This article is guest written by Kendyll Severa, Bazaarvoice marketing intern.

Kendyll Severa, Bazaarvoice marketing intern
Kendyll Severa, Bazaarvoice
marketing intern

It is in our nature to look for the new thing. It is the driving force between much of what we do every day with branding, positioning, selling, promoting. But when we look closely at the newest buzzword in marketing – native advertising – it’s actually more familiar than foreign. Yet rising right alongside the popularity of native ads are the debates around their ethicality. What makes this form of advertising so controversial?

For background, native advertising offer brands the opportunity to connect with consumers through their own native territory such as blog posts, articles, and Facebook. In other words, native advertising is advertising that tries to look more like the content consumers are already looking at.

Great content attracts audiences – even if it’s paid placement

The controversies surrounding native advertising are many, but not insurmountable. The integrity of the message is clearly the dividing point between good vs. evil with this type of advertising. When done poorly, native advertising can be seen as an attempt to trick the audience into reading an ad by making them think it is not a paid advertisement. But it shouldn’t be disguised. The goal shouldn’t be to trick people into thinking it is not an ad.

Native advertising should simply be content that is valuable enough that consumers still want to view it, even though they know it is paid media. If it’s funny, educational, entertaining, emotional, etc. enough that consumers actually want to watch or read it, they don’t care that a brand made it. If brands take that effort to make the content engaging and valuable, and the placement disclosure upfront and authentic, then consumers can be open to it. As long as the content benefits them, they can be – and as I’ll show later, often are – receptive.

The essential concept here is trust. No one likes to be tricked, and being tricked is just a heartbeat away from the dreaded feeling of betrayal: A killer for any advertiser. But when brands deliver great content and are upfront about their paid placement of it, that transparency (along with the quality of content) builds trust in the brand.

Native ads get more attention and shares

Initial findings make walking that fine line worth it. For example, according to a Buzzfeed case study, a native ad play by Mini Cooper on Buzzfeed found success of a 33% brand lift when trying to broaden awareness for their slogan, “Not Normal.” Gatorade similarly turned to Pandora to assist in promoting its G Series line by creating unique Pandora playlists for each G Series drink. This native ad created a connection between working out and listening to music in a way that is entertaining and beneficial for their consumers. The popular native ad resulted in over 485,000+ station adds, and 519,000+ total listening hours. Nearly 96% of ads and listens were done on a mobile device.

Even the most expensive, glamorous shoe in the world is no good if it doesn’t fit. Making a decision about native advertising is a lot like finding the right fit. Create native ads that fit the context they’re viewed in, and provide similar value to the audience. The bottom line is to make disclosure clear, upfront, and conspicuous. Don’t attempt to trick the audience into thinking the content is not paid. It is perfectly fine to be paid, as long as your content is compelling to the audience.