A version of this piece ran on Digiday.com
Can we just stop hyping native advertising? It’s not new. It’s not the next big thing. It certainly is not the answer.
Native advertising is just the latest symptom of a system that has lost its way. Rather than honing the craft of building meaningful marketing campaigns, we have become enablers of a system that values short-term gain for minimal investment. And in the end it will come back to haunt us all.
For those who have been living under a rock, native advertising, or sponsored content, got its moment under the interrogation spotlight recently when John Oliver laid into it on his weekly HBO show. eMarketer projects marketers will spend nearly $2.3 billion on sponsored content this year, up more than 20% over last year.
But as Mr. Oliver noted, advertisers have been wrapping themselves in the credibility of editorial content for more than 60 years. The piece went on to lament the dissolution of editorial independence at institutions like Time Magazine and The New York Times.
It made for pithy and enlightening commentary, and highlighted that the general public is typically ill-equipped to draw the line between independent editorial content and ads masquerading at stories. But the point that the comedic piece missed was that native advertising is merely the latest shiny object offered by publishers eager to satisfy the demands of marketers and their agencies. It does nothing for the audience.
If marketing was a public square, then native advertising is nothing more than standing next to someone who knows what they’re talking about and hoping people think that makes you smart too. It may be slightly more effective than billboards, and less creepy than trying to butt into conversations. But ultimately you’re hoping to trade on the credibility others create. [Click here to read the rest of this post]