Native Advertising: still relevant after all these years

written by Steve Barker

I admit it: I’ve been in the business a while. I have to fight the “we did it different back in my day” attitude on a regular basis. It’s just a matter of fact that everything we do, and have done for my whole career, morphs into something else every other week.


One of the newest is Native Advertising. You gotta love it. It sounds so cool and hip. Sort of like an organic, farm-raised piece of advertising. It’s “Native”, so it must be easily absorbed by the story-obsessed, transparency hungry public. Right?


I had heard the term before, but never investigated until a conversation with one of my favorite copywriters circled around the nebulous of the term. Of course it has a real definition, sort of, and a real place in the marketing mix. Basically, Native Advertising is Product Placement’s younger, more clandestine little brother – product mentions in an article or story made to look completely organic. The most interesting thing is that it’s not new at all. Traditional PR firms have been doing this for decades.


Native Advertising, just like it’s not-as-new cousin (i.e. soon passe), Content Creation, is based on all the same basic functions we in the marketing industry have done for years. Taking a company, service or product and creating a strategy to promote it, then producing written or visual content that will engage the target consumer.


It’s a bit comforting to know us older guys are still relevant to the process. How? Well while the channels of distribution change and morph. And what we call the procedures gets renamed every season, the content itself is still king. All the new distribution cannot make up for bad strategy, shoddy writing or ill-conceived design. We still have to produce great content. And that’s what we’ve been doing all along. Call it what you will.