As we get to the end of the year, many people (myself included) use the leisurely pace of this week to reflect and/or plan.
With that in mind, I think we should spend a bit of time reflecting on Pandora’s Box and how it relates to content. As you remember, said box was said to have contained all the evils of the world. Modern usage of the expression is more like the Butterfly Effect I’ve written about before – small things leading to major impacts.
The Pandora’s Box to which I’m referring today is that of native advertising. I’ve written before about this topic as well, but as the pace of publishers to utilize sponsored content that’s made to look like editorial increases, I wanted to pause and reflect on it again. As The Wall Street Journal reported
Spending on sponsored content is expected to grow 24% to $1.9 billion this year, a faster growth rate than for most other forms of digital marketing. Total digital advertising spending will total $42.3 billion this year, according to eMarketer.
In other words, roughly 5% of all digital ad spending will be on this form. That’s a lot. I’m old school – ads should be easily recognized as such. That said, I have no problem with content put together by a sponsor and a publisher as long as the substance of that content is accurate. For example, this blog could be considered an ad for my consulting practice. That said, I go to some lengths to be sure that what I put up here on the screed is fact-based and not one-sided so that you can mind up your own minds. An article on, say, the health benefits of french fries (good luck with that!) that exists solely because McDonald’s or Burger King commissioned it and seems like every other article on the web page or magazine or TV news report seems well over the foul line.
This Pandora’s Box is wide open. Even the New York Times digital is accepting this kind of advertising. Think is will be long before it isn’t 30 minute infomercials we see on TV but 2.5 minute “news updates” that use station talent? I’m glad the IAB is working on guidelines and I’m glad the FTC is holding hearings. Ultimately, however, it’s those of us who are the product (it’s our eyeballs they’re after!) who need to weigh in loudly. You agree?