Gini Dietrich

How Native Advertising Will Affect Public Relations

By: Gini Dietrich | January 7, 2013 | 

It’s likely not going to come as a surprise to you to read nearly everyone knows how to click past banner ads, watch the required five seconds of an ad before skipping it to go on to a video, click out of pop-up ads, and fast forward through commercials during television programs.

Combine that with the fact that we’re spending more and more time on the social networks and this year proves to be an interesting time for communicators.

Native advertising is a term you’re going to hear a lot about this year and it’s going to affect how you create content.

You already see some of this through Promoted Posts on Facebook and Sponsored Tweets on Twitter because many PR professionals are charged with both. Now the lines between advertising, communications, and marketing blurs even more.

Examples of Native Advertising

Native advertising integrates high-quality content (what I’ll refer to as pull marketing vs. push marketing of the traditional mediums) into the organic experience of a given platform.

This means the content is so complementary to the user’s experience on the platform, it doesn’t interrupt the flow. People are willing to comment, like, and share because it feels like it belongs there.

For instance, Jay Peak, a ski resort in Northern Vermont, asks skiers to tag Instagram photos that best exemplify what they love about the mountain. It’s user-generated, visually compelling content.

Of course, there has to be a separate strategy for native ads, themselves, but as communicators we have to think about how we create content that integrates with our sister disciplines.

Implement Native Advertising

To implement native advertising, we have to think about a few things:

  • Do our users trust us?
  • Does the brand have integrity online?
  • Who is the best person (or team) to implement this?
  • Do we need journalists, designers, and media buyers on our communications team?
  • Should we outsource some of the content creation in order to keep things fresh consistently?

Too often, organizations use the social networks to push their messages out, like they’re accustomed to doing through traditional methods. Native advertising requires a complete shift in thinking and it won’t be easy…particularly with those clients or bosses who are used to leaving messages in the marketplace for a year or more.

Today you can’t leave a message out there for five minutes, let alone an entire year. Some of you may already be doing some education around how to be social and engaging on the social networks.

Take that a step further in 2013 and implement native advertising into your communications programs.

A version of this first appeared on the Airfoil blog.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I think native advertising probably has a place in communication plans. That said, in an entirely unscientific study of my memory, people don’t really like promoted tweets or posts on Facebook. Not to say they aren’t valuable, just not well received. I find what BuzzFeed does with ads presented as editorial content a more desirable way of advertising. The example you give ginidietrich about the ski resort asking people to Instagram and tag photos of their experience is a fantastic idea. I wouldn’t count that as advertising as much as a targeted PR campaign personally. Bottom line is if you’re going to advertise “socially” then ensuring your ads look as little like ads as possible is the best strategy.

    • @MattLaCasse  ginidietrich I have a theory that people only ignore/abhor promoted content (native advertising) because it’s poorly executed 99% of the time. As you and Gini are saying,inappropriately ad-like content feels intrusive, and if marketers put a little more effort into making the messages compelling and appropriate, there will be a little less griping from the “not on MY feed!” contingent. Ideally the experience would be seamless. And I think that’s where the *art* of marketing/PR comes into play!

      • @dalicie  Exactly! It’s like when social first started. People didn’t know how to be social. Now we’re trying to figure out how to write ads that are valuable and engaging like content. There will be leaders who figure it out and teach everyone else how to do it.

    • @MattLaCasse Oh I totally agree on the FB promoted posts and sponsored tweets. I only used those as an example because PR firms are asked more often than ad agencies to create those. Maybe that’s why they’re so bad? I need to find it, but I saw a really cool visualization of how it’s done well. You have content, content, content, ad, content, content, content. But the ad that’s in there looks like content so you don’t know you’re being sold. That’s where I think our storytelling abilities will make most sense in native advertising.

