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What the Rise of Sponsored Content Means for Advertising


The days of internet advertising are still relatively new, but in the past few years sponsored content has become a unique form of online advertising. People are revolting against the standard norm of sidebar advertisements, as programs like Adblock remove them. These programs can make your online browsing experience completely ad-free. I should know, I love Adblock. I don’t think I’ve watched a YouTube ad in months.

People don’t want to see traditional advertising. Companies have to re-think how they advertise, and create a more subtle, digestible version. Introducing, sponsored content & native advertising.


What is native advertising?

In non-traditional advertising, sponsored content & native advertising run king. Native advertising is content created with its goal, to convince people. This is usually to make a decision, or support something. An example of this is when the Church of Scientology published an article in The Atlantic, titled “David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year.” The article was an advertorial, or an article written as an advertisement for the Church of Scientology. The actual article has now been removed by The Atlantic, but you can check out the jist of it, written in this article.

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What is sponsored content?

Sponsored content is content created with a goal to inform, usually written in the form of a blog post, magazine article or video. An example of sponsored content is when Car & Driver write an article sponsored by Ford, about the new Ford Focus. The article is clever, as it’s the type of content Car & Driver would normally publish, however Ford is paying for this article. Another example of sponsored content is this article written in The Onion, sponsored by H&R Block. The ad is subtle—It’s not obvious that H&R Block is paying for the post because it is like any onion article, and doesn’t hold a promotional or salesy tone. Make sense?

Here is a visual representation of sponsored content & native advertising:




You can see where one looks to persuade, and push you to action, the other just wants to inform you. Sponsored content is known as the more natural form of promotional content.


Why sponsored content matters

The younger age of internet users are becoming much smarter to advertising. They can easily pick out what’s advertising, and what isn’t, and because of this, 68% of adults view targeted ads negatively. It’s no wonder companies have to re-think what they are currently doing, and what has been done for hundreds of years. People are demanding a change in how they see advertising.

Research shows the downward spiral of online advertising. People are just not looking at banner ads anymore. It’s becoming increasingly important that companies find alternative ways to showcase their brand in a more natural way. Take a look at this heat map below of where people are looking when they view online articles, it’s pretty convincing how ineffective banner ads are.



Magazines, blogs and websites are all joining the way of sponsored content. One of my favorite magazines, GQ, frequently has sponsored articles, usually for fashion brands. This isn’t unexpected, as magazine sales have decreased with the boom of the digital age; magazines are looking for any possible way to stay afloat. Sponsored content is the life-preserver to a sinking magazine.

Many YouTubers and bloggers are opening themselves up to sponsored content and native advertising because it’s a real way to get exposure to your content (and and drive revenue). Celebrities are getting involved, publishing sponsored tweets on their profiles for brands. Instagrammers are posting pictures of their “skinny tea” packages for their millions of subscribers, performing “honest” reviews.  

Buzzfeed, has become the mecca for sponsored content, as the site sends out article after article, and quiz after quiz, of sponsored content.

Sponsored content is becoming a more civilized way for companies to get their name out, but not pull the “WE ARE ADVERTISING. WE ARE ADVERTISING,” card. It’s more subtle, and more respected.


What does this mean for advertising?

Advertising for too many years was this standard form of block ads, banner ads or traditional billboards. This isn’t working anymore. People are actively disengaging from the traditional advertising of today.

Advertising is a constantly changing industry. It must adapt to technology. As society called for improvements to cars, car companies adapted and produced better cars. Advertising must hold the same standard.

Some say “advertising is dead.” I would disagree with this. It isn’t dead, it’s just seeing a huge transformation. If the advertising industry is smart, it will learn to adapt.

What do you think about sponsored content? Do you agree it’s the future of advertising? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you're looking for more info on creating content that drives leads, read our content marketing ebook, or contact Milwaukee marketing agency, Accelity Marketing.