Native advertising is nothing else than advertising in disguise, like the so-called "advertorials", "sponsored articles", "branded content", content marketing, documercials, advertainment, edutainment... And this is a real trend: "native advertising" represented more than $4 billion in 2015.
"Hidden persuasion"? That AdBlocking has so much success should not surprise us: most people end up disliking and avoiding advertising. Either they are not interested in the product or it is not the right time, the right place, to think about it...or the best way to talk about it either. Instead of correcting the problem, ad agencies try very hard to hide it by making advertising resemble an editorial (form, layout, style, etc.). PR instead of journalism? People are not fooled - and these poor attempts at disguising the ads may even increase their unlikeability.
Update (August 3, 2016) According to a report from nonprofit Online Trust Alliance (OTA), "Ads that appeared on the home pages of the top 100 news websites in April found that 71% of the ads failed to provide adequate disclosures and transparency, making it difficult for readers to discern between an ad and actual editorial content".
Update (October 25, 2016) Council of Better Business Bureaus adopts the FTC standards (BBC Code of Advertising).
Now, since December 2015, there is a "guide"published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the American regulatory body supposed to protect consumers. The main idea: it is OK for advertising to resemble editorials but not too well! The guide states that native advertising should be labeled as such ("disclosure") in case consumers should be misled into believing it is editorial content.
Are consumers so naive? To help advertisers, businesses, media and agencies not to sin, the FTC gives no less than 17 examples, explaining in detail "how to make clear and prominent disclosures". Does the advertising profession need such a guide?
The most amazing? Nobody seems surprised, not even the media which cover FTC's activity and regularly publish "native advertising" in the midst of articles, often in order to avoid adblocking! Already, the Cat (in the famous comic book Le Chat) asked: "Does advertising take us for idiots?" Answer: "It takes us for what we are" (cf. "La pub ne nous prend pas pour..."). And now, even Apple pushes a format for native banners... for news! cf. "Apple: Ad Specification" (March 2016) : "Native ads display directly in the content feeds, inline with News articles, and are intended to blend in with their surrounding."
Finally, a newspaper, The Guardian, is now calling native advertising, "paid content" : "as a part of our ongoing commitment to transparency and clarity for our readers and commercial partners ". Tiller, an advertising optimization platform, prefers to call it "Recommended Content".