The Pros and Cons of Native Advertising


Getting your head around digital marketing lingo can be a little precarious, especially when new trends and terms are constantly arising. Recently however, the spotlight has been on native advertising. Native Advertising is tricky to define and can at times be tricky to spot. The Guardian describes it as “a sub-set of the catch-all content marketing, meaning the practice of using content to build trust and engagement with would-be customers.” However, that right there is the controversy currently surrounding native advertising, is it building trust or betraying it? Let’s look at the pros and cons.


  • Better and Creative Content

As native ads are all about blending in and not being obvious, advertising brands are forced to think outside the box in order to come up with ways to get their products out there. This can be done through the likes of sponsored posts or subtle product placement. Two examples of brands who have mastered native advertising are Netflix’s show Orange is the New Black and Red Bull.

In recent years, these two brands have executed extremely clever native ads that have gained a lot of buzz. Orange is the New Black and Netflix sponsored a post on The New York Times called ‘Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work’. At first glance you think you are just reading any other article from The New York Times until you glance a bit closer and see it was sponsored. This was well executed because a) it had great content b) consumers found themselves engaged with the content without realising it was also an advertisement.


In 2012 Red Bull pulled off the biggest native ad the world had ever seen. They enlisted Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian base jumper and skydiver to help take native advertising to new heights. Those new heights being space.  On October 12th 2012, Baumgartner became the first person to jump from the stratosphere down into Earth all while wearing head-to-toe Red Bull branded attire. He set all kinds of records including  parachute jump from the highest altitude and greatest free fall speed. Red Bull endorsed the whole thing but the nature and quality of the content far outweighed the advertising.

  • Relativity

Due to the types of platforms used for native advertising, ads are becoming a lot more relevant. For example, a BuzzFeed post “10 Genius Ways To Approach Your Cleaning” was sponsored by Swiffer. Articles like this are not only an engaging read but a relevant tool for brands like Swiffer. Compare that to say every single perfume ad on TV at the moment that lack context and come across as complete and utter nonsense.


  • Engagement

Native advertising uses content to reach as many people as possible. For a native ad to be successful, the content has to be engaging. If we go back to the Orange is the New Black example, it was successful mainly because people took the time to read the article in its entirety. This was them essentially spending time with the brand whilst learning more about the show. They were able to engage with the content directly from their timeline rather than a 30 second commercial slot.



  • Misleading

There is a lot of controversy surrounding native advertising because it is deemed consumer trickery by some. In August 2014, John Oliver, host of ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’, did a segment pointing out all the ways he saw native advertising as negative, especially in the news. He argued that the news should be an unbiased platform free from marketing and advertising tools. Native advertising can be seen as a betrayal of consumer trust as it is not always obvious to them that they are being targeted.

John Oliver

  • Confusing

Although there may be a small indication on the content letting viewers know it is a native ad, it is not always obvious to viewers. Especially considering that terms used include ‘Paid post’, a term that comes up on a lot of sponsored content but whose true definition is lost to the audience. It is also hard to figure out whether all or just part of the content was sponsored.

What are your thoughts on native advertising? Is it the way forward or should advertising remain the same?



By: Stephanie Mitchell


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