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Native – copywriters, hacks, content creators in ad spend battle


The subject of good and bad writing, or rather, good and bad content, is very much centre stage in the speculation on the heady surge in native advertising’s popularity. The issue in question is who holds the moral high ground in the claim to be the best producers of ‘sponsored content’, as some of our more delicate publishers like to call it.

Before we start the contest, let’s just remind ourselves of the rules of the native advertising game. Instead of glaring banner displays, which research tells us the punters have learned to tune out; and dramatic and expensive photography which is then amortised across a broad spectrum of titles, we actually produce our native content tailored specifically to that one outlet, whether it’s print, broadcast or online. The logic for this being that, if that punter went to the magazine/site/channel in the first place then the chances are he/she went for the content rather than the ad; give them more great ‘content’ and they should be very happy. If some of that content is branded in a useful, relevant and not too distracting manner, then that’s OK too.

The proof as ever is in the stats. Research to date indicates that those punters spend as much time looking at the sponsored content as they do the editorial content and tend to associate the values of the advertiser with the values of the publisher. Thus a major oil company sponsoring/branding articles in an environmental mag, about the work they are doing on coastal wildlife protection, starts to develop a nice rosy glow, in branding terms.

So, that’s the name of the game; back to the battle of the word smiths for the prize of preferred creator.

In the blue corner we have the copywriters; those traditional mongers of advertising words and ideas. Usually good for a headline and some lyrical copy that can raise the life enhancing characteristics of dishwasher tablets to near ecstasy.

In the red corner we have the journalists and the editorial zealots. Their claim to the crown is that they represent the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Never will their values be desecrated at the altar of murky commercial values, nor their words driven by a bag of coin. Of course, after Watergate and its offspring we all believed them implicitly; well, that is until the affectionate label of ‘hack’ started to take on a whole new meaning.

In the, well let’s call it the purple corner, we have the youngest contenders; the content creators, children of the new digital world who are of, and can speak for, generations x, y and z. Their masters are not the pie sellers nor the evangelical truth slaves; no, the content creators have been raised and nurtured under the all seeing eye of the search-engine algorithm; they can certainly lead the virtual consumer horse to water but can they make it drink?

So, which do we trust most with the future of native advertising? Let battle commence!