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Should Brands Standardize Native Advertising?

Native advertisingPublishing giant Conde Nast is hoping to set a standard for native advertising across its properties. AdAge reports that the company distributed a 4000-word document that tells editors and publishers how to handle native advertising. Conde Nast wants to avoid conflicts, address legal concerns and establish how the company’s properties will handle consumer data.

With native advertising becoming an increasingly popular and effective marketing method, brands and publishers alike are seeing a need for standardization. But what does that mean for brands, publishers and customers? How might readers react to encountering similar native advertising across the Web? Could standardization hurt brands and publishers in the future?

Rules of engagement for different platforms

Consumers are engaging with content on a variety of platforms and devices, and the kinds of native advertising vary wildly. Marketers also know that consumers may consume the same kinds of content—or even the same piece of content—on more than one device. A 2013 study by brand research agency Millward Brown reveals that users are coming to expect a multi-screen experience from the brands with which they interact. By standardizing native advertising content for multichannel consumption, brands and publishers can offer a uniform experience across devices and platforms, potentially enhancing the user experience.

A new kind of banner blindness?

Native advertising is a fairly new online marketing tactic, but just about everyone has jumped on the bandwagon—and that means readers are getting hip to the game, too.

The goal of every content creator, regardless of the medium, is to create something that informs, helps and/or entertains. But not all content is created equal: after two decades, banner ads are much less effective than they were when they debuted. And although more than 5 trillion display ads were served to American users last year, just 15 percent of users trust banner ads at all.

What do banner ads have to do with native advertising? Just like banner ads, native advertising appears in a variety of places all over the Internet. Just like banner ads, brands and publishers use it to shore up ad revenue. Companies using native advertising want users to consume and share it, not block it out.

The same principles apply to native advertising as to banner ads or other interruptive marketing: users will simply stop seeing it. Standardizing native advertising could make it easier for readers to recognize—and ignore—that content.

Conde Nast has the advantage of being a large company with a diverse portfolio of publications. For the sake of legal liability and unity of brand, native advertising standardization makes sense. But the future of native advertising might dim if the content created looks the same. Neither brands nor their audiences would benefit, and that could lead to wasted ad dollars.

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