In the native advertising industry there can be a concern that ads are effectively playing hide-and-seek with consumers by trying to appear like regular editorial content. Despite rules about their usage, many native ads don’t have the proper disclosures or labels that help readers differentiate between sponsored and traditional editorial. While marketers can be desperate for clicks, acquiring them with a “bait and switch” tactic is not a variable long-term strategy. If readers feel they were tricked into reading sponsored content they won’t have positive associations with the brand, and might avoid the publisher altogether.
This game of hide-and-seek is ruining the quality of sponsored content, will eventually cut into revenue, and degrades the reader’s intelligence and willingness to interact with native ads.
Given the stakes, content marketers and publishers should work together to shape the future of native ads utilizing disclosure best practices and adding transparency to the game. Improving disclosures requires effort on the part of content marketers to ensure the reader doesn’t feel like they were “gamed” into reading the content. Here are some steps marketers should take to improve native ad disclosures:
Using the right wording is crucial. Marketers should state as plainly as possible when content is advertising. The phrase “sponsored content” isn’t always enough, as some readers might interpret that as the content has a title sponsor, which has no bearing on the editorial content. Direct phrasing clearly stating the content is advertising helps to avoid any reader confusion or anger what is being read.
Employ conspicuous copy to properly call out the disclosure language. The size of the font is important, and should stand out when compared to the surrounding copy and imagery. You want to be sure the reader knows they are consuming sponsored content before they engage with it. Otherwise, there is a risk of turning off the reader.
Used effectively, native advertising should be part of every marketer’s strategy to acquire and entertain customers.
There are some core benefits to native advertising. Millennials are an appealing demographic for native ads because they are very accustomed to consuming native content and finding relevant information as fast as possible. This places pressure on the quality of the native advertising, which needs both catchy headlines and imagery to capture the attention of millennials.
Native ads outperform display ads by a wide margin. Stats from MarketingCharts.com show expansion rates for native ads at 1.37% compared to just 0.1% for desktop banner ads in 2013.
Native ads integrate well with social platforms and aggregated news sites so they can be shared easily among peer groups. Marketers that can develop offbeat or funny native ad content that does not overtly sell a product have the best chances of garnering social sharing.
Native advertising is growing exponentially, with longstanding publications such as Forbes estimating that 20 percent of its revenue coming from native advertising in 2013. This growth will likely continue, as long as marketers can hold to following disclosure standards and not lose consumers’ trust.
Ash Nashed is the CEO of Adiant