What’s With All This Controversy Surrounding Native Advertising?

If you tune into Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or watch the highlights online after the fact, you’ll know that on Sunday, August 3, he tackled the topic of native advertising. Native advertising includes ads that are integrated seamlessly (i.e. “natively”) into a website, mimicking content for users to engage with, rather than appearing overtly advertorial.

However, controversy has stemmed from the ever-blurring line between editorial content and advertisements—a controversy John Oliver reviews in his skit.

John Oliver does admit that the growth of native advertising is somewhat our, the consumers’, fault. I mean, how often do you actually click on a standard ad? According to Google’s DoubleClick Display Benchmarks, less than .2% of the time. So advertisers have had to adapt to our online behaviors.

As much as John Oliver and others complain about native advertising, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. A survey from The 614 Group and OneSpot found that 69% of marketers believe that native advertising is valuable.

Why is it so valuable? Because consumers are engaging with native content. But is it really this massive form of trickery as John Oliver suggests? Let’s say you’re browsing BuzzFeed and an article title catches your eye. You click through and are presented with a list of 27 images that entertain you for a short period of time. There is a clear value exchange. You give the site traffic and in return, you receive entertainment.

What if you scrolled back up to the top of the article and a small blurb informed you that the list was sponsored by Nissan or Monster Energy Drinks. If you clicked on the content, obviously it’s relevant to your interests; unless the content was jam-packed with product placements or propaganda, you probably received some sort of value too, whether it was information, entertainment, etc.

This is why, when executed correctly, native advertising delivers such impressive marketing results. In the video, John Oliver focuses on native editorial content, but what about native video ads? As interruptive, pop-up, autoplay video advertisements crowd the space, brands and advertisers have sought out video ad formats that are less intrusive and more engagement-friendly. Enter native video.

These kinds of video ads are seamlessly integrated into a website so as not to interrupt the user experience, but enhance it instead. Precise targeting capabilities allow advertisers to show users video content that directly aligns with their interests, thus presenting a value exchange: a view and maybe even engagement for a few minutes of relevant entertainment.

Video advertising companies have seen great success with native video ads compared to pre-roll and other ad formats. IPG Media Lab and  Sharethrough found that consumer subjects viewed native ads 53% more frequently than banners, were 68% more likely to share a native ad with others, and exhibited 18% higher purchase intent after viewing. Sharethrough also reported that users were “more likely to have negative brand opinions after being exposed to the pre-roll creative than the native ads.”

This is why we here at ViralGains ensure that all of our video placements are native. Clients’ video ads are opt-in, which means a user has to initiate a play, and they’re all tailored specifically to that user’s interests. We believe that these kinds of ads are the most valuable because they attract genuine views and foster consumer-brand relationships.

“Native advertising isn’t treachery or trickery—it’s just a way for brands to tell a story without being immediately labeled as advertising content and missing out on potential content consumers. Having said that, if done right, like telling/sponsoring a good story, both the brand and the consumer win. However, if it’s bad, the brand just shot itself in the foot,” said ViralGains Ad Operations Manager Vitor Petrone.

Though native advertising has been cast in a negative light as of late, its value to advertisers is undeniable. As long as native advertising is marked as such and offers some sort of value to consumers, it will continue to play a vital role in digital marketing campaigns.

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