Notes from a Native Advertiser

When The Piedmont Virginian asked me to shift from strictly writing and editing into the advertising realm, I was perplexed. Especially around my specific role: “native advertising.”

As a writer and editor, I was in command of the magazine’s voice; I wrote articles that I felt were consistent with our brand, and in turn edited others’ articles to fit our stylistic constraints.

Whenever I’m unsure about something new, the first thing I do is read and research. I saw John Oliver’s diatribe against native advertising, which criticized the form for weakening boundaries between editorial and advertisements.

Now, I love John Oliver in equal proportion to my disdain for DRUMPF 2016, but something about this felt off. Sure, some of his attacks were warranted, but I disagreed with the core principle that there has to be a sizable wall between content and editorial.

Our lives today are increasingly seamless. The boundaries between us and others are drastically reduced through social media, why can’t the same be true of our products? When a reader picks up a magazine like The Piedmont Virginian, aren’t they doing so because they trust and admire the brand?

Then it hit me: If products are such a large part of our everyday lives, why wouldn’t they be a part of our everyday reading.

In an excellent article about native advertising and the root element of trust, author Sam Slaughter explains:

Owned and paid media are kind of like a great teacher and a substitute. You see a great teacher every day; and most days you learn something new and useful from them. You build up trust with this teacher over time, you listen to what they have to say, and as with the best teachers, the relationship continues even after you’ve left the class. That’s the kind of relationship brand publishers can create with owned media.

This realization has helped me understand my new job. It’s still all about voiceIt’s still the same voice. Only now it’s saying a little more.