Native Advertising: A Solution For All Sides Of The Equation?


Ever since the concept of native advertising gained prominent attention in 2012, expectations have revolved around increasing publishers’ income and saving the digital advertising ecosystem from the fall of digital ads.

Four years later, native advertising has lived up to the expectations. Many big publishers have created or expanded existing departments to help advertisers develop branded content. According to recent research, spend on native ads could reach 21 billion dollars by 2018.

What Is Native Advertising?

In a nutshell, native advertising is an online advertising method with which advertisers try to get consumer attention by providing content within the context of the site. Native ads match the form and function of the context in which they’re placed.

Aiming to deliver relevant and cohesive ads that can be well integrated within a page content, native ads just might be a wish come true for both advertisers and publishers. Ideally, the final result is that viewers aren’t even aware they’re looking at a marketing message. Examples of native advertising articles include “from the web” posts at the end of articles/ blog posts, a sponsored tweet, or articles labeled as “suggested”, “promoted”, or “brought to you by” on social platforms.

Native Ad Formats

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has defined the following formats:

  1. In-Feed Units. In-feed ads appear in two forms: sponsored content/articles and in-feed promotions. Sponsored content ads are created to mirror the context (form and function) of other content at disposal in a feed. In-feed promotions, on the other hand, appear in-stream, but direct the viewer to other content off-site. In-feed ads are commonly found in popular blog sites or on social media sites.
  2. Paid Search Ads. This format was originally the one to reach massive scale. Paid search ads are promoted ads that appear simultaneously with organic search results on search engines. The difference between organic and paid search results is that the latter is labeled as sponsored.
  3. Recommended Units. These are designed to appear within the context of what the user is reading and searching. They typically appear at the end of a content piece labeled as “suggested posts/articles”, signalizing the consumer that the ad resonates to their interests, based on the viewed content.
  4. Promoted Listings. Much like the recommended units, promoted listings are designed to promote products based on a user’s browsing history. These usually appear on e-commerce sites.
  5. In-Ad (IAB Standard) With Native Element Units. At first glance, these ad units are identical to the standard banner ads, but the difference is that the ad’s content is relevant to the publisher’s content.
  6. Custom / Can’t Be Contained. This format includes all ads that are native, but don’t fall into one of the above formats. Both publishers and advertisers are constantly inventing new ways to serve native ads to viewers, and since native ads are built into the content, the options are nearly endless.

Regardless of the format, the goal of native ads is to add value to the user experience. Add to this that according to recent research, native ads are visually more engaging than standard banner ads, and consumers look at them 52% more frequently, it’s not surprising that the digital industry will continue to introduce new solutions for both desktop and mobile, to match the form and function of the feeds.

The New Mix In Your Digital Strategy

The main reason why native has gained huge prominence is that it provides nearly seamless transition between content and the message of the marketer. Well-crafted native ads have a simpler, clearer design, and in this way create a better user experience and increased engagement.

However, marketers should have in mind that with native advertising, there’s a fine line between relevance and intrusion. Native ad formats, when properly executed, blend well, in a manner that’s non-intrusive and much less distracting to users (even though they should still have a mark that says “sponsored”, or other labeling so as not to trick users).

The Benefits

Here’s how advertisers can benefit from employing native ad formats into their online marketing strategies:

Attracting Users’ Attention: When it comes to performance metrics, native advertising has higher viewing rates compared to display ads. Also, if used for content sharing, native ads can significantly increase user engagement, and this could lead to increased sharing.

Providing Value For Consumers: Content of native ads should provide value, but be subtle and convincing at the same time. In other words, they shouldn’t be just sponsored messages – they have to offer something useful for the user to engage with. All of this should blend well into the site and not distract the viewer. Ideally, the result will be authentic, relevant information communicated with consumers.

Choosing The Right Networks: Native ads work best when placed on social media channels and news aggregating sites. These channels are content-centered, and appealing, and well-integrated native ads could drive consumer engagement.

Building Relevance: Being relevant to consumers is the basis for building a meaningful and long lasting relationship with them, and increasing their awareness of the brand.

Future Prospects

Aside from programmatic ad buying, native advertising has been the predominant focus in the digital industry for the last few years. The fusion of these two has paved a new path full of new opportunities for digital marketers and the industry in general.

For marketers, the safest path to making native advertising work is to focus on creating messages that consumers will enjoy. The key to this is quality content which blends well with the page on which it is displayed. Another thing that brands, marketers, and agencies should have in mind is not to create ads to trick audiences. Consumers sooner or later will realize that they’ve been tricked, and the negative image of the brand could likely stay for some time.

Lastly, as a marketer, you should make sure your ads are truly native, not just in form, but also in function, quality, and genuine usefulness. It’s the only way native advertising can be a win-win for both you and your consumer.