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As much as I want to see trade publications thrive, it must be said that native advertising (branded articles) have caused the publishing industry a bit of anxiety and some consumers feel they have been tricked.
For instance, according to Shannan Adler, a professor of journalism at Emerson College in Boston, publications around the world are working with advertisers to produce what is referred to as native advertising or branded articles. Instead of doing traditional journalism, she says, publishers “are instead actively involved in creating advertorial content by working directly with brands while netting big bucks.”
Adler says that readers, unless they look very closely at the fine print indicating the item is sponsored content or an advertisement, may not realize that what they are reading is a paid placement. In recent years, however, publications are taking more steps to clearly identify sponsored content.
To be clear, native advertising is not new. In fact, and of interest to the professional cleaning industry, one of the first examples of native advertising involved a vacuum cleaner. Back in the early 1900s a newspaper published a branded article that glowed about the features and benefits of a new vacuum cleaner. Competitors and others took the vacuum cleaner company and the publication to court, claiming content such as this should not be in a newspaper and that the publication should have made it clear the content was sponsored content.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled the case mostly in favor of the vacuum cleaner manufacturer, indicating placements such as this are permissible. The caveat was that in the future, the newspaper must note when something is sponsored content.
Although native advertising had its start more than a century ago, it has been in the past 20 years that it has blossomed. Today, more than $20 billion are spent on native advertising, which indicates two things: organizations like it, especially business-to-consumer organizations; and it appears to be paying off. Such companies as Chevron, Dell, Citibank, and even Cartier have reported success with native advertising.
This fact does not sit too well with Adler, who continues to say native advertising’s “greatest strength is its camouflage.” Despite all of this, Adler may not need to be so concerned. As we reported in another blog, consumers are not fools.
A recent study has shown that most readers can spot branded articles fairly quickly, even if they do not see the tiny print that says it is an advertisement. Many read branded articles, yes, but many take them with a grain of salt, realizing they are just another form of advertisement.