  • Guess who’s back… back again… Bennett’s Back… tell a friend… Bennett’s back, Bennett’s back, Bennett’s back! Two Native Advertiser’s go round the outside… Two Native Advertiser’s go round the outside, round the outside.
    Did you just love my rap?  I didn’t think so.  I suppose the calendar contest I ran on Instagram would definitely fall into the this category; I was impressed by the turnout.  We ended up with over 6100 photos tagged and almost had 1000 votes on the 3 finalists.  I think I’m taking the first steps toward becomeing “something”

    • @TonyBennett OMG! You are crazy! LOL!!

      • @ginidietrich  @TonyBennett Will the real Tony Bennett please stand up?

  • A very intersting topic. I am looking out of a banking perspective and the answer to the first question (Do our users (i.e. customers) trust us?) is hardly answered postive at the moment. So the resolution is: you first have to establish trust before you even could think about native advertising
    Am I right?
    Kind regards from Germany

    • @HLeichsenring What if we approached native advertising as a means of establishing trust?

      • @dalicie  @HLeichsenring I think Dwayne’s comment is precisely right. You’re using content (and therefore native advertising) to establish trust in a very broken industry. Both will help you with credibility and trust…a great way to get where you need to go.

        • HowieG

          @ginidietrich  @dalicie  @HLeichsenring Gini from a purely PR/Ethics perspective you said there has to be trust. if I find out I was deceived later on doesn’t that break the trust? Is that worth the risk? What if a public outcry with screen shots showing how people who trusted the brand were deceived breaks out?

        • @HowieG  I have no idea what you’re asking. What I’m saying is content – and by default native advertising – can create the trust. Why would that later break the trust?

        • @HowieG  @ginidietrich  @dalicie
          Intersting thought. I am not sure if content alone is able to reestablish trust. I agree with HowieG that there has to be trust beforehand. Even native advertising is still advertising? Or am I wrong?

  • I have a hard time wrapping my head around native advertising because it makes so much sense. For instance, the concept of promoted content on FB or Twitter baffles me because that content is usually terrible, both in terms of quality and targeting. I never click on that stuff because it’s never as useful as a Google Ad (which I rarely click on, but the difference between “never” and “rarely” is significant).
    But native advertising seeks to eliminate the problems with promoted content by making the content better… right?

    • @John Fitzgerald You’re exactly right! I should create a visual of how I think it looks. Imagine you’re on Pinterest and you’re scrolling through images. They all look like interesting images to you – things you’re interested in keeping for later. But one of them is an ad…you just don’t know which one because it looks like everything else. And it’s subtle about how it sells to you.

      • HowieG

        @ginidietrich  @John Fitzgerald see this is so deceptive I think people will rebel. before the FTC or FCC I forget required disclosure when someone was paid to tweet, like Paris Hilton saying ‘I love my ray bans’ but never wearing them people were suckered. I feel the same thing is going to happen. Consumer advocates are going to cry foul and demand whatever is considered an Ad to be clearly marked.

        • @HowieG  @John Fitzgerald I don’t agree…I think it’s all about content and not about the ad. People buy things on Pinterest all the time. Essentially all the little images are ads. But because they’re presented in a way that is valuable to the user, we don’t see it that way at all. I know if I pin a skirt, I can click on it later and buy it. That’s the point of native advertising. Provide me a place to buy it without selling me.

        • @ginidietrich  @HowieG  @John Fitzgerald to your point, Gini, people are seeking those things on pinterest. When I’m looking for light fixtures, I end up at a site for vintage light fixtures, I’m looking and engaged because I chose to be there. I’m seeking information, on my terms, in my time frame. I don’t mind the advertisements, its there where and when I want it.

        • @janbeery  @HowieG  @John Fitzgerald BOOM!

        • HowieG

          @ginidietrich  @janbeery  @John Fitzgerald I dont feel that everything like that is native ads Gini. If I see a pin on pinterest is that different than a photo on a site selling the same stuff? My issue is calling it a new term when it has existed forever.

        • txter

          @janbeery @ginidietrich @HowieG @John Fitzgerald

        • txter

          @janbeery @ginidietrich @HowieG @John Fitzgerald
          Native advertisement … from what I’ve read, not my cup of tea. Lost in the digital hype, ask yourself: what’s the point of advertisement? How about lead generation, interest, curiositiy, a desire to learn more? How? Through engaging copy and visuals, ideally underpinned by videos or slideshows to help understanding. Note: never underestimate a reader’s sense of authenticity.

