Native Advertising… Someone’s Going To Call Bull$*#!

So the on trend catch phrase at media agencies in South Africa and one that I’m am hearing more and more from our sales team is ‘Native Advertising’. So I did a bit of research… that is I typed in ‘What is Native Advertising’ into Google and a bunch or results popped up – and it seems it’s not just us who are trying to figure it out – nobody really is definitive or consistent in describing it.

In fact, depending on which side of the fence you are sitting, editorial team or agency team, the descriptions could not be any further apart.

It seems that if you’re asking an agency what it is, that generally it is described as a great way to introduce a product or brand to readers/potential clients in their own environment. If you get your definition from editorial it seems to be the proverbial wolf dressed in lambs clothing.

On DigiDay blog entrepreneur and journalist Andrew Sullivan went as far as saying, “(Native Advertising) is the complete transformation of the economics of journalism in a way that renders the concept of journalism extinct. Advertising snuck into the editorial pages in a way that advertising has always wanted to do. It used to be an axiom that the job of journalists was to be resistant to that and sustain the clear distinction between advertising and journalism. One side has effectively surrendered.”

Possibly a less emotional definition, and one that seems to sum it up best – Native Advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed (

One of the principles here at Soccer Laduma is that we work for two bosses – the reader and the advertiser. Whatever you do, do good by them. Let that be your guiding light and you will be successful.

Now, in most of the literature on the subject of Native Advertising, the terms ‘camouflaged’, ‘hidden’ and ‘disguised’ come up quite a bit and none of these seem very positive terms for the readers of Soccer Laduma.

It reminds me of ambush marketing at stadiums where you think you sitting with a group of like-minded fans, fellow soldiers for the cause. They sing your chants, dance your dance, and then all of a sudden a whole section of them put on yellow and red t-shirts and manoeuvre to form the logo of a company – they’re advertisers – not fans.

The idea that a reader is consuming what feels like authentic content but, is actually slanted in favour of an advertiser just doesn’t sit easy with us. But, more than that, advertisers need to understand that while some soccer supporters are petrol attendants and taxi drivers and might not have the best grasp of the English language, or pick up on the subtle nuances of certain articles, what they do have is an extremely good grasp of the language of football.

Every soccer supporter has a PHD in the ‘language of soccer’. They will spot fabricated writing a mile away. For example – let’s say a sports brand who has a new boot launching wants us to write an article on the best modern day strikers that must look like, feel like and come across as Soccer Laduma’s own feature, with the proviso that all the players selected must wear that particular brand of boot.

Now we could write it in such a way that it reads superbly. But, one of our readers with a doctorate in soccer is going to call “bull$*#!” and when that happens – it’s no good for the advertiser, clearly no good for our reader and damages our reputation as a credible source of news.

It makes me think of the Oscar winning movie Avatar. Where a bunch of scientists create an Avatar – a fake ‘native’ to go infiltrate an alien race. It seems pretty straight forward, the thinking, if it looks like them, walks like them, talks like them, they going to accept is as one of them. Big mistake! Almost the entire movie shows how despite this avatar’s appearance, something is very wrong! The ‘native’ is vehemently rejected. That rejection is a very real possibility for advertisers who want to come across as being part of the ‘real’ editorial.

And quite frankly, if you can’t completely be part of our content ecosystem without being yourself, and instead have to be something else, only to reveal your true colours in the end, aren’t you doing your brand a disservice?

That said, if we can’t find a way for you to be completely yourself, but completely Soccer Laduma as well, then we’re doing you a disservice.

In fact, if I look back at previous campaigns where we have successfully partnered brands with soccer, it is clear that Soccer Laduma has been doing native advertising long before it became a term. By continuing to apply two simple rules – if it is good for the reader and it is good for the advertiser we will do it.

Another observation, those campaigns that were most successful with us had one thing in common. They weren’t simply branding something or being part of something, they were standing for or standing against something that our readers associated with and took on board.  So much like that Avatar who at first was rejected, but in the end becomes the hero.

Bottom line – brands can be part of our editorial ecosystem, be themselves and be successful.  We’ll hold your hand through the whole process.

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