Smart piece in Adweek about the virality of native advertising.


Native Advertising Wasn’t Really So Viral in 2013

New Sharethrough report shows how few sponsored stories popped 

Are we so sure that all this sponsored content is worth the trouble?

Native advertising distribution firm Sharethrough compiled a ranking of the biggest brand-produced sponsored stories from 2013. And what perhaps sticks out the most is that none of these stories seems to have really taken off on the social Web—which is the promise of the entire native ads movement.


As Adweek notes, “the top sponsored story on the list was from Harper Collins. It naturally ran on BuzzFeed: 17 Problems Only Book Lovers Will Understand. According to Sharethrough, the piece generated 715,267 social actions.”

But, Adweek also notes, “[it’s] pretty striking that not a single brand (at least among those tracked by Sharethrough) could crack a million shares or likes. Even more striking: the falloff is severe. In second place was a story by Blackberry on Cracked: 5 Real-Life Stories of Twins Creepier Than Any Horror Movie that generated 656,478 actions.”

It goes off a cliff from there – to 115,000 for the third-place story and etc.



So, if native advertising is only moderately effective, what’s the problem?

Just this: That native advertising will erode editorial credibility without reviving ad revenues for media outlets.

As Bob Garfield, longtime adwatcher and wannabe ad consultant, told the FTC’s recent Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content? conference, native advertising is like mining guano.


“With every transaction, publishers are mining and exporting a rare resource: trust. They will, in a matter of years, destroy the media industry, one boatload of s##t at a time.”


No s##t.

Regardless, what was the most-viral campaign of 2013?

Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” an online and TV effort that notably excluded native advertising.

Via Ad Age:


Unilever’s ‘Dove Real Beauty Sketches’ is the Viral Campaign of the Year

Soap Campaign Tapped Into Perceptions of Women’s Self-Image

It’s that time of year, folks: time to assess what worked in online video in 2013. This year, Unilever takes the crown of most-viewed video ad campaign with Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches.”

With nearly 135 million views, Unilever got a massive audience for the series which bested some very strong competitors this year, including Google‘s “Chrome: For …” campaign, Turkish Airlines’ shenanigans with Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant, and Volvo Trucks’ crazy splits stunt with Jean-Claude Van Damme.

“Real Beauty Sketches” debuted on April 14— eight years after Ogilvy Toronto’s hit “Evolution” campaign. This spot not only impressed, but also tugged at heartstrings. In it, an FBI sketch artist asked individual women participating in a study to either describe themselves or a stranger seated next to them earlier in the day.


The results were heartbreaking.



And native-breaking as well.

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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