When it comes to native advertising, everyone has an opinion. There are those who hold user experience in the highest regard. This crowd will argue that native ads allow for users to gain true value by having the ability to consume and interact with unobtrusive content that is of interest to them, unlike display ads which can distract from the key reason a user visits any given site. The camp on the other side, however, argues that native ads might be misleading since they can tend to blur the lines between sponsored content and editorial content.
Either way, the core of the controversy seems to come down to one universal concept. Trust.
Brands can attempt to build trust by offering up custom-tailored content to users. However, it can be argued that publishers violate that same sense of a user’s trust by subtly placing branded content within an editorial context, and by so doing, “tricking” users into reading their advertisers’ content.
Statistics that support native are thrown around and touted all over the digital environment these days, bolstering higher engagement, brand lift and purchase to intent, just to name a few metrics. After a little Googling, one will find that biggest lift for advertisers seems to come in the form of brand awareness, which can lead to the perception that the traditional goals of driving a user to some sort of conversion or transaction might become secondary to simply entertaining users and gaining their trust, and thus, their loyalty. Whether this is a long-term benefit to brands is yet to be seen, but the signs are there, and they’re pointing to a new path through which brands can gain this loyalty from consumers.
Eventually, we will get to a point where it is clear to users that they are viewing this branded content, but it won’t matter. IF in fact the content is interesting enough for a user to spend precious time engaging with it, then it seems like a fair trade. The amount of creative freedom and innovation that this new approach allows for is sure to bring digital advertising to new heights, the compromise will be the need for brands’ and consumers’ patience and tolerance while advertisers learn and allow this approach to mature by gauging its overall effectiveness and, more importantly, the reaction and acceptance of it by consumers.
Throughout the month of July, we will be examining the concept of native advertising and branded content from several different perspectives. As more and more brands begin to focus on creating branded content. We look forward to keeping an eye on this trend as it grows and transforms as we move toward a point where editorial and branded content are almost indistinguishable from one another in the eyes of the user. Z-Team Out!