Hiding the Pill in Peanut Butter

Hiding the Pill in Peanut Butter

One of the first things I’ll tell my future children is to never take the presence of foreign medicine in their dinner lightly; it will always be the biggest restaurant faux pás.

November 4, 2013

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If you’ve ever had a dog in your care, then you know they won’t eat their medicine. Many of us have adapted the most common trick in the book: hiding the pill in peanut butter! I wonder if they ever knew. I hope they didn’t. If I found out someone was putting mystery pills in my food I would freak out. One of the first things I’ll tell my future children is to never take the presence of foreign medicine in their dinner lightly; it will always be the biggest restaurant faux pás.

Bear with me, this has a point to it. In case you don’t know, native advertising is a method of delivering advertising so as to blend seamlessly with the pre-existing online content. It will sometimes come in the form of a CAPTCHA, asking you to type in the tagline of the campaign in order to access web content. However most frequently it will appear, slathered in salty peanut butter, as another Tweet, Tumble, or article in your feed.

What I like about this is that it marks a distinct direction away from those flashy eye-sores called display ads. While around only 10% of internet subscribers employ some sort of ad-blocker software, this tenth could potentially be a large portion of advertisers’ target audience. The rest are a nuisance and fall on distracted eyes. Native advertising in general marks an important spark of creativity aimed at circumventing a possible reason of ineffective display ads.

One of the beauties of having a brand in the modern world is that people can communicate with it like a person. There’s an episode of Seinfeld where, throughout, Elaine will listen to Jerry rant and then immediately afterward ask him, “is this a bit?” Implying annoyance, she feels as though the conversation is inorganic, detached and that Jerry is not involved in a conversation, but in a performance. This is the effect that native advertising can have on the brand of the displaying site. Enter Andrew Sullivan, former writer and editor. “Your average reader isn’t interested in [native ads]. They don’t realize they are being fed corporate propaganda.” Though I don’t necessarily agree with the wicked bite this quote has, I tend to pitch my tent in his camp. That is, unless native ads go unnoticed, they can feel like trickery. Advertising your brand “natively” can have a backlash as a result, acting as the symbol of that deceit.

That being said, it’s possible that sites such as Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook should simply not offer “native” advertising because the personal-social nature doesn’t lend to a seamless brand experience. Instead, it exposes the cluttering viewpoint of advertising. Websites like Forbes (Brandvoice) or the Huffington Post have platforms that are appropriate for advertising because the content must be useful. HuffPo even has a section dedicated to native advertising. Twitter, for example, arguably has a brand-dictated responsibility to aggregate content from only the people that the user follows. Native advertising on sites like this can be disruptive to the core product. To prove a point, we’ll look at Instagram’s recent foray into native:

And the reception, expressed in a silent cacophony of capital letters and flagrant misuses of grammar, was entirely negative. If it’s so aggravating to the consumer, why is it becoming so prominent?

The answer lies in the data. On average, 25% more users see the ads when they’re native than when they’re banners. More importantly, brand recall from native ads to banners is 38% to 25%, respectively. Considering the positive numbers, it’s possible that Instagram’s mistake in this case was the transparency. They showed us the pill, and we just wanted a scoop of peanut butter.


(From last week’s Friday Fun Links)