Native Advertising: Sticky or Icky?

Posted on July 19, 2013 
Filed Under Digital PR, Media Relations, Social Media

The second story on BuzzFeed’s website this morning was…wait for it…“12 Comebacks We Can All Agree With.”

(I say ‘wait for it’ because anyone who knows BuzzFeed’s editorial approach knows its love for lists.)

It was a sponsored story—paid advertising—posted on behalf of Hostess, whose Twinkies and other brands are back after the production ceased and the company downsized nearly out of existence last year.

But the comebacks listed in the BuzzFeed story never once mentioned Hostess. It was all about other stuff.

It was actually a pretty good list, and pretty funny, too, despite small errors and its ‘intern-pulled-the-factoids-off-Wikipedia’ feel. So were the comments, not all of which were complimentary. “Uh, Arrested Development was canceled in Feb 2006, and the new season, specifically for Netflix, had 15 episodes. It really isn’t hard to check up on simple facts before submitting an ‘article,’” went one.

At the Folio: and Min MediaMashup event in April, one of the speakers was asked to define native advertising. “Advertising that doesn’t suck,” he said.

That’s an awesome description, for native or traditional forms. But with native, there are new ways to create superior value for an advertiser (and reader/user) and also new ways to mess things up.

Check out QZ.com for a clean, elegant way to do in-stream native advertising. Consider that the advertising is in the form of storytelling. Not a marketing pitch. Think too about the value provided to an advertiser to be fully integrated into a site’s content stream—where you see the ad as you scroll, and the ad’s content comes up in a search. That’s incredible advertising value.

But then there’s the flip side: Done poorly, native advertising in a content stream can seem spammy. It can disrupt the flow of content, not enhance it. It can make your page look like a dissonant cacophony, and put your credibility at risk when people open a page and see yellow-tinted ads where you think they shouldn’t be.

It’s a double-edged sword, and I admit that I’m not sure I like everything BuzzFeed is doing. That might be, though, that their formulaic approach kind of gets old quick. The fun of media consumption, and of PR, is in being surprised, and even delighted, in unexpected ways.

—Tony Silber
@tonysilber

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