Forbes Magazine recently published an ad on it’s cover. This act has started a discussion on the ethics of “native advertising”, a practice where publishers show ads that look the same as articles. An American Marketing Association writer, wrote about the ad and the ethics involved here.
I’m a marketer and a fan of content marketing, but aside from questions of ethics, is the more practical aspect of this discussion which is, “Will consumers lash back?”
I don’t recall where I read it, but I read a long and thorough discussion on this topic years ago. The study concluded that publications who disguise advertising as content eventually lose reader trust. There is a natural human tendency to distrust a publication that drops the distinction between ads and editorial.
This doesn’t mean that advertisers have no right to publish informational articles (and today, to share that content via blogs and other online outlets) but human nature doesn’t change. “Independent” publishing outlets, whether they be print or digital will get their just rewards and if history proves anything, it will be a loss of trust.
It’s my view that publishers who show ads that appear to be independent will eventually lose the trust of readers who will go elsewhere for independently-produced content.