        • d4ni_s

          @ginidietrich  @HowieG  @John Fitzgerald John, I agree. FB promoted posts targeting is bad. You only can choose between fans or friends of fans.
          For social media, native advertising is taking something that is a part of that platform and essentially paying to increase your reach. This could be done on Pinterest where people who you don’t follow could have “promoted” pins on your “following”  feed (which happens to be my default home feed). I think another example could be an advertiser with a complementary item could have a sponsored item under the “what others who bought this item are purchasing/viewing.” 
          Whereas, other forms of native advertising on Buzzfeed and The Atlantic is a digital form of an advertorial, looks like an article but was paid to be placed as such.

      • @ginidietrich I think I understand what you mean. And I think I agree with you, rather than what @HowieG is saying.
        BUT… It sounds like product placement in the movies… Does this mean that Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest will eventually start charging businesses to have a presence on their platforms? It would seem to be a logical step, albeit five steps down the road. 
        And I’d be ok with that. I’d rather know that businesses were paying top dollar for the privilege of inserting good content into a platform, rather than paying less to bother me with poorly conceived/targeted ads.

  • Text ads that are integrated into content have been around for more than a decade and are still effective provided they have relevance and targeting on their side.

    • @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes I think this is more than that, though. It’s about the ad becoming the content without selling. Sure, you buy from it and that’s the ROI, but it’s there on your terms, not the advertiser’s terms.

  • HowieG

    I am a bit confused about this whole thing. I read the mashable hogwash my head started hurting. I bet adcontrarian is giggling at digital again. I kind of feel this is a new way of digital advertising to cover up their failures so far to be what they ‘think they should be’ vs what ‘we think they are’
    Basically native advertising is when you ask your customers to create content for you (like postcard pics from Jay Peak). But this is already being done off your site and page and stream. Brands already reshare photos followers on twitter post or facebook or yelp!. We already hashtag things like I do #vermont when posting scenery pics on twitter.
    I guess I feel Mashable and the Ad Industry is trying to use a lot of bullshit and jargon to create the next big fad for something that has already been happening for years. I think jaffejuice would call it earned media. and there is that old term crowd sourcing.
    I would need to look at a few more case studies to give more thorough response I just looked at Jay Peak example.
    Native my arse! Ppphhhlllbbtttt!!! yes I raspberried on your blog  @ginidietrich  LOL

    • HowieG

      @ginidietrich now I get it, You are sharper than a sharpie! Instead of you calling something out directly you present it the way mashable does knowing your readers will jump up and cry foul on your target. Very slick indeed Dietrich!

    • @HowieG  I love the raspberry! But we’re talking about two different things. I have to find the visual I saw. I’ll do that and send it to you.

      • @ginidietrich  @HowieG Well, I’m still a bit confused about it.  Content so complementary it doesn’t interrupt the user experience? 
        By native advertising, do we mean  promoted Tweets, like the AP’s deal?  Promoted posts on Facebook?  Sponsored posts?  I think sponsored posts have legs.  It’s the next generation of advertorials –blurring the editorial lines — that doesn’t interrupt the user experience.  Good content on a popular platform will move.  
        Or do we mean, content our advocates produce, because they love a brand so much, that they produce content that is promotional?  
        For the latter, I’m thinking in particular the Ben & Jerrry’s campaign:  run an Instagram contest on Facebook.  Select a winner and use it advertising.   The trade media covers it as a story — perfect combination of shared, paid and owned media.
        Still, I’m honestly unclear what constitutes native advertising.

