendre: Is she being naive or did she really mean to say that? What’s the message? Or is there no message?

BuzzFeed last week changed the labeling on its many, many native ads so the visitor to that site knows when someone is playing them.  So today, if you were to click on “12 Things Every Car Owner Knows To Be True,” it would be pretty impossible not to first know that it is sponsored by Pennzoil. Posts like that are now clearly labeled, “Promoted by…” rather than the previous “Presented by…”  

I don’t know how that featurette helps Pennzoil much, however it is flagged.

Only one of the 12 not-at-all-perceptive points even hints at oil and while, perhaps, that’s the bright idea about native advertising--that the sponsoring company becomes your not-very-good-joke-telling buddy--to me it just seems like a waste of my time and Pennzoil’s money.

The New York Times, without meaning to, has become the standard-bearer for native advertising ethics, perhaps because many publishers want to see how a company that one would suppose would be holding its nose at the very idea of native advertising does it while maintaining its cool.

Apparently, native was an issue in the unTimesly end of Jill Abramson (she took a dim view), and I do recall that at the NewFronts, the Times went out of its way to explain how its native ad disclaimers would be so obvious they couldn’t be missed by even a New York Post reader (my words, not theirs).

Indeed, Paid Post, as the inscription reads above today’s native ad from Thomson Reuters on the Times' site makes it pretty damn clear. 

Though again, I don’t get the point. That news organization’s ad declares an “infobesity epidemic” brought on by the Internet, and some cures, like being more selective. 

But it does seem a little like McDonald’s telling its visitors that they and other fast-food restaurants have helped create world of fatsos. Thanks for that bulletin.

Video versions of native advertising seem to be from the same school of being helpful but not particularly enlightening, or on point. Native obviously can be effective, but obviously, a lot of it can be a pop-gun misfire.

Companies severely overestimate the amount of time consumers want to spend discovering that Faceless Inc is really one fun company, or that a major corporation can be a thought leader about its own business. Native advertising, however they’re flagged, shouldn’t be shy to announce why they’re there.    

pj@mediapost.com
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1 comment about "Native Ads: Finessing Fuzzy ".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 2, 2014 at 11:33 a.m.
    See John Garfield's post today about the Crusades.