With native ad spend looking to soar over the next few years, and a big name like Forbes breaking down previously inviolable ground by hosting a native ad on its actual cover, the format and its advocates are impossible to ignore.

But when the line between what is authentic content and branded content is so blurred it’s hard to tell the difference between the two, native advertising can create distrust of the genuine content and the hosting media space itself. We have written previously on this, that native advertising risks losing the trust of those consumers that are worth so much to the media owners (let alone the advertising industry). And we aren’t the only ones who think so. Late last year Snapchat weighed into the debate by stating that they won’t be muddying the water between authentic (in their case, consumer created) content and brand content. According to the Chief Operating Officer, Emily White, users ‘don’t like to be tricked’. And you know, we have to admit that we agree with that sentiment. The great New York Times media writer David Carr put it best when he said that: “Publishers might build a revenue ledge through innovation of the advertising format, but the confusion that makes it work often diminishes the host publication’s credibility.”

So, with that fairly large trust issue to get around, what are the counterweight positives that are convincing marketers and media space owners alike to turn native?

  • A good native advert can provide value to the user and advertiser alike. A great example of this can be found on Instructables and their brand spaces. Seamless content, with a focus on value for all parties. The brands are at the centre of things, but in a good, non-intrusive way.
  • As a reaction to the original advertising formats on the internet, native advertising kind of makes sense. Those ads, first static banner adverts and then *shudder* pop-ups, were intrusive. Native advertising is permissive. Misleadingly so you might argue, but native ads become part of the wallpaper and, importantly, do not disrupt the experience of the user.
  • Advertising on the internet has an issue with trust. And while you could argue that native advertising will only make that worse in the long run, it goes some way to explaining why advertisers are in a rush to take advantage of a means of fixing that issue.

The Internet Advertising Bureau recently released a set of guidelines, encouraging the industry ‘to label ads which have been devised to appear like editorial’ (Labelling a native ad to clearly signpost it as an advert? Wouldn’t that make it an ‘advert’?). But despite that we appear to have the perfect conditions for a good old fashioned advertising gold rush, one that will see marketing budgets flock to a format that, for the moment, works and appeals to the content creation/engagement zeitgeist. However, what it does to the long term credibility of the industry remains to be seen.