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Welcome to the World of Native Advertising

5 September 2014
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

If you aren’t watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, allow this to be the moment you take notice. In a recent episode, Oliver discussed a particularly interesting subject: the infiltration of native advertising in today’s media. Take the time to watch the segment below, it’s 10 minutes will spent.

Native advertising is a fairly new term used to describe a form of advertising that disguises sponsored articles in an unassuming manner, so that consumers don’t even realize they’re reading an advertisement. It’s the formula Buzzfeed (who makes 100% of their revenue on this model), and other major publishers are using, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular method. When you see articles like, “12 Concept Devices That We Wish Were Real“, and “10 Amazing Upgrades That You Need in Your House“, and “35 Famous Dads Who Vape with Their Daughters”, you can bet there’s advertising dollars behind that content. In fact, you’ll see if you follow the links, those articles were shrewdly sponsored by General Electric and Swiffer (…and I’ll admit to having made that last one up).

Oliver is concerned with this type of advertising’s effect on integrity of the free press in the USA. Understandable, but I’m more concerned with the question of whether native advertising is actually a good idea.

My gut instinct says yes. In a way, native advertising is brilliant. On the other hand, I could see how this tactic might degrade the reputation of marketers. I say this because there’s an obvious transparency issue at the core of native advertising. Deception isn’t a particularly wholesome advertising strategy – at least in the long term. We live in a world where this can be exposed (by people like John Oliver). Just like there’s no gaming the system with search engine optimization anymore, there could come a time where consumers are so informed, trickery tactics might do more harm than good.

How do you feel about the native advertising strategy? Is this genius? Is it diabolical? Could it be both? I’m curious to learn what you think of this polarizing tactic.