We at the Native Advertising Institute naturally worship native advertising, but the love has not made us blind. We also recognize that, after all, the marketing tool does have some limitation.
One of these limitations is about suiting subjects. Because native advertising is marketing and not editorial stuff, it is not bound by the traditional journalistic ethics, which is all about independence and objectivity. All journalists live by these principles and readers and consumers are also very aware of them. When a reader is going through a newspaper, they know that the articles they are reading are not the writer’s or newspaper’s opinion; unless it is very clearly labeled as an opinion piece. This gives the newspaper a high credibility with the readers.
Subjects that are considered more serious – such as financial news, politics and world news – demand an even higher level of credibility and consumers are used to thinking that independence and objectivity equals this credibility. Therefore, they would have a hard time coping if the long, in-depth political analysis was a piece of native advertising. They would ask themselves: Who is behind this piece? Is this piece bought? Can I trust them? Do they have a hidden agenda to make me believe this?
Consequently, heavy subjects like the ones mentioned above have been sacred from native advertising – and maybe with good reason. Just a month ago, Reuters Institute published their fourth annual Digital News Report which included detailed research in the US and UK regarding consumer attitudes toward sponsored and branded news content. In focus groups, the respondents in the study were asked to identify which content areas should be considered sacred from native advertising and which content areas were more suitable for sponsored articles. According to the report:
Some respondents said that should news organizations start introducing native advertising to the more serious news content areas, it would have a damaging impact on their perceptions of the news organization.”
Go for the lighthearted subjects
Luckily, there are also a lot of subjects that suit the native advertising template perfectly. Without a doubt, lighthearted subjects are certainly predominant when looking at native advertising. And that’s a good thing if you ask consumers. So get going. Make great native advertising about the following subjects and readers and consumers will still like you …:
The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015 also stated:
One encouraging finding for publishers is that there is far more acceptance of sponsored content outside core news – in areas such as travel, food, fashion and entertainment.”
Even Doug Kessler, the Co-Founder and Creative Director from Velocity Partners, who is known for not being the greatest native advertising lover all the time, recently talked to us about this issue. About how some more lighthearted subjects are quite alright when it comes to native advertising – even though he is having a harder time with other kinds of native (which was the real subject of our discussion).
“There is plenty of native that I would say is fine. A lot of the native on BuzzFeed is fine. For example, when the dog food company Purina did a funny dog video on BuzzFeed that went viral. That doesn’t bother me. It’s fun, it’s branded – it’s obviously branded. The fact that it came from Purina doesn’t bother me at all, because it’s not news, it’s not serious, it’s entertainment. And if I find it entertaining, it’s entertaining, and then I don’t care who did it.”
This pretty much says it all, we think. And to sum up: Handle with car if you are doing native advertising about serious stuff, which demands a high level of credibility. And knock yourself out if you are doing (great) native about more lighthearted subjects.