What Is Native Advertising? Universal Types and How to Use Them

For reaching and engaging target audiences, digital advertising is a critical marketing tool. Native advertising, on the other hand, gives marketers a new opportunity to get their message out as individuals get more sophisticated in how they discover and interact with the material.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about native advertising, including what it is, why it’s essential, how it works, and how to utilize it to achieve your marketing objectives.

Even if you didn’t realize it, you’ve probably seen countless examples of native advertising. Native advertising is ubiquitous these days, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to identify.

Something about this cheeseburger isn’t quite right…

In today’s post, we’re going to look at what native advertising is, why it can be so controversial, and several native advertising examples that are really impressive – as well as a few that are downright terrible.

What Is Native Advertising?

Simply put, native advertising is paid content. Articles, infographics, videos, you name it – if a content producer can make it, corporations can buy it and publishing platforms can promote it.

Now, you might be thinking, “How does a native advertisement differ from an advertorial?” Well, in order to be considered a true native advertisement, the content should align with the publication or site’s established editorial style and tone, and must also provide the kind of information that the publication’s audience typically expects.

These characteristics are what make native adverts difficult to notice, as they frequently blend in seamlessly with “organic” content.

This is complicated further by the lack of clear norms or criteria for how publishers must label native ads, and transparency requirements vary greatly from one publication to the next.

It’s also worth mentioning that native advertising isn’t always synonymous with content marketing. Unfortunately, the overlap between the two fields, as well as their resemblance in nomenclature, frequently leads to misunderstanding.

“A type of sponsored media that fits the form and purpose of the user experience on the site or app in which they’re put,” says Dan Greenburg, Founder, and CEO of Sharethrough.

In a nutshell, they’re adverts that blend in.”

Native ads can be found on your favorite publisher sites as well as your favorite social media platforms.

They’re more contextual than other forms of digital advertising since they blend in perfectly with the user experience (e.g. display and banner ads).

Native advertisements, rather than displaying off to the side or across the top of a web page, mirror the look, feel, and functionality of the medium’s content, increasing the likelihood that your audience will trust them.

Native advertisements are also growing in popularity, accounting for approximately two-thirds of all digital display ad spending. In fact, native digital display advertising spending in the United States is predicted to hit a new peak in 2019 of $41.14 billion.

Why Is Native Advertising So Controversial?

Don’t trick them. Don’t piss them off. ”

Eric Goeres, Time magazine’s head of innovation, gave this advice at the recent Contently Summit. Goeres spoke during the event’s “Truth in Advertising” session, where the topic of native advertising was a hot topic.

Gore’s words of caution pertain to the relationship of trust that exists between a publisher and their audience, and he stressed the hazards of enraging readers by using deception and trickery to earn quick cash.

Native ads are popular among brands and advertisers because they have greater click-through rates and higher levels of engagement than traditional adverts. However, not everyone, particularly consumers, is thrilled by native ads.

Several professional groups have weighed in on native advertising’s often ambiguous character.

The Federal Trade Commission is considering imposing regulatory measures on companies that use native advertising to sell their products, and it has signaled that it would closely monitor the industry to ensure that native advertising is used in a way that benefits consumers.

When it comes to native advertising, the American Society of Magazine Editors has likewise asked for more openness and supervision.

The potential for this type of content to damage the public’s confidence is why many publishers consider native advertising as a risky idea.

After all, can The New York Times honestly report on matters connected to Dell if it publishes a “article” by Dell in exchange for money, or has every reference of the corporation been paid for?

Native Advertising Statistics

Before we look at some of the best native advertising examples (and a rogue’s gallery of some of the worst), let’s acquaint ourselves with the state of the native advertising landscape:

  • Almost half of customers are unfamiliar with the term “native advertising.”
  • Fifty-one percent of those who do are sceptical.
  • On their websites, three out of four publishers use native advertising in some manner.
  • 90% of publishers have launched or are planning to launch native advertising campaigns.
  • Native advertising is currently being used by 41% of firms as part of broader promotional initiatives.

6 Universal Types of Native Ads (And Examples of Each)

Similar to other forms of advertising, native ads have several formats, each with their own set of advantages. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has identified the following six types of native advertising:

1. In-Feed Units

In-feed native advertising units are similar to the scenario we outlined above. If you’re seeing sponsored posts appear in your social media feeds or on a publisher’s site (e.g., Forbes, Mashable), those are in-feed units.

They’re paid placements that appear directly in-line with other articles, posts, or editorial content. For example, the below screenshot captures an in-feed unit from PayPal on Entrepreneur.com.

In-feed units look different from site to site as they fit into each site’s unique user experience. For instance, LinkedIn’s in-feed ad units (LinkedIn Sponsored Content) look like this:

2. Paid Search Units

Native advertising is also a popular advertising method for search engines. Those top-of-the-page advertising placements you’re bidding on? Technically, they’re native ad placements as those top paid search results are made to look like organic search results.

3. Recommendation Widgets

Another spot where you’ll find native ads on publisher sites, social media, and even search engine results pages is in recommendation widgets.

You’ll often see these ads off to the side of a web page, or even at the end of an article, to recommend additional content you might like.

4. Promoted Listings

If you have an online shopping habit (like many of us), you see promoted listings regularly. To give you an example, when searching for new marketing books, several sponsored listings appear on Amazon.com.

However, while those publishers paid for those media placements, they’re made to look just like the organic listings.

5. Display Ad With Native Elements

This type of native advertising looks just like any other ad you might see online. You may even see them in an ad container or banner. What makes them native, however, is that they’re contextually relevant to the site they appear on and the content they appear next to.

Campbell’s, for example, placed an in-ad unit on allrecipes.com for their recipe collection. While the ad doesn’t look like the actual recipes listed on the site, it is contextually relevant to the page.

6. Custom

Given the speed of technological change and the potential for publisher partnerships, the IAB’s last type of native advertising leaves the door open for a range of possibilities.

Creating a new Snapchat filter (below) is an example of a custom native ad. The filter, while a form of paid media, fits within the app’s user interface alongside Snapchat’s other filters.

Why Use Native Advertising?

Content has become a central part of our lives. From the moment we wake up to the moment we say goodnight, we devour news articles, television shows, photos, and social media posts.

According to eMarketer, the average US adult spends 12 hours and 1 minute each day consuming media. Yes, you read that right.

With so much content in our lives, and so little time to consume it all, today’s consumers have trained themselves to ignore ads and more people are using adblocking software to remove ads from sites altogether.

Native advertising is designed specifically not to look like an ad, making it harder to ignore. Instead, it’s designed to look like the rest of the content on the page. As a result, consumers interact with native ads 20–60% more than with traditional banner ads.

Native ads also have the potential to increase conversions. A study by Sharethrough found that native ads generate an 18% higher lift in purchase intent than display ads.

Native Ads, and Programmatic Buying

Programmatic advertising is becoming more popular, with 65 percent of B2B marketers saying they now buy or sell ads programmatically, up from 54 percent in 2016. Given the speed, accuracy, and intelligence of programmatic ad buying software, this is unsurprising.

Simply enter your campaign objectives and KPIs, and watch as the programmatic algorithm adapts to audience behavior. The marketplace can shift in an instant, and programmatic buying can assist you in fast adapting your ad campaigns.

Your in-feed, sponsored search, or other native ads will have a stronger capacity to reach specific audience segments when used in native advertising. The programmatic algorithm will also aid in the optimization of native ad campaigns, focusing on what works while halting what doesn’t.

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