Everyone Loves Native Advertising Except Consumers (who Weren’t Even Asked)

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A month to the day before the FTC’s scheduled December 4 hearings on native advertising, a November 4 email from native advertising exchange Hexagram brought infographic results of a survey on the subject.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Hexagram defines native advertising as “a web advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience.”

Stripped of euphemism, this means that native advertising comprises sales messages sneakily disguised as articles on websites you go to in order to con you into reading them.

According to the survey, publishers, advertising agencies and brands all just love native advertising and think it adds value for consumers. Consumers, in the context of whose experience advertisers provide this allegedly value-adding content, had no opinion, mainly because the survey didn’t bother to ask them.

(They also didn’t bother to ask the American Society of Magazine Editors, which attempted to head off FTC involvement with recent guidelines calling for advertisers and publishers to dial back the deception, for their opinions.)

Specifically:

  • 84 percent of publishers, 81 percent of ad agencies and 78 percent of brands surveyed believe that native advertising adds value for consumers, who weren’t surveyed.
  • 11 percent of brand and agency respondents and an unknown percentage of consumers, who had no chance to respond, “had negative views of publishers who offer native advertising.”
  • 67 percent of brands and marketers “state they use native advertising over more traditional forms of advertising” because it “increases consumer engagement,” i.e., tricks more people into reading it under the impression it’s an actual article or post.
  • 41 percent of brands already actively use it, 66 percent of those creating the content in house.

The “winners” of native advertising, the survey concludes, are publishers, 62 percent of whom already offer it and 85 percent of whom welcome it as a new revenue stream.

The losers are everyone who goes to a website and gets suckered into reading a piece of advertising disguised to look and sound just like editorial content, with just the tiniest and most unobtrusive of disclaimers. Of course, the survey doesn’t say that. But if the native advertising industry didn’t look down on the targets of their efforts as losers, they’d have taken the trouble to ask them at least a question or two.

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