Felix Salmon of Reuters discusses a magazine article on the new industry of native advertising. On websites, traditional marketing takes place through banner ads: annoying blocks of text that flash or blink, peddling some terrible product. We view them as intrusive. And we have learned to ignore them.
On sites like BuzzFeed however, native or sponsored ads are used. This is where ads are created to resemble real news articles or fun lists. The sponsored ads mirror the content of the websites that they are placed on.
(Ethical dilemmas have been raised about this kind of marketing, though. For example, while BuzzFeed clearly marks their sponsored ads as such, letting the reader know that this is, in fact, an add, more strictly journalistic or “serious” content sites risk confusing their readers. This is exactly what happened to The Atlantic when they ran a native ad for the Church of Scientology that read like a news article.)
Salmon argues that native ads on the Web are just like good TV commercials (the kind we hunger for during the Super Bowl.) They tell a story, and we want to share them. They work for the networks who air them, the brands who sell them, and the audience who views them.