What is Native Advertising?

Native is a frequent a topic of discussion for marketers and journalists, and remains one of the most popular advertising formats available. Before discussing marketing strategies that make use of native advertising, let’s take a minute to understand exactly what native advertising is, why it is so effective, and why its disclosure is so important.

Native advertising is a method used by marketers to catch the attention of the user without interrupting the user experience. Native ads are designed to fit cohesively into website content, creating a seamless transition between editorial and paid content.

By lowering the level of disruption from the primary content, the user will be more likely to engage with the promoted content.

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“Most advertisers and publishers aspire to deliver paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behaviour that the viewer simply feels that they belong.” IAB Native Advertising Playbook

Native ads can be derived from both external and internal content sources, and can, for the most part, be divided into one of 3 basic native ad types:

  1. Paid. This would include any ad space purchased by an external source that appears on a publisher’s website, including but not limited to sponsored blog posts, search engine results, promoted listings, or sponsored social network posts.
  2. Owned. This is frequently used for inbound marketing, where a website may promote its own content, such as newsletters, articles, events, etc.
  3. Earned. This type of advertising focuses on the discussion, external reviews, and word of mouth that takes place on social media and external sites.

Native advertising is effective for capturing the user’s attention without distracting from the primary content. It is a way for advertisers and publishers to foster a connection with the customer based on their personal interests and the product’s association with the publisher’s website content. Unlike some other ad types, it is difficult to ignore a native ad. The most popular form of native advertising is digital, making video an excellent choice for content in this format.

The disclosure surrounding native ads refers to the clear communication to the user that an advertiser has paid to place their content the website, regardless of the message communicated, and that a publisher has allowed an advertiser pay for visible space on their website.

Disclosure on the part of both the advertiser and the publisher is important and valuable for building brand loyalty and trust. Some typical language that advertisers and publishers use to indicate ad content are: “promoted by”, “sponsored post”, “featured”, or simply “advertisement”. It is expected that publishers and advertisers make these distinctions clear. No one likes to feel duped into thinking they are consuming editorial content.

There are 6 key strategic elements to consider when choosing a native advertising format:

  1. Form. There are two options: inStream, in which the ad appears integrated into the primary content, or OutStream, where the ad appears outside of the primary content.
  2. Function. Does the function of the ad match the function of the web page, or are the content types different?
  3. Integration. How does user interaction with the ad differ from user interaction on the web page?
  4. Targeting. Would it be more effective to use narrow targeting that places your ad on specific pages and sites, or broad targeting which may include a variety of websites and page types based on demographic?
  5. Metrics. How will the success of the ad be measured, through engagement factors such as social sharing and interaction or exposure based on the number and length of views?
  6. Disclosure. Is it clear to the user that this is an ad?

It is easy to understand why native is such a popular format, as it provides an effective method for capturing the user’s attention through strategic and integrated visibility. When choosing a native ad format, keep in mind the various strategic elements that can be adapted to the ad content and the potential results sought.