July 15, 2013The web needs traditional advertising, not “native” advertising.

Digital is in my blood, it’s where I’ve always belonged. I’m a complete geek and I’ve lived online since the days of dial-up. I haven’t owned a television since 2001.

And yet until very recently digital copywriters were looked down upon. Were frowned upon. We weren’t even second fiddle. We were third. It’s only recently that’s changed. And still, people are getting it wrong.

You see, the ad industry has moved slowly. Much like newspaper behemoths who for a long time refused to believe that print was dead, the ad game was dominated by “traditional” ATL agencies still producing Mad Men (or at the very least, 80s Don Draper) era work for press, outdoor and TV.

Of course, there have been various insurgencies. There was guerrilla marketing — now more or less a mainstream thing, but only because the internet provides the perfect medium to amplify guerrilla campaigns and send them viral.

Then there was social media marketing, the first big “digital” fad adopted by mainstream agencies, the sudden belief that everywhere, everyone would want to start having conversations about — and even with — brands.

That’s been proven false. At best, consumers see brands trying to talk to them as an annoyance. Do you want to talk to Coke, or KFC, or Tesco, and so on? If you do, the chances are you want to complain about something. You don’t want to do their advertising for them.

And so we come to the latest craze. Native advertising.

Native advertising isn’t new and it isn’t clever. Nor is it something that web users want.

Put simply, it’s displaying ads in “native” format, i.e. making them look like part of the rest of the page, like ordinary content.

Native Advertising is defined as “a form of media that’s built into the actual visual design and where the ads are part of the content.

In a traditional print context, we call it “advertorial” and I predict that now as then, customers will see through it. The only kind of advertorial worth reading is the kind that actually entertains and informs, even if it’s trying to sell you something.

In fact, that goes for all advertising. It’s something the TV folks have always known. In fact, a good ad is often more entertaining than the TV show it’s sandwiched between. It has to be.

Most native ads are just shouts for attention dressed up to look like real content.

Here’s a better idea: provide good content.

Native advertising is a reaction to the failure of social media marketing.

Social media marketing was in turn a reaction to the failure of banner advertising. But native advertising is a step back, a regression — it’s banner advertising dressed up as content. And for the same reason as banner advertising, it is doomed to fail.

I’ve been “digitally native” (i.e. a geek) since the early days. And let me tell you that those of us who are “native” the web do not appreciate “native advertising”. We do, however, see value in two things:

  1. Being informed
  2. Being entertained
Tell me a truth when you sell me your product

Existing first as text, then as static text and pictures, only in recent years evolving into more interactive forms of entertainment, coupled with streaming video, the internet has always been a natural “inform me” medium. So any form of marketing that actually informs is truly “native” to the web.

But anyone who watches other people with their faces buried in their iPads on their morning commute, or office workers on their lunch break, or even kids when they’re at home knows that more and more the web is a place where we seek out entertainment, not just information.

That means that finally traditional advertising and digital will converge. Good old fashioned advertising, delivered digitally.

It’s no coincidence that Instagram’s new video functionality lasts 15 seconds, the average length of an ad spot in the US. Expect to see a lot of “TV” ads in your Facebook feed very soon.

Will you see them as an irritation? Yes, if they’re irritating. But good advertising has always either entertained or informed and very good advertising does both.

Give me something I want

The digital medium represents an enormous opportunity for the delivery of entertaining, engaging, useful advertising.

So ignore the latest industry buzzword. “Native” advertising is being sold to you by the same people who sold you the dream that customers would want to have “conversations” with their brand, the same people who told you banner ads would work. By and large, they don’t.

What people want want is to be entertained and informed by you.

Most of us remember a TV commercial with fondness. How many can say the same of a digital campaign?

Ignore the hype and start delivering the digital advertising that people actually want.

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 15th, 2013 at 9:51 pm and is filed under Advertising, Blog, Digital. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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