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Native Advertising

When you search “native adver­tis­ing def­i­n­i­tion” in Google, your results will include: “Sharethrough — Native Adver­tis­ing — The Offi­cial Def­i­n­i­tion,” a Web­site with the fol­low­ing def­i­n­i­tion — Native adver­tis­ing is a form of paid media where the ad expe­ri­ence fol­lows the nat­ural form and func­tion of the user expe­ri­ence in which it is placed. You might want to read that again — exactly what does “fol­lows the nat­ural form and func­tion of the user expe­ri­ence” mean to you?

A lit­tle fur­ther down in the results you will find: Native adver­tis­ing is the inte­gra­tion of mar­ket­ing con­tent with a web­site or ser­vice in such a way that it is not dis­tinct from the rest of the mate­r­ial pre­sented there in terms of its con­tent, for­mat, style or place­ment.“Not distinct…in terms of its con­tent, for­mat, style or place­ment?” — So, can you tell it apart from the stuff that’s NOT adver­tis­ing or not?

Fur­ther down in the results you will find yet another def­i­n­i­tion of “Native Adver­tis­ing” by Solve Media Blog, INFOGRAPHIC: (a dig­i­tal ad agency): Native adver­tis­ing refers to a spe­cific mode of mon­e­ti­za­tion that aims to aug­ment user expe­ri­ence by pro­vid­ing value through rel­e­vant con­tent deliv­ered in-stream.And just what the heck does THAT mean?

A spe­cific mode of mon­e­ti­za­tion?” where the “ad expe­ri­ence fol­lows the nat­ural form and func­tion of the user expe­ri­ence in which it is placed?” which is “deliv­ered in-stream?” There’s some­thing “fishy” going on when you need def­i­n­i­tions of the definitions.

No mat­ter how you slice and dice it, what all this boils down to in sim­ple, easy-to-under­stand words is: “Native Adver­tis­ing is adver­tis­ing dis­guised as edi­to­r­ial” — noth­ing more, noth­ing less — and also, noth­ing new.

Once called “adver­to­ri­als,” it does­n’t mat­ter how many “modes of mon­e­ti­za­tion” that “aim to aug­ment the user expe­ri­ence deliv­ered in-stream” so they are “not dis­tinct from the rest of the mate­r­ial pre­sented” — the bot­tom line is it’s about dis­guis­ing adver­tis­ing as edi­to­r­ial con­tent in order to trick peo­ple into read­ing ads they oth­er­wise would­n’t read.

The stated premise is that peo­ple will accept “native ads” since they are less “inter­rup­tive” because they are cam­ou­flaged to look like the con­tent that sur­rounds them, and while this may, in fact be true, it ignores the much larger issue that the only thing peo­ple hate MORE than being inter­rupted is being tricked or mislead.

Demon­strat­ing how main­stream the absur­dity of “native adver­tis­ing” has become, here is a video clip from John Oliv­er’s tele­vi­sion show, Last Week Tonight that orig­i­nally aired on August 4, 2014, where “native adver­tis­ing” is the subject:

As you can see in the video, “native adver­tis­ing,” as it is defined by its pro­po­nents is com­pletely con­tra­dic­tory. (3:07)“Native Adver­tis­ing is basi­cally say­ing to cor­po­ra­tions that want to adver­tise, we will cam­ou­flage your ads to make them look like news stories…that’s essen­tially it,” says Ken Auletta, Con­trib­u­tor to the New Yorker while at the same time, Joseph Ripp, Time, Inc CEO, says(5:37), “As long as it’s clearly marked, as long as the con­sumer knows the dif­fer­ence between what’s edi­to­r­ial and what’s native, I don’t see any prob­lem with it at all.”

Which is it? Cam­ou­flaged to look like news sto­ries or clearly marked so con­sumers know it’s an ad? It can­not be both.

In Decem­ber, 2015, the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion (FTC) issued guide­lines on native adver­tis­ing, requir­ing such ads to be iden­ti­fied as adver­tis­ing so con­sumers can eas­ily rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ence from edi­to­r­ial con­tent. It is clear that this will impact the effec­tive­ness and use of native adver­tis­ing. The fact that the FTC was com­pelled to address the issue at all demon­strates the inher­ent role of decep­tion in native advertising.