public relations oversees native advertisingNative advertising is exploding, and public relations professionals believe they have a leading role to play in crafting content.

Spending on native advertising increased 600 percent across a range of verticals between 2014 and 2014, according to a three-year study by native ad content distribution platform Nativo. In addition, eMarketer predicts U.S. native ad spending will reach more than $28 billion by 2018.  Native advertising is designed to resemble editorial content.

Businesses may turn to advertising agencies to produce native ads since they are after all, technically, ads. However, native advertising is really designed for brand awareness and perception. Effective native advertising resembles PR storytelling more than product advertising. That’s why may PR executives argue that they should oversee native advertising, or at least be heavily involved in its development.

Why Native Ads Belong in PR

“There is no doubt in my mind that native advertising belongs in the domain of PR,” asserts Franco D’Onofrio, founding partner at Twiga Communications, a boutique PR agency. PR agencies know best how to maintain brand awareness and enhance brand perception, and are better equipped to guide, position and push native advertising.

“Yes, native advertising is paid for, but this does not mean that the content creation needs to sit with the advertising agency,” D’Onofrio argues. “If we consider the simple definition of PR – the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics – the nature and intention of native advertising places it firmly in the domain of PR.”

PR needs to be part of advertising and marketing campaigns from the start, he says. Fortunately, more advertising agencies realize that combining advertising and PR greatly improves overall marketing effectiveness. More ad agencies are creating in-house PR teams or partnering with PR agencies.

Surprising Findings in Native Ad Spending

The most surprising finding of Nativo’s research is the large range in native ad spending trends across verticals.

“Native spend continues to grow rapidly overall, but beneath that linear trajectory we’ve witnessed a lot of fluctuations vertical to vertical,” Casey Wuestefeld, Nativo vice president of campaign operations told Venture Beat. “The data indicates that while advertisers are committed to increasing their investment in native, they are still experimenting where content strategies fit within their overall marketing mix.”

Automotive, tech B2B, entertainment, tech B2C, and finance and insurance, all early adopters of native advertising in 2014, saw their aggregate share of spending decline 20 percent.

Spending of sectors that were slow adopters — business, consumer packaged goods, travel and food and beverage — increased 24 percent to reach 45 percent aggregate spending in 2016.

Why are early adopters backing away from native ads, while later arrivals embrace the format?

“That could be due to the early adopters having had to go it alone before best practices were formed, while those that are coming late to the native ad party benefit from the knowledge pool,” theorizes Venture Beat Director of Marketing Technology Steward Rogers.

Bottom Line: PR executives argue that PR is best suited to oversee the rapidly growing medium of native advertising. Even though the ads are paid media, they are more like PR content in style and purpose. PR teams that successfully promote their skills related to native advertising will be more likely to prosper as native advertising continues to flourish.