Survey: 43% Of U.S. Readers Have Felt Disappointed Or Deceived By Native Ads

Mitigating factors: Young people are less likely to feel deceived and a significant majority overall doesn't dislike publishers and brands who produce sponsored content.

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With traditional banner and display advertising on the ropes online, many publishers are turning to native ads, brand messages designed to blend seamlessly with a site’s editorial content.

Native advertising is more lucrative and gets around ad blocking software that many people have on their browsers.

The danger is that sometimes the native camouflage is too effective, leaving readers upset that they have been fooled. And that’s happening often according new research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. More than four of 10 readers (43%) of news sites in the United States have felt disappointed or deceived after reading native ad content that they later discovered was sponsored.

At 33%, people in the United Kingdom were less upset by native ads, a sentiment the study’s authors believe might be attributed to the fact that the practice is less common in the UK.


The negative sentiment has mitigating factors, however. The study, which polled more than 2,000 people in each of the two countries and also convened focus groups about the topic, found that people were much more forgiving of sponsored content that is placed within entertainment, lifestyle, sports and other so-called soft news sections. Scorn was targeted for publishers who blend native ads with serious news content.

Younger people were also less likely to feel deceived and even be positively inclined to brands that appeared in sponsored content; 19% of 18-24 year olds in the US say they feel more positive toward such brands. That’s likely because younger reader are more likely to visit BuzzFeed, which is one of the biggest publishers of such content and considered a less serious course by people surveyed.

Another positive sign for publishers and marketers using native ads is that sentiment against the content doesn’t seem to be overly damaging. In the U.S., a significant majority (62%) of respondents had neutral feelings toward publishers serving native ads; with 28% feeling less positive. Sentiment toward brands was 68% neutral and 22% less positive.

Read the full Reuters Institute essay about attitudes toward native advertising here.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Martin Beck
Martin Beck was Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter from March 2014 through December 2015.

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