HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” took a bunch of swings at native advertising, including the CEO of Time Inc. -- who at best seems to shrug his shoulders over the fact that “native” advertising might be blurring traditional church and state considerations.
In that regard, if “native” is just another shrug of shoulders for digital consumers, what will this mean for consumers ten years from now?
Previous concerns -- or outrage -- came from TV’s big growth in branded entertainment that started around a decade and a half ago. This involved everything from those slightly too-long video shots of, say, a Ford SUV in a crime procedural drama to cosmetic manufacturers sponsoring makeover shows.
As Oliver noted, research still says consumers can’t tell the difference between real news and “native” sponsored-advertising news most of the time. If you are a digital publisher, you might just throw up your hands: “Hey, we do label it ‘sponsored content.’ It’s not my problem if readers can’t remember that.”
And that’s just the point. So much information now comes at people from all angles that it’s hard to remember where stuff came from. Everything looks the same -- even when labeled.
Is it right that big-font headlines tout “Seven things you can do with your toaster besides making toast” followed by much smaller type noting that the story is sponsored by your favorite toaster-maker?
Native advertising-pushers tout the need for more “storytelling” as the big reason the practice will continue. Since consumers continue to consume this type of content, marketer’s monetization efforts proceed.
But is it a satisfying story, a story you want to hear, or a story that makes you go “hmmm”?
Mark this down: Publishers in the future will come back to this line of reasoning as the next generation looks to mix it up with editorial -- just as those creators of 60-second and 30-second commercials talked up “storytelling” and “messaging.” In-theater customers can also view three- and sometimes four-minute movie trailers and get a nice story as well.
Tipping point? Not tipping over that anyone might really see. Advertising may continue to be camouflaged, as content expands exponentially. Hiding in the bushes, those in fatigues will probably see most of their prey slip away. And for those caught, the value will be vague.