The M Word: The Truth About Native Advertising [Part 2]

BreakingModern — In my last M Word I explained the framework for native advertising in the modern landscape. I ended on a disillusioned note: ads are still ads, no matter what, and I don’t like them. Well, a mere article later, that’s still true.

But nothing as large as advertising can be summed up so simply. Native advertising, by nature, walks the fine line between a consumers’ love of content and their dislike of being pandered to. For the millennial, and I’m using myself here as the example, that dislike is incredibly high.

native advertising

Data Loves You and Knows You

And yet, despite my feelings, the reality is that native advertising will persevere. This is true partly because nobody will foot the bill for content without advertising, and with traditional advertising hitting a wall, native is the new hope. The other part, the more interesting part, is that the data extracted from all of our content, all of our advertising and all of our everything, will push native to the top.

We millennials are extremely vocal. We say what we want and what we mean and we don’t care too much about the ramifications. If a company can frame questions or engagement in a way that is enticing, we will jump right in. Twitter is a great example of this — look at Orange’s campaign for voiceovers. Or BuzzFeed — check out this quiz they have for Game of Thrones. (No, for the record, this isn’t native advertising for either of those companies.)

In both cases millennials (and everyone else) are asked to talk about themselves — what they are doing, what they feel like, and are then rewarded in relatively simple ways (a cool movie-like rendition of their summer plans or manner of death in Westeros).

The companies then retain those followers and, in time, can crunch the data. Look at this question posed by BuzzFeed:

native advertising

Sure, that directly correlates to Game of Thrones. But it’s also a statistic on the users’ biggest fears. Once the data is plowed, BuzzFeed will have an aggregate of fears to then write articles about, use as branding slogans and sell as a packet of info to another company. In time, and with refinement, this sort of engagement will push native advertising to the top.

And, if it gets good enough, we will participate the whole way through without feeling like we’ve been bombarded by a greedy company. Maybe. I still might.

The Philanthropic Approach

But there’s another method of advertising that has reared its head. Cause advertising. Philanthropic goals set by a company in order to increase brand awareness. It sounds like evil walking with greed, but I’m not so sure.

This works best for a huge company like Coca-Cola. Every millennial with access to the Internet has heard of Coca-Cola. They don’t need to be reminded to buy and drink the stuff. Coke knows this – the soft-drink company practically invented advertising. So instead of cute polar bears sipping sugar-water, the company is now attempting to thwart online bullying. The #makeithappy campaign (which hit a snag, I know) was an attempt to better the lives of others.

Video: Official Coca-Cola “Big Game” Commercial 2015 #MakeItHappy

Or look at the #likeagirl campaign by Always. These campaigns take a cause — injustice, sexism, disease — and strive to bring awareness in the hopes that culture will improve and self-correct.

Video: Always #LikeAGirl

In an email interview Cyndy Sandor, an aNewDomain Publisher, says,

“Brands eager to capture the Millennial mindshare through charity-focused advertising campaigns should keep in mind that their overall interest is causes rather than companies, brands or organizations themselves … Delivery via mobile and emphasizing the benefits of the cause that allows them to connect with like-minded peers is essential. Last year’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of Millennials getting behind a cause and leveraging their enormous social power to show their support.”

Personally, I see this as a better form of advertising. Yes, it mixes money and self-aggrandizement with noble causes, but at least it talks about the noble causes. Companies are individuals, right? They have as much sway as the President or a celebrity, and they often have the pockets to make real change. The root goal of this sort of campaign can always be debated, but I try to reserve my cynicism for this sort of thing. That said, this method lends itself to more traditional ads — like during the Super Bowl.

Ever conflicted, I am.

What do you watch and read? How do you like to be told what to buy?

For BMod, I’m Daniel Zweier.

First/Featured Image Credit: © Romolo Tavani / Dollar Photo Club

Second Screenshot: Daniel Zweier courtesy of BuzzFeed

Header Image Credit: © Isaxar / Dollar Photo Club

Daniel Zweier

Author: Daniel Zweier

Based in Oakland, Daniel Zweier covers culture, travel and tech here at BreakingModern. Follow him on Twitter @dbzweier and on G+ at +DanielZweier

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  1. Advertising isn’t as abrasive to me. What do I care if a company is trying to put a product in front of me that I might like? More specifically a product I may find useful or have interest in because they’ve tailored it to my general likes. Granted it’s a more pleasant experience for me to find the product on my own when looking for a solution for a specific problem, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. I’m far more annoyed that instead of trailers at movie theaters I get commercials that I’d fast forward through while watching TV.

    Post a Reply
    • Daniel Zweier

      I’d agree to a degree, Jamie. Part of the statistics and trackable feedback allowed by native advertising implies that the actual things we like will show up more often, which is way better than things we don’t care about at all. That’s why I think NA will be/is so successful.

      But, on the other hand, I personally come from a very anti-ad space, and feel that social networks have started to abuse this power, or at least step over the line a bit. That’s me, though :)

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