What Is Native Advertising?

medium_9348711741The confusion is rampant and getting more so over the discernment of objective journalism versus sponsored content versus marketing messages woven into real platforms previously relegated to protected turf from ad dollars.

Confused about that first sentence? Let me help you dissect it with this lawyerly approach to the facts:

  1. Journalists used to write content subject to an editor’s direction.
  2. Along came publicists pitching journos and influencing their decision to write a story.
  3. That is called media relations, a tried and true practice for decades; however, one in which no money exchanged hands, kind of. The travel journalists invited on “fam tours” were “bought” with all-expense paid trips to exotic destinations in order to entice their positive stories – until the FTC got involved and halted that practice.
  4. Along came bloggers writing content about whatever.
  5. As the brand marketers got into the content marketing game, they began to look at new arenas to insert their messages. All the endless space in online media sites wreaked salivation upon the marketers and advertisers wanting new hits, leads, and sales.
  6. The chief revenue officers of media conglomerates began their salivation, too, seeing new streams of revenue a solid possibility to help dying publishers NOT purchased by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.
  7. Insert advertising and print advertorials into previously protected turf – the journalist’s story. And, call it NATIVE ADVERTISING.


Native Advertising Defined

Native advertising is nothing more than an advertisement packaged nicely into the area customarily reserved for reporters’ stories that looks like it belongs. An ad that looks like editorial copy, you’ve seen them, right? Often called advertorials, these appear as full-page “stories” by companies taking up page after page in the Wall Street Journal, for example.

I read that paper every morning; yes, I actually pick it up off my driveway and touch the soy-ink paper (which I recycle to a glass blower in town who uses it to cool and shape liquid glass on a metal rod).

The full-page ads are formatted just like the customary layout of the paper – in columns, with images and headlines. The difference is they are labeled and often in a different font.

Some media aren’t as forthcoming with labeling their native ads; it’s up to the consumer to question, and how does that affect brand? Consumers are already skeptics; why would a publishing house want to risk the precarious brand teeter-totter and have consumers teeter away from the brand with suspect native advertising?

Forbes Alumni In High Demand for Native Advertising

Forbes is on the block; it’s seeking a buyer, and some say Forbes’ foray as a pioneer in native advertising from 2010 onward ma have hurt the value of its brand. I’m sure that depends on whose perspective, right? Traditional executive journalists unwilling to change and roll with the punches are ticked off that Forbes jumped feet first into native advertising platforms and programmatic buying.

Not sure who’s calling the kettle black because all of the Forbes alumni are sought after for their expertise about how to implement native advertising into storied media institutions. Case in point, look at this direct quote from Advertising Age, December 2, 2013, “Need A Native-Ad Hotshot? Find A Former Forbes Exec.

“These alumni are the first to actually chip away and transform archaic business practices and begin to modernize the culture, model and conversation,” said Robin Steinberg, exec VP and director of publishing investment and activation at MediaVest. “And they’re evolving and restructuring what were once very conservative and traditional organizations.”

With advertising the traditional way nearly kaphlooey, every revenue-seeking executive needs new ways to stream dollars into the coffers. If marketers are interested in trying this native advertising thing (remember, it’s an ad dressed up in disguise blending right into the editorial content!), then let them.

Consumers are smart enough to discern the difference, right?

This Is Not Native Advertising

Nope, this is NOT native advertising; it’s only my absolute fave holiday commercial evah!

At the end of the day, what it all boils down to is whether you can get your messaging right in a story or in an ad. It’s all in the messaging, right?

photo credit: Ines Njers via photopin cc

Jayme Soulati
Jayme Soulati is a public relations marketer and message mapping master. She blends content marketing, digital marketing and social media with core PR. She is president of Soulati Media, Inc. and an award- blogger writing at http://Soulati.com. She is author of "Message Mapping: Why You Need It and How To Do It" available free on her website. Trained in Chicago's PR firms, Jayme is a media relations veteran and a past president of the Publicity Club of Chicago. She plays competitive tennis player and wants to connect with you on any social media channel!
Jayme Soulati

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3 Comments on "What Is Native Advertising?"

11 months 18 days ago

I don't have a problem with this type of advertising because if it doesn't interest me then I'm not going to read it. Some people seem to forget that it's advertising that makes the world go round, if nobody's advertising, nobody's buying and if nobody's buying then the economy will be up the wazoo (again), people out of jobs etc! I hear alot of people get angry about facebook advertising, do they not realise there would be no facebook if it didn't have advertising? The same goes for our retailers. I say let them advertise!!!
My recent post Why Does Google Use Direct Mail?

Jayme Soulati
1 year 2 months ago

Let's have a conversation offline, Amber-Lee. I think your route this year is to perfect your digital marketing and then perhaps do the native advertising thing. Let me know what works for you!
My recent post 12 Most Do Now Online Reputation Punch List Items

1 year 2 months ago

Ha! I love that commercial too. Jayme.
Do I need to understand this? Native Advertising? Because really, no silliness at all, I still don't understand. I followed along, and yet I still think I am missing the point. Does Native Advertising have weight in a business such as our own (and of course what I hope we grow into)? If yes, where do I go now, so that I may understand what this means to us?