Danger Lampost

Futurist & Technology Consultant,


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Is Native Advertising a good thing?

Native advertising seems to be the new, hot advertising trend, and so seems like a great combination of T, E, and D. With the New York Times recently jumping on the native ad band wagon, it seems this has finally become mainstream. (See http://adage.com/article/media/york-times-debuts-native-ad-units-dell/290973/.)

It's not just the NYT though. Native ads are now appearing all over Facebook, twitter, and other mainstream places.

The issue up for debate, is whether native advertising will actually change anything, especially in any sort of positive way. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking hard at this issue, making sure people know when they're looking at an ad.

You could argue native advertising isn't new at all. In 1917, the FTC settled a case with the Muensen Speciality Co. over an ad for its vacuum cleaner, which it presented as a favourable newspaper review. It was the first case where native advertising was identified by regulation in the US.

Will people become used to blocking out native ads the same way you're used to blocking out banner ads today? Or will advertisers be called to "up their game" and create content that people want to experience (maybe like the Superbowl ads)? If you don't want to see ads at all, would you pay for the sites that are currently supporting themselves on advertising revenue?

  • Feb 5 2014: I noticed that CBS is heavily promoting the Beatles, in their news and news programs. Also the rumors of a CBS and Sony music merger are starting to show up and a new compilation set of the Beatles just hit the stores.

    Would this type of advertising as news be an example of native advertising?

    If true it is a sad day indeed for news.
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      Feb 5 2014: Hi Joe,

      That is a great question about whether or not something like your example is a form of native advertising. From a legal perspective, all forms of advertising, including native advertising, must be disclosed as advertising (or a "sponsored section" or similar words) and clearly identifiable as such.

      I think the case you site might be where the lines become very blurry. CBS could certainly take the higher ground simply by disclosing that they have a financial interest in the Beatles. Sometimes the actual news happens to be about things that make you money too. The inverse case is where it becomes especially interesting - that is, if there were negative news about the Beatles somehow - would they then suppress such news?
      • Feb 5 2014: Hi Danger! I love your screen name BTW.

        I was at first repulsed by the news/advertising link till I read your reply. Then I realized that it is a very subtle form of manipulation.

        It engages, social acceptance. “Oh I saw the Beatles on the news yesterday” as you pass the record display at Target.

        Very astute marketing. They even picked up, social repetition, me repeating the Beatles here on Ted!

        Now that I see what is really behind the curtain, a means to get me to buy, I can guard against its further use.

        Do not buy the Beatles,! accept from used record stores.
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          Feb 6 2014: "I read the news today, oh boy
          About a lucky man who made the grade
          And though the news was rather sad
          Well I just had to laugh
          I saw the photograph
          He blew his mind out in a car
          He didn't notice that the lights had changed
          A crowd of people stood and stared
          They'd seen his face before"

          A Day In The Life Lyrics (beginning)
          By The Beatles
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    Feb 2 2014: We shouldn't be too hard on advertiser's going 'native'. It's really our fault. We fast forward through commercials, we don't click on banner ads, All those inserts in the Sunday papers go straight into the recycling bin (at my house) and you are critical because advertisers are trying subterfuge to get our attention? Companies pay good money to make us aware of their goods and services. We are the ones that are avoiding these efforts. Let's look inward before we act all bent out of shape.
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      Feb 3 2014: I don't think I have a moral or social responsibility to respond to advertising, Mike. Neither does the fact that "good companies pay good money to make us aware..." saddle me with any such responsibility. I'm difficult to reach by advertising, and I like it just fine that way.
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      Feb 5 2014: Hi Mike,

      I believe that is some subtle and funny sarcasm. (Am I correct?) We are at fault for not looking at the banner ads - I love it!
  • Feb 23 2014: I see that you have just natively advertised the NYT at me. Very clever. But I'm not falling for it. And I am angry. And for that I will no longer purchase said newspaper. After 35 years, I am going to switch to another.
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      Feb 23 2014: Wow, I don't know if you're serious or joking! Assuming you're serious, this would not be considered native advertising because I'm not in any way associated with the New York Times, and I am not associated with TED either (other than being a registered user). I think what you mean to refer to, is the idea that brands can benefit from the social buzz that their actions create. Their actions can create legitimate news that people want to discuss.

