From our Native Advertising desk

Advertising Age is on the branded content beat like Brown on Williamson.

Exhibit A:

Native Advertising: Media Savior or Just the New Custom Campaign?

Publishers and Marketers Seek Solutions Beyond the Traditional Display Ads

If you’re having trouble seeing past the glare emanating from some of your favorite websites these days, it might be the “new” shiny monetization method that carries one of the following labels: native advertising, custom content, sponsored content, branded content, content marketing or perhaps the very latest: collaborative content.

While there are varying definitions of each, the underlying thesis beneath them all is that web readers, viewers and social-network users are more likely to respond positively to marketing tactics that don’t look like advertising and instead take the form of the rest of the content on the website or platform. On Twitter, that means promoted accounts and tweets; on Facebook, sponsored stories. And on media properties, that amounts to written, video or image-rich posts that look a lot like the editorial content on the site and which would make proponents of church-and-state divides between advertising and editorial departments cringe.

And at, that amounts to Mercedes-Benz in the driver’s seat:

Some, like BuzzFeed, are betting exclusively on written posts or image galleries, on which advertisers and their agencies collaborate with BuzzFeed’s team to create or distribute. A recent one from Campbell’s Soup contained photos of “15 Animals Who Are Behaving Like People.” (No, the connection to the Campbell’s brand is not clear to us, either.) Others, such as The Atlantic, are using advertiser-sponsored articles to drive better results of display ads on that same page, since they’ve found that click-through rates increase more than one-and-a-half times when an ad is placed next to a piece of content from the same advertiser. For example, is promoting a series of Mercedes-sponsored posts that contain video interviews with innovators across different industries.

See representative samples here.

Some websites, such as Gawker, “say they aspire to have custom content eliminate the need for display ads,” Ad Age notes.

This is how the traditional media world ends: Not with a bang, but with a whimper.


John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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