Native Advertising: Soap Operas for the Digital Age
Native advertising is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is new. As early as the 1930s, Procter & Gamble began producing and sponsoring radio soaps, and then television. In fact, the company created a special division called Procter & Gamble Entertainment in 1946 for the purpose of "creating original content that enables the company to connect with consumers and advertise its brands." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
The concept of an advertiser providing branded content tailored to the context of a publication is really no different than soap operas, or than advertorial pages in a print magazine. As Robert Rose, chief strategist for the Content Marketing Institute succinctly put it: "It is simply one aspect of the larger discipline we know of as branded content marketing."
If that's the case, what's the hubbub about? Why the new name?
For one, the affordances of technology have expanded the palette from which native advertising can be drawn. Proponents of native advertising hope it will be more interactive and seamless, and hence, more engaging and productive. Amanda Turnbull, group publishing director of Harper's Bazaar and Esquire UK, has high hopes for this model. "If you define native advertising as sponsored content that's relevant to the consumer experience, not interruptive and looks and feels similar to its editorial environment, then we've been doing this for some time already in print, and our digital platforms just give us more scope, scale and frequency to continue. What's highlighting the trend now is that a younger, tech-savvy group of consumers actively want to engage with brands and to learn more about them, and digital platforms certainly facilitate this."
Rose also suspects the recasting may be part of a push to make sure content marketing falls under the purview of media agency advertising budgets. "From the marketer's point of view I don't care what it's called. At the end of the day, the people that really care about the term, I think, are mostly the media agencies who are scared to death that this is not going to be called native advertising and therefore lose the budget for this."
Denis Wilson was previously content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzed and reported on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aimed to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.