      Possibly someone from the NYT is reading this thread; if so, please weigh in on this debate if you dare!
      • Feb 23 2014: I was joking. Adverts are a nuisance so I took the opportunity to return the nuisance. I am British and never been to NYC.

        Native advertising is just advertising that utilises the ability of web browsers to dynamically advertise. This means it is advertising that gets in your face more than the old way of advertising.

        The greater the quality of a website, the more people will hit it, the greater the ad revenue, the less ads the site needs to carry, the greater the quality of the site. We are not consumers. We are people. We know when a TV channel, radio station, website or newspaper is overdoing it when we get sick of watching, listening, reading adverts and turn off, over, go else where. Then they have to throw more ads in to compensate for lost revenue, the less people hit it, the less the revenue...

        So, is native advertising going to get in our face more than the old way of advertising?
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    Feb 6 2014: In the news today: Yahoo abandons banner ads and is going native - the engine of the Internet (advertising) is changing...

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      Feb 6 2014: I think Yahoo has a tremendous problem with the way they present both their ad and normal content. Their email, for those who use it, bogs down catastrophically under the weight of its ad banners. It's front page, which at one point at least gave the impression of offering news, has moved decisively toward gossip and advertisement.

      I cannot imagine who is attracted to a site that does this when there are so many better options. How can this be a lucrative model for them?

      And the fact of accidental clicks on banner ads makes the site more distasteful.

      I say this not to be negative toward Yahoo but rather to question the viability of a model of this kind when other sites are not doing the same experience-reducing stuff.

      It reminds me in a way of Penney's trying to turn its fate around by reducing the quality of its merchandise, raising its prices, and eliminating sales promotions while stores with higher quality merchandise continued to offer sales.
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      Feb 5 2014: I agree. It is the purpose of all advertising to deceive - to influence our thoughts and make us feel better about a brand. At it's core, almost all advertising follows this formula:

      Show us something we already like, with the product next to that. So you see sexy women in bars next to guys drinking the advertiser's beer, or cute animated animals next to the advertiser's cereal boxes, or (years ago) the Marlboro man smoking cigarettes, slowly getting cancer, in the great western outdoors.

      Even though we might know this on one level, it doesn't stop advertising from influencing most people, which is why so much money is still spent on advertising.
  • Jan 31 2014: Before the local Gannett website started charging for access (so I quite going there), I was engaging in a conversation about the newspaper business. He made a comment that they ran the website to get us to buy the paper, but that is stupid since we could read all the content on the site before the paper was printed the next morning.

    I say, no, they run the website to get the online ad revenue.

    He asks, what online ad revenue.

    I say, the ads that line the top, bottom and both sides of the articles as well as these discussion boards.

    He says WOW! He'd never even noticed all the ads completely framing the discussion board software.

    With ad impact like that.. they had to do something to stop people from just filtering out the noise.

    I am not sure that native advertising will be any better.

    I know which TV shows are really just ads within the program. A can tell which twitter feeds and Faebook posts are plants.

    I think the only real effective ads are the ones that are made right into the conversations. Those, of course, are harder and more expensive for the advertisers.
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    Jan 31 2014: It shouldn't be too expensive for the NYT to hire a third-world 'click-shop' to simulate their customers to not only survive plane crashes but also to continue the simulation of their independence from advertising towards them.
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    Jan 30 2014: (Response to Carolyn's question about what "native advertising" really is in simple words)

    Native advertising is when someone pays you to say their words in your voice. It means instead of your ads being banished to the top and right sides of your web site, they are integrated into the "real" content you came to read in the first place, and it looks like real content you might post. Although the ads will look striking similar to the "real" content you came to read, legally they must be clearly distinguished from the real content. As "Solve Media" says, 'You're more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad." The web sites you rely on are trying to figure out how to make revenue from advertising again, since we've all learned to block out these ads.

    Potentially this will change a fundamental part of the way our Internet looks and feels - many of our favorite web sites are looking at this.

    Hope that helps!
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      Jan 31 2014: When I first read your question, I thought of inserts into the newspaper that are intended to look like news reports but say "paid advertisement" at their head. I dislike this practice, because I believe there will be people who do not notice that disclaimer and will be mislead.

