Native advertising: good for publishers, terrible for brands?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth


Copyranter on Buzzfeed’s flavour of native advertising:

In an interview with Wired last February, Peretti spouted about how they “label everything really maniacally” (How does one label an ad post maniacally? Maybe a starburst?), and that they “take church and state really seriously”—meaning the separation of editorial content from advertising content. But looking at BuzzFeed’s daily layout, it’s obvious that they’re praying to God you don’t notice that their ads are in fact yucky ads. It is purposely deceptive. And it is anti-Bernbach, and anti-creative.

“anti-Bernbach”? To Wikipedia:

William (Bill) Bernbach (August 13, 1911 – October 2, 1982) was an American advertising creative director. He was one of the three founders in 1949 of the international advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). He directed many of the firm’s breakthrough ad campaigns and had a lasting impact on the creative team structures now commonly used by ad agencies.

Ah-ha. And the specific quote referenced:

“If nobody notices your ad, everything else is academic.”

I suspect like many journalists of my generation or older, I’m deeply ambivalent about native advertising. On the one hand, it violates everything about the clear distinction between advertising and editorial that was drummed into us as a necessity to maintain editorial reputation. On the other hand, it seems to be working.

If it ceases working, that would allow us to retake the moral high-ground rather happily…

I commend the whole piece to you, if you’re interested in the monetisation of online media, as it argues that native advertising has a limited lifespan from the advertising perspective:

The kicker is: BuzzFeed’s native advertising is really—ultimately—terrible for brands. But it’s great for BuzzFeed. And this giddy circle jerk underway between media sites desperate for revenue and misguided advertisers desperate to feel instant gratification, continues.

[Via Rory Brown.]

advertisingadvertorialsBuzzfeedmonetisationnative advertising

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.