The tradeoffs between in-stream publishing and creative control may drive advertisers to pick sponsored content over native ads.
The reason native advertising works so well is the reason it might eventually go the way of the dinosaur. Or at least the way of the LaserDisc.
Because of the ethics policies of credible publishers and the Federal Trade Commission restrictions governing native advertising, many brands are heading toward the more advertiser-friendly “sponsored content” form of brand content. In fact, many publishers are referring to advertorials, sponsored content and other forms of brand content as “native advertising.”
But remember where the word “native” comes from in this discussion: “Native” content is not “alien” to a publisher’s editorial section. It looks and feels like an article and can even use the same typeface, headline fonts and column format as regular, non-paid editorial.
“…[N]ative advertising doesn’t disrupt the user experience and offers helpful information in a format similar to the other content on the site so users engage with it more than they would with, say, a banner ad,” writes Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, noting that the content is delivered “in stream.”
Native advertising (or at least the original definition of native) does not discuss a product or service. A native ad covers a subject or topic. It cites non-affiliated, third-party sources. The advertiser gets the benefit of being associated with this credible, authoritative content through a brief mention (such as a quote from one of its employees) making the company appear to be an expert, or at least a credible supplier of a product or service associated with the topic.
With sponsored content, advertisers can take more control of their copy. They can dictate, rather than just suggest, the information that goes into the story. They can include advertiser links and calls to action. The brand’s staff can even create the content.
With a proliferation of marcom professionals trained primarily in integrated marketing communications rather than the front end of marketing (product, price, place), more and more brands are missing the point of brand content — it’s supposed to be an adjunct to call-to-action advertising, not another form of it.
While it might seem sponsored content should work better (because it overtly promotes the brand’s product or service), it can also lose the benefit of the best brand content. Native works because research has shown, going back decades, that consumers trust editorial more than they do advertising.
If it looks like you’re seeing more stealth editorial on the websites you visit, you’re not wrong. More and more publishers are accommodating content buyers by washing their hands of the editorial responsibilities that come with native, offering “sponsored content” instead.