      From your further explanation here, I recognize ads of this kind placed in online publications. I have seen surprising cases in which a science publication has accepted ads from organizations that promote products and services based on pseudoscience. I am surprised such a publication would accept such ads, as this practice would seem at odds with the publication's potential to educate.
  • Jan 30 2014: I clicked on the Dell link the times report uses to describe native advertising on another website and the link wasn't found. In my opinion AOL is a fantastic local paper and is leading the other online versions of news outlets. It doesn't get much respect but the product is fantastic.They need to work on their ad timing by not putting an ad after every news story but they are getting better at showing more content then supporting the advertisement video version with a link on the page. I click on ads all the time. Usually to get more specific information but I noticed online sites will run the same commercial twenty times an episode. It's annoying. I demand more variety. I also hate the commercials that show men are stupid and the "mom" usually a MILF or
    just another woman with OCD putting him down.

    Aren't the Goldman ads on TED native?
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    • Jan 30 2014: As you have already figured out, "native" is jargon that works very well to CONCEAL what the practice is instead of reveal it. Simply put, "native advertising" is an attempt to be subtly dishonest while presenting advertising. An advertiser will harvest information about someone while that person is online and use the information gleaned to essentially decorate an advertisement to give said ad the illusion of a "connection" to the target. Thus, it is called "native", as in the advertisement has "gone native"--put on the grass skirt and savage face paint of the primitive and dull-witted consumer it is targeting. Of course, the corporation paying for this "native advertisement" is actually not at all closely connected to the target, but its proponents claim that simply adding a little window dressing based on what someone is or has been recently looking at will help the advertising weasel its way in. Sadly enough, they're right, when it comes to most people. In my own case, it's pretty funny, since it means that I get advertisements for "Apoptosis marker antibodies" all over the place, just because I use my computer at home at least as much for writing work-related (neurobiology) papers as well as goofing off.

      In short, it's just another cynical advertising ploy.
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      Jan 30 2014: Say you're reading Facebook, or the New York Times, and you're reading along, and suddenly you realize that the thing you're reading - it's an advertisement, and you thought it was "real" content that you came for. That's the worse case people are fretting about. You were "tricked" because the ad wasn't banished to the top or sides of your web site as we're used to - it was instead made to look striking similar to all the other stuff you read.
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    Jan 29 2014: I don't click on any of that stuff. Ever. Neither does any one I know.
    At least its not pop up ads.
    I think they should evaluate the response rate and the demographics of people who intentionally click on junk (maybe they should do a psych eval). And then from those clicks, how effective the advertising is. My guess it's probably worth the 6 figures but not much more. Eventually the rag will figure out it annoys the crap out of their readers. But I guess that won't matter to six figures coming in.
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      Jan 30 2014: Do you know about products like Ad Block? See https://adblockplus.org/en/chrome for one example. They block out a lot of ads on the Internet. Do or would you want to use products like those? What does that mean for the revenue and future of web sites you visit that live off ad revenue?
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        Jan 31 2014: I used adblock a long time ago and it slowed the loading of everything. I am not sure if the product has improved but am leery to retry.
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    Jan 29 2014: Thanks for opening up the conversation Danger. Native advertising actually represents the confluence of a few major trends in media and advertising - the evolution of brands solely creating traditional commercials to more meaningful content (as you noted) and the re-imagining of paid media experiences, moving from blatant interruption to paid media placements that are designed to match the form and function of the sites they are on. When both creative and media are executed well, native advertising is at the very least a vast improvement from the banners and boxes and interruption we are used to with online ads and perhaps even measure up to your original question of being "good." For anyone confused about what native ads actually are, here is a helpful page that gives an overview of the media and creative elements that define this new category: http://www.sharethrough.com/nativeadvertising/
  • Jan 29 2014: People will quickly learn to block it out. There will be a few entertaining examples that aren't just blocked out, but most of it will follow "Sturgeon's Law" and be ignored.
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      Jan 30 2014: Do you think native advertising provides an opportunity for advertisers to move from Sturgeon's Law of 90% of everything being crap, to something less than 90%? An opportunity that they'll take advantage of?
      • Feb 1 2014: No diddling around with format or window dressing changes Sturgeon's Law. That won't stop dishonest advocates from claiming it will or blind sycophants form believing it will.