Going native: Is it an ad or an article?
A recent survey by Contently, the content marketing software company, showed that people have a lot of trouble discerning between online native advertising and editorial content. On nearly every publication tested, respondents identified native advertising as an article.
The online survey included 509 adult men and women over 18 and was implemented by Research Now, a global consumer panel provider.
The survey findings are important to brands and marketers who increasingly employ paid content strategies to increase engagement with target audiences. Getting organic reach on social networks is almost impossible, as Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter and rest strive to monetize their platforms.
The native ads used in the study that respondents rated as being of higher quality drove also more trust; those that were rated as lower quality drove less brand trust. As long as the article meets the informational need of the reader, the fact that it’s paid for shouldn’t be an issue. However if the reader ends up feeling cheated by investing time in reading an article only to discover in the last paragraph that it’s a product shill, both interest and trust is lost.
According to Contently’s blog, “Miracle-Gro saw a 30 per cent boost from its native ad, and Raymond James got an 11 per cent bump. Meanwhile, Mercedes lost trust from its poorly rated native ad, and the lukewarm response to Chevron’s native ad corresponded with a loss in trust as well.”
Publishers will be interested in the data too. Having readers fail to make the distinction between paid and editorial content presents a clear risk to editorial integrity, and therefore to all content’s value. Sixty-two per cent of respondents think a news site loses credibility when it publishes native ads.
Advertorial is nothing new; it’s been part of the PR arsenal since the dawn of the profession. What is new is the extent of native advertising being used by mainstream media outlets. There is so much of it now, that readers are genuinely confused. As this study shows, they cannot tell the difference between what is earned and what is paid. There is a clear baby/bathwater risk. Lose the audience’s trust, and risk losing the audience altogether.
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