        • HowieG

          @Frank_Strong  @ginidietrich I think my issue has been terminology. Like when people say ‘Social Media Marketing’ which is really ‘Marketing’ just because the platform or channel is different doesn’t mean the action is different.
          And since this has been going on forever I feel my industry is tagging it something newfangled just to make money.
          Two examples similar to Jay Peaks are Mad River Glen (bumper sticker) and the Beach Reporter newspaper in the South bay of Los Angeles. Readers/Fans take these and have pictures taken of them holding them up and they get published. BR ones i remember Great Wall of China, top of Everest, Great barrier Reef. Mad River Glen is the only Ski resort to have a bumper sticker photographed up in the space shuttle.

  • @timbo1973 The ones that kill me are the blatant, “Like this page” in the middle of my stream. That drives me freaking insane. But I think there is a big difference between that and the opportunities native advertising provides. It becomes part of the content you already want so you don’t feel like you’re being sold.

  • HowieG

    Surprised this doesn’t have more comments. There is a lot here to discuss.

    • jennwhinnem

      @HowieG I’m just reading/listening at this point. I hope @ginidietrich does share what she was thinking of. What’s coming to mind is how, okay, I look at this sweet pair of Kate Spade shoes: (I want this shoe SO bad but I can’t spend $300 on shoes) and then suddenly every news site I visit is trying to sell me this shoe (unfortunately for $300).

      • @jennwhinnem  That’s different that what I’m discussing here, Jenn. That is cookies-enabled advertising, which was cool five years ago and is annoying now. Now I’m talking about finding ways to (for lack of a better term) sell in a way that the customer would like the information, not the way you’d like to send it.

    • @HowieG Some of us were sleeping. But we’re up now.

    • @HowieG I’ve found, when I introduce new topics like this, there are lots of reads, but not as many comments.

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  • @HowieG
    “This means the content is so complementary to the user’s experience on the platform, it doesn’t interrupt the flow.”  
    Kind of interesting to think that not that long ago, the goal was to be completely disruptive. We had a term for at least one variant of that breed — “F*** You Advertising.”  It was stuff that slapped you in the face so hard you had to pay attention. I think people missed the point most of the time and created pale imitations of truly original stuff that really was interesting. The imitations were never as good as the originals. 
    I agree with @ginidietrich that we need to shift the way we think, and that it won’t be easy. 
    Especially since traditional advertising, with a traditional advertising voice, still works in some cases. For marketers, everything’s a little less cut and dry than it once was.

    • @barrettrossie  Really, really interesting point about disruptive advertising, Barrett. Of course, advertising isn’t my forte, but I certainly see a big opportunity here where we can learn from you and vice versa.

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  • TomMartin

    I don’t know Gini,
    The more I see these Native Advertising posts the more I think it’s just another buzzword folks are tossing around as link bait for traffic. If you look at the graphic from the Mashable story it makes no sense.
    If an ad looks like an ad, is placed like an ad and works like an ad — it’s an ad. The fact that it is sandwiched in between “content” doesn’t change it to a native ad. All ads by default are native in that sense. Just because someone sponsors a post that makes it rise in my FB feed doesn’t make it any less of an ad than the ads that appear on the right hand rail of FB — it’s just been moved into a more prominent place, notably one that can be seen on a mobile device. True native advertising is nothing more than well done product placement in digital channels (IMO) and it’s nothing all that new… here is an example from 2010… which BTW worked splendidly for both sponsors.IMO this is native advertising (if such a thing exists) vs the ski example in your post. The ski example is just UGC – what makes content and ad is the presence of a defined strategic communications strategy designed to achieve a specific marketing or business goal. UGC lacks that… it’s just content.
    The difference between the example above and the Ski example in your post is the presence of that strategic focus…

    • @TomMartin  Are you saying I wrote this for link bait? I hope not because that’s not the case, at all. I wrote it (and the subsequent one last week) because I really believe communicators have an opportunity to break down the walls between their sister disciplines and work together in a way that has never been done before. But I do agree with you in that an ad is just an ad UNLESS it’s done extremely well, which is the case in your BMW example and in a couple of the examples I used later. 
      My point of this post is to get the PR industry to think about things in a different way. To stop using traditional marketing methods to push their messages. Rather figure out what their customers want and deliver that, instead of trying to sell.

