Survey: PR Pros Want to Write Ads Now

Daniel P. Simon

Daniel P. Simon


A new survey found widespread interest in native advertising among public relations professionals.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau UK found about nine out of ten PR pros think native ads are an opportunity for the PR sector, and 75 percent said they believe PR should lead native ad programs for brands.

For the uninitiated: Native ads are ads that look like editorial. One obvious issue is the boundary between editorial and business that native ads brush up against, and where exactly the line between seamless design and intentional deception is. Publishers need native ads to be native enough to attract advertisers, but not so native as to deceive readers into thinking paid content was really earned.

Another issue is who’s actually writing the ad copy. Digiday ran a good examination of this issue in 2014:

The more common approach, which is also taken by Digiday, is to set up separate teams. That’s led to the growth of brand content units at publishers like Gawker, The Huffington Post and The New York Times.

Yet for publishers outside the hard news business, […] the church-state divide is not as strong.

The IAB survey validates what many PR teams already knew anecdotally or intuitively: That native ads present a big opportunity for the PR industry. Imagine having another tool in the proverbial toolbox when pitches fall flat, which they invariably do not because they’re bad ideas but rather because reporters don’t have the bandwidth to cover everything that’s newsworthy, and when owned content isn’t spreading like it should. That, from a PR perspective, is the potential of native ads.

What’s going to really move the needle on how PR pros can incorporate native ads into client programs is automation. Historically, native ads haven’t been widely accessible on the programmatic ad exchanges that brands or their media buyers use to deploy large-scale ad campaigns.

That’s changing fast: Last November, Google began allowing its publisher customers, the supply side of the native ad equation, to expose native ad inventory to buyers on Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange, the demand side. This was a significant validation for native ads in the context of programmatic advertising, and it will push high-quality native ad inventory onto exchanges. From there, the only thing missing is good content.

It is refreshing to see that the PR industry sees the potential here.