Usually when I come across an industry buzzword or buzzphrase that I don't like, I can wait it out. Ignore it, and it will go away. That has been the case with "widget" and "wireless" and so many others in this industry. (And I hope to high heavens it will be the case with "big data" and "SoLoMo."
But I can't ignore "native advertising" anymore. What I initially hoped would be a passing phrase in the marketing world has sparked such intense discussion, debate, and confusion that it must be addressed, and it must be addressed by all parties in our industry -- brands, agencies, publishers, vendors, and PR professionals alike. Because, while some argue that the fundamental premise of native advertising is not new, the spotlight that is now being shown on the matter -- sparked, so far as I can tell, by the mere fact that someone drummed up such a lovely little phrase to describe the concept -- has fueled the evolution of "native advertising" to the point that it could become a whole new beast. And that beast could threaten the very foundation of publishing, if not managed with a firm hand (and a reliable choke collar).
And sorry, brands and agencies -- you're at risk too. You know all that money you're spending (or getting paid) to create "valuable" content (whether it's an article, tweet, image, or video) for the purposes of native advertising? That's all going to go down the tubes if our industry doesn't draw some very clear lines on what is and isn't acceptable in this realm.
Not just semantics
Here's the thing: We as an industry don't need the term "native advertising." And I'm not just nitpicking semantics here. The sheer existence of the term could lead us down a dangerous path. As such, some of the companies that are aligning themselves with the term right now -- reputable companies with great offerings -- might want to reconsider.
"But Lori," you say. "'Native advertising' is just another way of describing something that marketers have done for ages." Fine. If that's the case, the term is redundant. Stop using it. You're confusing people.
"But Lori," you say. "'Native advertising' truly is a new opportunity for marketers that needs its own distinction." Well, if that's the case, then this "new opportunity" you're describing is actually a horrible blurring of the distinction between pure editorial and advertising that's going to ultimately backfire on publishers and marketers alike. So not only do we need to squash the term "native advertising," but we must also put an end to the bastardized practices that it has spawned.