January 14, 2013

The Next Online Miracle

You ready for the new online advertising miracle?

The digital advertising hype-cycle is growing shorter all the time. Apparently the online lemmingocracy has grown tired of "content" as the digital magic of the hour. Now it's all about "native advertising."

What is native advertising? Well, according to Solve Media...
"Native advertising refers to a specific mode of monetization that aims to augment user experience by providing value through relevant content delivered in-stream."
Oh. Okay.

Now let's pretend for a minute that we live on the planet Earth and we talk in a language that is comprehensible. Here's what that bullshit means:
Native advertising is advertising that is pretending to be something else.
It's Promoted Tweets on Twitter, and Sponsored Stories on Facebook, and any other kind of online advertising that the publisher is disguising as part of a story or part of their content.

Desperate magazine publishers used to do stuff like this. If you bought a large enough ad schedule they'd sneak some positive mentions of your product into their editorial pages. It wasn't called native advertising. It was called unscrupulous bullshit. And you didn't have to pay for it.

So here's what is really going on. We are at the beginning of Stage 3 of digital delusional thinking.

Stage 1 started when we believed that online advertising would be more engaging and effective because people would "interact" with it. This delusion crumbled when we found that people had no interest whatsoever in interacting with display advertising.

In order to cover our tracks, we needed a new story. So Stage 2 was developed. We decided that online advertising was really a "social" activity. We proclaimed that consumers wanted to have "conversations" about brands with each other and with us. This delusion died the day Facebook went public.

Now we are in Stage 3. Once again, we need to cover our tracks. We need to have a new story to tell our clients and change the subject from why we wasted their money on social media marketing.

Stage 3 started with "content." But now that content is being exposed as just another over-hyped online daydream, "native advertising" is evolving. And what is it? It is really just advertising disguised as content.

Does this stuff work? Adweek doesn't seem to think so. In a story they published a while back...
"...a new survey...asked online adults what they thought about three native ad formats—Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, Sponsored Stories on Facebook and video ads that appear to be content. 

According to the survey, a majority found the ads negatively impacted or had no impact on their perception of the brand being advertised.

People had the strongest reaction to sponsored video ads, with 85 percent saying they negatively impacted or had no impact on their perception of the brand. Sixty-two percent said the same of Promoted Tweets and 72 percent of Sponsored Stories.

The survey also revealed that 45 percent found Promoted Tweets misleading, while 57 percent and 86 percent said the same about Sponsored Stories and video ads, respectively."
Of course, the data in this study is all self-reported, so the study itself is pretty much useless. But it's an indication that "native advertising" is gaining traction as the new miracle du jour.

So get ready for a blizzard of bullshit about the magic of native advertising. And be prepared for every client bandwagoneer to insist that his advertising plan includes native advertising. Remember one of The Ad Contrarian's timeless axioms... there's no bigger sucker than a gullible marketer convinced he's missing a trend.


Chris said...

It's just a different flavor of all of the usual advertising bullshit. And it isn't as though digital is alone. I see decks all the time filled with inflationary language designed to make shit sound 1) more important, 2) more complicated, and 3) more innovative that it actually is.

Curation. Holistic. Engagement. All mean-nothing words in an advertising sense. I think digital is just ahead of the curve when it comes to creating new bullshit words. The rest of the industry is just lazier in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Hey other anonymous? What the heck does your comment mean?

KL said...

Everything old is new again. They're called advertorials. The key to success in the digital changes everything (not!) age is to take an old familiar concept and pretend it's your new invention. It works best with clients and others who have been in the business for 15 minutes or less.

Anonymous said...

Hey other other anonymous, I think that first comment means that original anonymous is a "social media expert and/or strategist."

My apologies for having to resort to name calling.

Geoff said...

I bet 85% of people would say that TV ads have "no impact or negatively impact brand perception."

But I agree with you. I hope sponsored posts die a super quick death. Of course, Facebook will then need to cook up another revenue generating strategy. They're smart people -- they ain't going to just whimper and go home.

Mark said...

I would think TV ads only have a negative impact if they are bad/annoying ads. I don't get p!ssed at people for advertising. I get p!ssed at people who advertise poorly. Anyone who thinks putting an ad longer than 15 seconds in front of an online video for example. I love it when I go to YouTube to watch a video clip that's 25 seconds long but has a 60 second commercial bump in front of it.

Chuck Nyren said...

What I said about it a month ago:

The newest buzz-phrase has me completely baffled: Native Advertising. One social media guru described it as advertising that is ‘baked into’ the content. I guess it’s sort of like the old Burns & Allen Show where one episode had Gracie baking a cake using Betty Crocker Cake Mix, a sponsor.


Anonymous said...

Now let's see. What did I come away with a stronger curiosity about? Was it Solve Media embedded in the content, or your book banner ad off to the side. Would have to go with Solve Media, I had to look for the banner just to make a point.

Unknown said...

I think this screw-up illustrates Bob's point perfectly:

Unknown said...

Apparently native advertising, sponsored content, advertorial, whatever you want to call it, is also the future of PR - according Richard Edelman, the CEO of the world's biggest independent PR firm:


alan herrell said...

Native Advertising?

Will it have feathers and warpaint to differentiate it from 'regular' ads?

How about color code for targeting specific demographics?

Maybe stripes for mixed demos.

Unknown said...

Golly! I remember Jack Benny and Don Wilson segueing in and out of commercials on Benny's TV show and Arthur Godfrey's three-minute paeans to Easy Off Oven Cleaner, right in the middle of his show. Advertorials only work if they don't sound, look, read, feel or smell like ads. Most agencies can't do that and most clients won't allow it.