/// The Natives Are Getting Restless

April 19, 2013  |  All Things Digital


If you ask 10 marketers for a definition of “native advertising,” you are likely to get 10 different answers . While the concept is as old as advertising itself, what’s old is new again online and it seems everyone is rushing to redefine what it means to be native. As the river of venture capital dollars increasingly flows toward this buzzy new category, marketing platforms of all shapes and sizes are reaching out hoping to claim their seat on the raft. In many ways, the weeding-out process has already begun, and we’re seeing the offerings that facilitate real reader engagement rise to the top. Still, it’s worth looking at what makes them successful, and, ultimately, what it really takes to be native. Our friends at Solve Media wrote a thoughtful white paper on this topic, and I’ve combined some of their thinking with my own ideas in order to come up with a holistic definition of native advertising. Here are the five criteria any true native ad should meet: Non interruptive — Doesn’t interrupt the user flow and fits seamlessly into the experience In Stream and Contextual — Complements, rather than competes with, the content around it Preserves Trust — Engenders trust by delivering value as opposed to employing deceptive marketing tricks Maintains Brand Integrity — Takes the long view to craft and communicate a brand’s story authentically Adds Value — Supplements the experience by either entertaining, informing or engaging The reality is that very few online marketing platforms — including many that stake a claim to being native — pass even the first test of the gauntlet by delivering a message without interrupting the user. Dan Greenberg of Sharethrough has written frequently as one of the leading proponents of native advertising. He alludes to “ strategies built upon twin pillars of content and choice versus banners and interruption ,” citing Sponsored Stories on Facebook and Promoted Tweets on Twitter as innovative in this regard. I disagree. The sponsored stories that appear in my Facebook News Feed usually don’t qualify as content, are rarely useful and frequently interrupt. Promoted tweets aren’t much better — almost always promotional, thick with branding and rarely appearing as if they belong in my stream. And neither product offers “choice,” a key ingredient in establishing trust. Sponsored stories cannot be hidden like other stories that appear in the News Feed, and nothing can be edited out of your Twitter stream. Neither platform offers much choice, and in Facebook’s case, there’s less choice than users are otherwise accustomed to having

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The Natives Are Getting Restless



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