Native ads look and feel like a natural part of the media format where they appear, but they are actually paid advertisements. They may not look like ads, but when it’s done right native advertising can be much more effective than display advertisements.
Why Marketers Use Native Advertising
If marketers are increasing their ad spend to expand a campaign, then obviously the strategy is working. That’s the case with native advertising – ads that are written like editorial content and made to fit in seamlessly on the site, app or platform where they are published.
“Native ads are projected to make up two-thirds of display advertising in 2019, and marketers are projected to spend $41.14 billion on native ads.” Source – eMarketer
Native ads have proven to outperform display ads in terms of clicks and engagement. A study by IHS Markit found that users interact with native ads up to 60% more than regular banner ads. It’s a result of online users that are constantly battling ad fatigue. They’ve trained themselves to scan right over display ads, but native ads can still get their attention. And even if the reader doesn’t click on a link in the native ad or visit your website, you’ll still benefit from increased brand awareness.
“Native ads lead to an 18% higher purchase intent than display ads.” Source – Sharethrough
Like other forms of marketing, native advertisements can be highly targeted so that they are seen by a specific user cohort or segment. Simply partnering with the right publisher is a good start to getting in front of the right readers. There’s also a display method known as programmatic native advertising that uses automation to deliver native ads that are relevant to the reader based on user behavior.
The publishers that publish the native ads also stand to benefit. Native ads can be a substantial revenue generator for websites and platforms that have a large audience. It’s such a popular way to monetize a website that now three-quarters of publishers have some type of native advertising on their websites. That means marketers have a huge pool to choose from when they use native ads.
The one major concern with native advertising is transparency. Publishers that display native ads are understandably concerned about losing trust with their readers. Even if they do make it known that a content piece is a native ad, it could still call into question whether the publisher generated other native ads by the same brand or if opinion pieces are truly the opinion of the publisher.
This has led some publishers, like Gawker, to update their transparency policies so that it’s more clear to readers that a piece is a native ad. Gawker even publishes native ads under a specific section of their website in order to be transparent.
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Where Native Ads Live Online
Today, native advertising is everywhere online. Native ads can be any form of content – blog posts, videos, infograhs, etc. This means there are lots of opportunities to promote a brand through native advertising.
When they’re done well, native ads can be hard to spot since they follow the publisher’s editorial style and format. The topic and information are also in line with what the publisher normally produces.
Due to regulations and transparency concerns, most native ad content pieces will have a designator like “sponsored”, “recommended for you” or “promoted” to indicate it’s connected to a business. However, there is no standard for how native ads are labeled. A native ad may be right in front of you and you’d never know it.
As a Stanford University study discovered, many users are aware when they are viewing native advertising, but because it doesn’t follow the traditional hard-sell format, users don’t mind. As long as you aren’t trying to trick the reader into thinking it isn’t native advertising, then it’s usually well-tolerated.
Below are places where it’s common to see native ads:
Social Media Feeds
Social media is the largest platform for native advertising. In 2018 nearly 75% of native ad spending was on social media. Most of these native ads show up in the news feed of a user’s social media accounts. YouTube is destined to become a larger native ad player given that more businesses are investing in native video ads.
Publishers use their own feeds to promote native ads. You’ll see links to posts in their related stories section and sidebar feeds. Widgets can also be used to serve up native ads from around the web.
Recommended Reading Lists
Another way a publisher can promote native ads is with recommended reading lists. This is actually an excellent way to deliver relevant content since the native ad suggestion is based on content the user has already consumed.
This is a type of native advertising that you see on Amazon a lot. The listings show up at the top of a product search page and usually have a “sponsored” label but little other variation from other listings. Promoted listings also show up as recommendations on product pages and after you’ve added a product to your cart.
PPC Search Ads vs Native Advertising
Most marketers consider paid search ads to be native advertising because they are designed to look almost identical to organic search results. The pay structure can be very similar as well. Some publishers use a pay-per-click model rather than a one-time fee.
Content Marketing vs Native Advertising
They sound very, very similar, but there are a few distinctions between native advertising and content marketing. The primary difference is that native advertising fits the site it’s published on whereas content marketing pieces may not. In that regard, native ads are much more contextual.
Examples of Native Advertising
The best native ads don’t feel like advertising at all. They aren’t a long-form ad trying to pass as a blog post. Native advertising is most effective when it provides valuable or interesting information that engages the reader.
That’s what the examples below exhibit. These native ads fit the publishing platform perfectly, are well-written to match the publisher’s tone, and most importantly, are interesting.
Native Ad Example #1 – Buzzfeed Video Series Proves Native Ads Aren’t One-Offs
Buzzfeed is known for producing viral content, which makes it a highly desirable publisher for native ads. A few years ago Buzzfeed released a Mom vs. Chef video series that was sponsored by New York Life. Each episode features a new mom, chef and ingredient but the sponsor is the same.
Native Ad Example #2 – The Onion Covers News on Young Adults That Bond Over Shared Student Loan Lender
The Onion is known for producing hilarious satire. Its style is very distinct, which is why it’s one of the best native ad publishers on the Internet. Much of the sponsored content reads just like their other articles, so no matter what, it’s entertaining for readers.
Like the post titled “Pair of 26-Year-Olds Hit It Off After Learning They Have Student Loans From the Same Bank”. Debt is typically no laughing matter, but it’s a great native ad for the financial advisors at Prudential.
Native Ad Example #3 – Vanity Fair’s Now Famous Hennessy Native Ad
One of the best examples of an effective native ad is an article and corresponding video published by Vanity Fair for Hennessy. The article titled “Hennessy Fuels Our Chase for the Wild Rabbit . . . But What Does It All Mean?” not only met Vanity Fair’s high quality standards, it also was very entertaining and subtly connected Hennessy to the central figure of the story – despite the headline.
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