2017: The year native advertising takes a hit
Yes, it's now hugely popular, but as an ad form it has major drawbacks
December 27, 2016
There’s no denying native advertising is hot.
A recent study from the International News Media Association projects that by 2018 native advertising will account for a quarter of all newspaper advertising, up from 11 percent this year.
At the same time, another forecast from market research firm IHS projects that almost two-thirds of global mobile display advertising will be native by 2020, while Facebook says the number of advertisers using its native ad app has increased tenfold since 2015.
But don’t bet this boom will last.
Native advertising is based on the idea that content disguised as editorial is more engaging to readers than traditional display advertising.
But there’s no evidence that’s true, and common sense says it’s not.
It’s easy to pull the reader’s eye into a bright, well-designed ad with a compelling message of a few words. It’s a lot harder to get anyone to read 500 words on any topic for any reason, ever.
This simple truth is bound to sink in at some point.
Our prediction: It will sink in in 2017. The native ad boom will cool and advertisers will move on to the next ad fad that emerges.
Here are five reasons why native advertising will tank.
1. Lack of high-quality, compelling content
What we now call native advertising was known in the print area as advertorial–advertiser-sponsored editorial–and while it was common enough, it was never a major form of advertising.
Editors didn’t like it and often insisted that it be labeled advertising and look sufficiently different from real editorial so that readers would not be fooled and think less of the magazine for it.
Ad reps would often package it as part of a larger deal, in effect as bonus. A common use for it was to promote conferences; the format allowed for the running of the agenda over several pages.
And back then much advertorial was churned out by real writers picking up a few bucks on the side.
Not so today. The bulk of native content is written either by hacks or marketers and PR people and written in the mumbo jumbo favored by their sort. Much of it is unreadable.
At some point advertisers must conclude such prose could end up hurting rather than helping their brand.
2. The toxic spillover from the fake news ado
Fake news is certainly the story of December, if not the entire year, in media. It’s put everyone–readers, publishers, advertisers–on guard against stories that don’t pass the smell test.
Native advertising is fake news under a different name, nothing more. It’s not hard to foresee native ads getting mistaken for fake news and being caught in an ensuing backlash.
3. Low return on investment
Native advertising requires a great investment of time and money if it’s done right—a story must be researched and crafted, art must be planned out. Research by Moz and Fractl found it can cost up to $200,000 for a top-tier campaign but the ROI is lower than for much-cheaper content marketing.
4. The risk to credibility
With any form of native advertising, there’s a risk people who read it will feel deceived. They’re reading an article on BlackBerry, for instance, and how great it is. They believe it. Then they realize at the end of the piece that it was sponsored content. Suddenly, they feel they can’t trust the source or the advertiser.
This is compounded by the fact that people have a hard time picking out sponsored content. A recent study by Grady College found that less than 10 percent of respondents could recognize sponsored content when it doesn’t have a clear label at the top.
This makes many buyers uneasy. They don’t want it to appear their clients are deceiving people.
5. Lack of engagement
Native advertising content is not as engaging as editorial content. One study found that just 24 percent of readers scroll down on native advertising content, compared to 71 percent for legitimate content.
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