With every innovation, there are its critics. And native advertising, or "branded content," whatever you'd like to call it, has plenty of critics. The money behind native advertising is taking off because of its non-intrusive nature and the relevancy of the information.
That should be a good thing, right?
John Oliver from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver doesn't think so. The clip below is the 11-minute take he has on it. You don't need to watch it all; you'll get the point in 3–4 minutes.
Oliver's major disapproval comes from the report that people are unaware that the content is not advertising, and are confusing it with actual journalism. He believes that the line between advertising and journalism has been blurred to a point that it is detrimental to the future of independent editorial content.
We think that ratings and the fight for audiences killed good editorial content long ago.
Do we believe that a line must be crossed between editorial and consumer information? It depends. But do we also believe that consumers should be intelligent enough to decipher between editorial and paid content? Absolutely.
If we run with our notion that advertising is not to blame for the confusion, then there are two other alternatives:
1) News and editorial content, especially in print, must get good enough for consumers to think it's news.
2) Consumers need to get smarter and read better to tell the difference between branded content and editorial content.
Native advertising's goal is not to "trick" the consumer. Studies suggest that if a consumer feels tricked, they are less likely to try the product. That's definitely not what we want to do. Native advertising is meant to be less annoying and present information in a format that consumers appreciate. Branded content has been making some serious headlines, so we guess it's working.
Again, don't get it twisted — the goal isn't to trick consumers, but provide a better ad-consuming experience. That should be a good thing.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.