The rise of native advertising has blurred the line between brand messaging and content. Advertisements on social platforms have increasingly come to mirror the look and feel of the media format in which they appear.
Even at their best, however, these native ads are still advertisements concealed within a Trojan Horse—a corporate message sneaking through the gates of a consumer’s feed in the guise of a meme or trendy video.
But what if brands didn’t have to do a TikTok dance to get their message across? What if, instead of disguising their messages as content, their messages were the content?
New platforms built for the expressed purpose of connecting consumers and brands are offering advertising that isn’t just native to the consumer experience—the consumer experience is built around it.
The Evolution of Native Advertising
We can trace the evolution of native advertising across three of the major social platforms.
On Facebook, we see an endless scroll news feed with sponsored content hammered into it. Ads are made to blend in with the feed, but there’s no mistaking it for the content users come for. The photo-based ads at Meta’s other major platform, Instagram, are more authentically native to the platform. And with a heavy reliance on influencers, brands do a better job of delivering their messages in an organic way.
Then there’s TikTok, which is delivering on Gen Z’s desire for more immersive brand content. The most successful brands on the platform are creating pieces of genuinely engaging content rather than transparently self-serving advertisements.
The Rise of Advertising-as-Content
If Facebook displays advertising alongside content and TikTok disguises advertising as content, the next step in the evolution is advertising as the content itself.
Consider the popular grocery delivery app Instacart, which recently began serving rich video ads on its platform. A shopper who logs into the app and searches for potato chips to add to their cart might see an ad from Lays; a shopper who adds a salmon filet to their basket may be served a video recipe for salmon Wellington.
The key here is intent: the shopper has expressed an interest in interacting with a specific type of product, brand or category. This puts brands in the driver’s seat, where they can focus on what they do best and speak to people who are directly in the decision-making process.
Fetch Rewards has built a platform that rewards people for shopping at certain stores, buying certain items, and scanning any receipt. By making the experience easy and fun, 14 million shoppers have used the platform to have fun and save money—and built a place where brands can interact with people who are purposefully and explicitly coming to seek their content.
Particularly among younger audiences that expect personalization and authenticity in brand experiences, advertising that dresses itself up as organic content is a limited strategy. By meeting consumers in spaces in which they desire brand interaction, brands can build stronger relationships and get better ROI on ad spend.
The author, Wes Schroll, is the CEO & Founder of Fetch Rewards.