Example of Native Advertising Gone Bad

Native advertising is a hot topic that generates both pro and con sides of the argument. This concept may not be entirely new to PPC advertisers, as we often think of it as context ads. It has gone beyond the concept of placing ads on a website or Facebook feed, with related text or banner ads – it’s evolving more as a targeted strategy. As the tactic of doing native advertising as a new tool advances, there are sure to be some downfalls in the application.

The other day I happened to find just one example that I thought was very interesting. I was searching for the weather forecast in my local area, because I was curious if a storm was on the way, and I went to the website Weather Underground. I’m not sure if the PPC advertisers had done this by design or unknowingly, but it provided a great example of native advertising gone wrong.


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As you see in this screenshot of the banner ad, it was designed to simulate a search box, which was also by chance the first item on the page that I was going to. Typical of most internet searchers, I was in a hurry, and I clicked on the top search bar to enter my zip code, which of course went instead to the website of depositphotos.com. I did this not once, but twice, before I realized I was using the wrong search bar. And, at that point in time, not only did I waste a PPC click on the advertiser, but I got a bit angry at being fooled by them. Mind you, I’m using search all day long so I’ve seen all types of behavior out there.

In this example, I wanted the weather info, and fast. I did not want to search photographs, so this ad made to look native to the website left me with a negative impression of both parties. “Why does Weather Underground have two search bars?”, a typical searcher may ask. And how did I get fooled into visiting this other website?

This is a good example of native advertising gone bad, where searcher intent should supplement the visitor with additional information, not send them in another direction. So how would I do this differently if I were managing that PPC account? I would design a banner that says “are you searching for some really cool weather photos?”, and drop that mock search bar. This way you remain within the context of the weather info and promote your service as a great resource for photos.

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