vendredi 25 décembre 2015

Native? What do advertisers take consumers for?

Native advertising is nothing else than advertising in disguise, like the so-called "advertorials", "sponsored articles", "branded content", content marketing, documercials, advertainment, edutainment... And this is a real trend: "native advertising" represented more than $4 billion in 2015.

"Hidden persuasion"? That AdBlocking has so much success should not surprise us: most people end up disliking and avoiding advertising. Either they are not interested in the product or it is not the right time, the right place, to think about it...or the best way to talk about it either. Instead of correcting the problem, ad agencies try very hard to hide it by making advertising resemble an editorial (form, layout, style, etc.). PR instead of journalism? People are not fooled - and these poor attempts at disguising the ads may even increase their unlikeability.

Update (August 3, 2016) According to a report from nonprofit Online Trust Alliance (OTA), "Ads that appeared on the home pages of the top 100 news websites in April found that 71% of the ads failed to provide adequate disclosures and transparency, making it difficult for readers to discern between an ad and actual editorial content".

Update (October 25, 2016) Council of Better Business Bureaus adopts the FTC standards (BBC Code of Advertising).

Now, since December 2015, there is a "guide"published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the American regulatory body supposed to protect consumers. The main idea: it is OK for advertising to resemble editorials but not too well! The guide states that native advertising should be labeled as such ("disclosure") in case consumers should be misled into believing it is editorial content.
Are consumers so naive? To help advertisers, businesses, media and agencies not to sin, the FTC gives no less than 17 examples, explaining in detail "how to make clear and prominent disclosures". Does the advertising profession need such a guide?
The most amazing? Nobody seems surprised, not even the media which cover FTC's activity and regularly publish "native advertising" in the midst of articles, often in order to avoid adblocking! Already, the Cat (in the famous comic book Le Chat) asked: "Does advertising take us for idiots?" Answer: "It takes us for what we are" (cf. "La pub ne nous prend pas pour..."). And now, even Apple pushes a format for native banners... for news! cf. "Apple: Ad Specification" (March 2016) : "Native ads display directly in the content feeds, inline with News articles, and are intended to blend in with their surrounding."

Finally, a newspaper, The Guardian, is now calling native advertising, "paid content" : "as a part of our ongoing commitment to transparency and clarity for our readers and commercial partners ". Tiller, an advertising optimization platform, prefers to call it "Recommended Content".

4 commentaires:

Charlie 226 a dit…

Hello Mr. Mariet, I hope you had a lovely hollyday.

I think, as a student, that criticism you made of native advertising is justified.
However, a study by IPG Media Lab and Sharethrough seems to show gains visibility that comes from the native advertising compared to traditional online display. The study participants were indeed granted 52% more visual attention to Native Advertising rather than other traditionnal banners.

So it is no surprise that the CEO of the New York Times, Mark Thompson, said in December 2014 that his newspaper company was about to gather more native advertising technology, including in its mobile app.
The latter generated 10% of its media advertising revenues in the last quarter, being the source of more than 50% of digital traffic of the New York Times.

However, a major ethical challenge stands before the media seeking optimized revenue: if the advertising is expected to resemble more and more to the journalistic article in some major media organizations, how to ensure that citizens will succeed to distinguish one from the other?
Will information be lost in the promotion?

The New York Post has been careful to inscribe the words "Paid post" at the top of its sponsored items. Now, they are all gathered under the mention “promoted stories”.

Critics have however already been made, the size of the statement has been reduced since its appearance in January. The indication remains visible when the user scrolls down the page, but there are concerns in a legitimate manner about this fragile appearance border between the content of the press room and sponsored items.

If Native continues gaining popularity, the protection of this border will be certainly one of the things the media world will have to closely monitor.

Rita M. a dit…

AdBlocking gives publishers a hard time...
Some of them end up paying AdBlock to let the ads be displayed, others implement an adblock-blocker technology, and most of publishers chose the easy option : native advertising.
By appealing to native ads, brands try to be fully incorporated in the content people like instead of continually interrupting the content people like (which is really frustrating). I'm not opposed to that, but I think the way publishers usually do it shows a tremendous lack of consideration for their audience.
Publishers have well understood that advertising revenus have shifted from traditionnal advertising to digital advertising, and they try to make the most of it, but most of them don't know how to do it. I can understand their fear of not being read if they display that their article is advertising, but I'm personnaly convinced that brands' and publishers' integrity will pay more than cupidity. For my part, I prefer reading a sponsored (and assumed) article about something that may interest me rather than a sponsored article that is not identified as one.

Camille Berthault a dit…

Mr Mariet, you are saying that "people are not fooled - and these poor attempts at disguising the ads may even increase their unlikeability". I'm not sure that this statement applies for every media. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty confident that if campaigns are turned into "stories" which bring any kind of value to customers, native ads can be a real game-changer in the current advertising economy (considering the increased use of ad blockers).

As far as I'm concerned, I think that My Little Paris (MLP) illustrates this thought perfectly. MLP started to use this kind of advertising in 2010, while trying to figure out how to include future partners into newsletters without harming their DNA. Display campaigns weren't an option : the founder of MLP hated them and wouldn't click on any banners.
By keeping in mind two things :
1- Readers needed to know that they were going to read a news sponsored by a brand
2- Brands needed to fit perfectly into My Little Paris' universe and offer a unique benefit to the audience
they managed to create a business model only based on native ads. It's actually how they found their core business : win the loyalty of their audience and make brands pay for this loyalty. MLP showed that the public react really well to native advertising, providing the partnership is made public.

Native advertising success might just be in question of common sense, ingenuity and integrity.

claire manzano a dit…

Hello Mr Mariet!

Interesting article you wrote, and very accurate commentaries below!
I truly believe native is going to be an long lasting "transitional state" of advertising, after omnipresent, intrusive ads (display) that you can actually distinguish so well that they make you download an adblock, and a new kind of highly personalized ads that will perfectly adjust to your personality, current mood and actions, thanks to real time data that is going to be collected through online surfing, of course, but most of all, through the internet if things (connected watch, lents, glasses, bed, etc)

This being said, here comes some more data about native.
The definition of native seems to be evolving: not only is "editorial content" considered as native anymore!
Native ad are "ad formats adapting to the editorial context of the websites they are published on". For instance, Ad You Like, a french start up that has just raised another 5M€, can help a make-up brand to publish ads only on pages dealing with make up editorial content, in a positive way.

As highlighted by Ad Age Magazine, Native advertising is huge: By 2021, it's expected to account for almost three-quarters of display ad revenue. Plus, it's effective: A Yahoo study found that premium native ad experiences have seen three times more attention, 55% stronger emotional response and 23% higher quality ad perception than nonpremium environments.

The new tendency that should soon be huge is the combo native + programmatic: specific ads, on specific content, to specific readers, in real time!
The following native formats could be bought programmatically: In-feed, Recommendation widgets and In-ad units.

A bright future for advertisers and editors, maybe less for the reader?