What is native advertising? Is it effective? Recently, at the Social Media Insider Summit, the panelists on the “native” panel tried to break it all down.
Before the panel dove in, the editor of MediaPost and moderator Joe Mandese (@jmandese) shared with the audience the genesis of the term “native advertising.” It appears that the term “native monetization” was first coined by Fred Wilson during a keynote speech during an OMMA conference. “Native monetization” has now become “native advertising.”
According to Chris Cunningham, CEO of Appssavvy (@chrisappssavvy) and Chris Schreiber of Sharethrough (@cousinchris), native advertising is a new term for advertising which is native to the format of the publisher, such as Sponsored Stories or Promoted Tweets. Chris at Appssavvy emphasized that native advertising has been around for many years. It has already proven to be effective for advertisers and is now increasingly being embraced by agencies and brands as a separate buying strategy.
Ari Brandt, co-founder of MediaBrix (@aribrandt), had a different view. Ari did not believe that Sponsored Stories or Promoted Tweets were truly native advertising and referred to such advertising as simply more relevant digital advertising. According to Ari, native advertising is really advertising that is disguised within the context of editorial content, and studies have shown that consumers believe that such advertising is misleading.
As a partner at Davis & Gilbert in the Advertising, Marketing and Promotions group (@vlalla) and the sole attorney on the panel, to me, the legal issues surrounding native are distinct with respect to each theory described above. Sponsored Stories and Promoted Tweets give rise to issues surrounding consent (i.e., do we have the rights to use a person’s name, likeness, Twitter handle or other personal content or data, to the extent it is integrated into the ad unit?). With respect to advertising in the context of editorial content, disclosure is still the key issue, as it needs to be clear and conspicuous to consumers that the content is in fact advertising.
I noted, however, that The Atlantic native controversy is a great example of where -- despite the publisher’s disclosure that the article by the Church of Scientology was sponsored -- there was still an outcry from consumers that the content didn’t share the brand values of the publication. The Atlantic has since revised its editorial guidelines to ensure that any native advertising is designed and/or formatted differently from editorial content.
The panelists did seem to agree on one thing. Advertisers need to ensure that their editorial, sales and legal teams work together to determine how best to publish native advertising so that it is consistent with core brand values and consumer expectations in the context of legal and regulatory compliance.
As to whether or not native is here to stay, we will have to wait and see who is right.