      • TomMartin

        @ginidietrich  I’m suggesting that this whole Native Advertising thing is another example of marketers, this time social oriented ones, creating yet another ill-defined buzzword. The buzzword gains traction, search queries rise and like any good in-bound marketer, folks like you and me take the opportunity to toss our voice into the conversation.
        I’m sure you’re trying to get the PR industry to think differently, but before an entire industry can have a conversation about something don’t they first need to agree on what it is (definition) their discussing?
        And that was the core point of my comment. Everyone is tossing about this new term, yet no one has succinctly defined it. Therefore the discussion can gain no real depth because it’s not just ONE discussion.
        I may need to think through it a bit and craft my thoughts on my own  post so that it’s clear and folks don’t think I’m taking shots at them — as your reply suggests you may have misconstrued my comments as doing…which they were not intended to do.

        • @TomMartin I see what you’re saying. And I don’t disagree. It’s the same as how I feel about “social business.” Heck, we can’t even define PR let alone strategic use of content to sell.

        • TomMartin

          @ginidietrich And according to the results of my online survey yesterday… seems we don’t seem to understand what Native Advertising is at all – BUT – as smart, open-minded folks debate these things, hopefully we’ll be able to come to common agreements and definitions. I’ve always felt that so many misunderstandings and miscommunications are the result of language — specifically multiple meanings or definitions of the same words. Be interested to hear your 02 on the results of the survey and post in general.

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  • Kind of an interesting example of the pitfalls of sponsored content / native advertising….

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  • writingprincess

    Back in the days of horses and buggies I was a reporter at a daily newspaper when USA Today began publishing ads on its Front Page. Readers didn’t bat an eye, but I remember the horror we all felt at annual journalism conferences drowning our purist sorrows in martini’s and cursing the ad overlords for daring to encroach upon our sacred news territory with their advertising drudge. Flashforward to The Atlantic with an advertorial on Scientology so intertwined in their regular content that its own reporters had to Tweet about an investigative story the mag was doing about Scientology just to save face. (Not to mention the hell its readers raised.) And when Edward Bernays got physicians to extol the glories of big breakfast complete with bacon, well, Pandora’s jar was opened kids, and it was opened a long time ago.
    Today consumers expect marketing messages to permeate everything they consume online. There are brands such as Red Bull, Coke, Intel, and others who’ve gone “native,” becoming content producers to rival the NYT and NBC. Red Bull created its own media agency that now sells its adventure-oriented content to others. I’m not convinced that this is anything new as it is something inevitable as traditional advertising streams are being circumvented not by a smart user, but by how they’re using media (live streaming television instead of appointment TV).
    The danger is trying to deliver something that a user isn’t expecting from you and hurting your brand in the process.  (Scientology example.) Then you’re seen as like a sell out, a cash hoar shilling your goodies for the highest bidder without regard to your audience. This is a no-no.
    Users are media savvy enough to know you’re going to sell to them. But they get a little bent out of shape when you lie against yourself to do it. Red Bull’s community loves its videos, social streaming because it’s all about adventuring to the max. They expect that. If Red Bull started producing videos on  Masterpiece Theater to reach the Broadway set well, that wouldn’t go over so well right?
    Users, don’t like you pretending, so as in all things in marketing authenticity, relevancy and timing is the Trifecta you want to hit. Calling it native advertising seems uneccessary. It doesn’t seem authentic and it doesn’t seem the path you really should be on – producing relevant content that adds value for both you and your audience. 
    Pandora’s sin wasn’t opening the jar and letting evil escape, her sin was forgetting that evil could be contained. If you journey on this path then make sure it’s out of service to your consumers not to yourself.

  • d4ni_s

    I have to disagree. I don’t see user-generated content as native advertising, UNLESS (using the example given) Jay Peak is PAYING those users to post those photos. Native advertising is just the digital version of an advertorial, IMO.

    • d4ni_s

      I disagree with myself now about paying the photographers haha. Typing a short response doesn’t really grasp all of the facets to native advertising. Writing a post on it now and should have it up soon on

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