Native Ads Still on Trial

A new study by ad insights and intelligence company MediaRadar points to lingering disenchantment with native advertising, a mode of advertising that seems to separate people into fixed and angry philosophical camps.

The new report observes that many advertisers seem--or maybe, “seemed”--eager to try native. It was the next big thing. But one they do/did, lots of them don’t want to go there again. The MediaRadar research says two-thirds of the advertisers that try native advertising don’t come back for seconds.

As reported in an earlier Native Insider story,  another finding by MediaRadar is that 37% of digital publishers still aren’t compliant with FTC rules requiring publishers to make it clear when it’s offering native advertising content.

On the plus side, that’s down substantially from 71% a year ago.

Still, native carries with it a stigma of flim-flammery that seems to me to make every native campaign begin from the hole of dishonesty.

The average reader/viewer may really may not be on the lookout for “sponsored content” tags all over the place. But, on the other hand, I’m not sure the advertising or digital communities know what the average viewer knows.

Once upon a time--before the opt-in/out ad mechanisms Internet commerce created--content just appeared, on a page, or within a TV show--and consumers knew they were fairly powerless to question it or crush it.  

Now a sizable portion of the audience knows about tracking, and the ability to zap ads after a few seconds. They like to fight back. It’s likely a lot more of them know and resent native advertising because it’s transparency seems, well, phony.

Consumers are much more involved with advertising, and much more open to asking and answering this question: “What do I really think of this advertiser?”

A report on the MediaLife site suggests the low--though improved--compliance rate is caused by publishers who also believe their users will spot native advertising, and not be impressed.

That’s like a chef who smells the fish and decides before he serves it, “You know what? Something stinks.”  

The rules are fairly clearly and broad. One part of the FTC guidelines reads,In assessing whether a native ad presented on the main page of a publisher site is recognizable as advertising to consumers, advertisers should consider the ad as a whole, and not just focus on individual phrases, statements, or visual elements.  

"Factors to weigh include an ad’s overall appearance; the similarity of its written, spoken, or visual style or subject matter to non-advertising content on the publisher site on which it appears; and the degree to which it is distinguishable from other content on the publisher site.  

"The same assessment applies to any click- or tap-into page – the page on which the complete ad appears.”

There certainly are good native ads, and since they still keep getting produced there must be advertisers and publishers that learned how to do them in ways that don’t bother most of their users.

But it also seems, from news of this report, there’s also a mountain of consumer, advertiser and publisher pushback. Whether fighting all that noise is worth it seems to be a relevant question.


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