US comedian John Oliver on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, laid into native advertising, saying it revealed a “bleak media state” and arguing it was destroying the separation of “church and state” in the media. Here, CEO of native advertising firm, MGID, Sergey Denisenko, rebuts his argument.
As CEO of native advertising pioneer MGID, it is difficult to admit that I laughed as you hilariously skewered an important and innovative advertising tactic.
I understand and appreciate your point that ads placed on news sites that are delivered as news blurs the necessary line between “church and state.” If unscrupulous editors are placing advertorials as news and not labeling it as such, then certainly that needs to stop and is against already well-established regulations that manage our media.
However, here’s where you are wrong: native advertising is not sponsored content made to look like news.
You equated native advertising to a hunter in camouflage to which only an “idiot would mistake it for foliage.” A better comparison is that native advertising is a well-marked tour bus that can take people to a camouflaged hunter or to a hunter wearing bright orange. Native ads are a portal to content, not content. It is up to the publisher to note clearly whether or not an article is advertorial or editorial. Native advertising is a way to promote content, sponsored or editorial, on a website.
And they work.
As an industry we are thrilled that, at last, we’ve found a balance between what a publisher needs to “keep the lights on,” what the advertisers need to communicate, and what audiences are keen to engage around. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that consumers are interested in content sponsored through native advertising if it is relevant to them (90%), if it is authoritative (82%), authentic (81%), or if it tells a story (60%).
I appreciate that you are on a network that doesn’t rely upon advertising to sustain itself, but not every publisher can be HBO. Advertising has been and always will be a staple revenue source for publishers, the only thing here that has changed is that our industry has, at last, created ads in which audiences have interest.
If you are speaking about content nefariously merchandised to be news without transparency, then by all means go after that—but please don’t drag native advertising through the muck. The New York Times, TIME, BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal, and countless others should not be chastised for having advertising on their websites, but should be supported to make sure the ads they do have lead to authentic and relevant content that is clearly marked as sponsored.
Thanks for your due diligence, John, but next time give me a call first.
Sergey Denisenko is CEO of global native advertising pioneer, MGID Inc.
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