Native advertising: do you get that déjà vu feeling?

native advertising,inbound marketing,outbound marketing,advertorial,writing,content marketingRecently I got an invitation from Copyblogger to fill out a questionnaire about native advertising.

It asked all sorts of insightful questions like, er, do you know what native advertising is?

Amazingly I did know what it is, but not too much in the way of details. So with moi  being an eternal student I set out on a trip across the internet to find out more.

I slapped myself for being a cynic thinking that native advertising is just a regrind of the advertorial we all used to love and hate (particularly hate when I was a journalist working on newspapers which took on advertorial bullsh*t to help pay the bills). But I shouldn’t have slapped myself.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes it

Native advertising is an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience. Native ad formats match both the form and the function of the user experience in which it is placed. The advertiser’s intent is to make the paid advertising feel less intrusive and thus increase the likelihood users will click on it.

One form of native advertising, publisher-produced brand content, is similar in concept to a traditional advertorial, which is a paid placement attempting to look like an article. A native ad tends to be less obviously an ad than most advertorials.

Advertorial all over again?

Some clients of mine use an (offline) advertorial space every week in one of our local newspapers, about wealth and financial management. Their advertorial “articles” are actually very good basic information for anyone with a little bit of money to invest or a pension that needs revisiting. But they are in a minority, sadly.

Often on the next page of the very same local newspaper there is a laughable “article” written by a company that cleans windows. It’s the same “article” every week, nestling cosily against their ad for window cleaning services. Yet it must work, or they wouldn’t be running it. 1950s, here we come.

Many more businesses today are using the paid forms of uploading “content” to the social media and other online platforms to capitalize on the fashion for inbound marketing.

This we punters assume naïvely is about inbound marketing from real companies and real people. But is it really camouflaged outbound marketing produced by their glossy advertising agencies?

With native adverting and its cohorts trumpeting their values and righteousness all over the internet at the moment, the true transparency of the inbound marketing we have grown to value seems to be under threat.

Are we going full circle?

What’s worrying is that native advertising – i.e. paid-for content written by ad gurus and slick copywriters, rather than genuine inbound content – could possibly eclipse the real stuff in favour of whoever is paying the piper and can afford to make lots of noise.

Wikipedia warns us as follows… 

Formats for native advertising include promoted videos, images, articles, music and other media. Examples of the technique include Search engine marketing (ads appearing alongside search results are native to the search experience) and Twitter with promoted Tweets, trends and people. Other examples include Facebook’s promoted stories or Tumblr’s promoted posts. 

What’s the difference?

OK, in theory inbound marketing communications are “paid-for,” too, even if it’s a case of costing up the boss’s time while s/he sits down and writes the company blog … or someone like me gets paid to ghost write web text or articles for them.

The difference, though, between inbound and outbound marketing lies in the intention  of the content.

Genuine content within inbound marketing doesn’t try to con you with fluffy-wuffy puddytats, handsome men and women grinning at you like gargoyles with perfect teeth, real estate or vacation “articles” with clever images that capture the palm trees leaving the half-finished construction work just out of shot, etc.

The genuine content of inbound marketing, to me anyway, is about the real world and how we live in it.

Native advertising, just like all advertising going back 200 years or more, is about what advertising has always been about – selling you stuff, with plenty of titivation, entertainment, fantasy, empty promises, brand willy-waving and other junk thrown in to get you clicking on the PayPal button.

Given that this native advertising is creeping into social media all over the place, where do we now draw the line between inbound and outbound marketing?

How much output today is in fact an outbound marketing wolf, in an inbound marketing sheep’s clothing?

Please share your thoughts! 

photo credit: Poster Boy NYC via photopin cc





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