Sponsored content and native advertising were undeniably buzz worthy in 2013. While financial types saw the boon to potential revenue, editorial staff rightly saw the potential for some fairly significant doom.
Ultimately it’s been a balancing act, like any new idea, with some companies getting it awesomely right (Red Bull and Coca Cola get high marks), and others failing spectacularly (The Atlantic’s epic Scientology blunder).
Despite the potential for disaster, we believe native advertising will be around for a long time, and it can be a win-win-win for publishers, advertisers and their end consumer. So we appreciate the insights from Lucia Moses at AdWeek on what we might expect to see in 2014.
Moses interviewed several high profile proponents of sponsored content to get their insights on where this is all headed.
Matt Turck, publisher of Slate, says, “For scale and economic reasons, more advertisers will create their own content and simply use publishers as distribution systems.”
If this is the case, and it seems likely that it is, it’s critical for publishers to establish clear editorial guidelines for sponsored content partnerships, to avoid to kind of branding disasters that will land your company on The Onion’s wall of ridicule.
Stephanie Losee, managing editor of Dell global communications, shares a more dire warning.
“People are using it to say, ‘I can say anything.’ Advertorial is soul-destroying,” says Losee. “The content should not be promotional. It’s an opportunity to publish content that’s interesting to an audience that is interested in your company.”
Losee nails it. Native advertising and sponsored content can work when you understand your audience and dovetail the content with their needs and expectations.
Joe McCambley of The Wonderfactory points out a resource issue that represents a real challenge for creators of this kind of content.
“Demand for native content will outstrip the supply of creative talent. As a result, most native experiences will be unremarkable,” predicts McCambley. “Consumers will begin the inevitable process of learning to avoid native content the same way they’ve learned to avoid banners, email ads, radio and TV ads, and direct mail.”
We can see this happening if publishers aren’t careful. There are some beautiful matches to be made out there, and it’s up to the publishers to use native advertising judicially.