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Native Advertising 101: What is Native Advertising?

Apr 01, 2016 / by Stefanie Neyland

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Mostly an unknown term until just a few years ago, native advertising is fast becoming the darling of the digital advertising world. But what exactly is it?


This month, as part of a five part series, we’ll teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about native advertising. In today’s instalment, we’ll be beginning with the very basics: what exactly is native advertising anyway?



A little background

For many brands, the term “online advertising” is synonymous with banner ads and pay per click (PPC) campaigns. And historically, this approach has been met with great success—until now.

In recent years, there’s been growing disdain amongst consumers toward overtly blatant advertising. They’re more discerning when it comes to the ways in which they’re marketed to, and as a result, the aforementioned in-your-face banner ads have taken a big hit.

So much so in fact, that research has shown that you’re more likely to complete Navy SEAL training than click on a banner ad. This phenomenon has even been given its very own moniker—“banner blindness”—and is thought to be responsible for the increasingly poor click-through rates display advertising is yielding across the world.


Image credit: Communication Through Art and Design


Savvy marketers have been looking for an antidote to this so-called banner blindness for years, and thankfully, they’ve finally discovered a potent remedy: native advertising.


Native advertising defined

Native advertising is a paid strategy of reaching target audiences with branded or sponsored content, and its growth has largely been attributed to the rise of content marketing. As more brands invest in producing value-adding content, they’re seeking non-interruptive ways to reach consumers with it. Native advertising is emerging as a channel to accomplish just that, because the fundamental premise of native is to seamlessly integrate sponsored messages into a user’s experience. These native ads are positioned closest to—or surrounded by—contextually relevant, publisher-produced content.





Marketers continue to leverage the power of paid media to boost their campaigns, but now they’re doing it through native advertising. Native ads engage readers, help improve brand image and awareness, and boast click- through rates (CTR) many times higher than those of display ads.

Native advertising also:


  1. Gives brands a targeted audience that aligns with their brand and marketing goals
  2. Allows brands to reach their audience on a platform they already know, love and read everyday—without disrupting their consumption habits
  3. Helps companies generate awareness while still including their brand message in the content





Data from BI Intelligence shows that overall spending on native advertising will reach $7.9 billion this year and grow to $21 billion in 2018.

What native advertising isn’t

One of the best ways of describing exactly what native advertising is is by explaining what it isn’t.

Here’s what a native ad shouldn’t be:


A sales tool

Just imagine it: you’re looking for an answer to a question, so you turn to your trusty friend Google. You then come across an article that seems to provide the information you’re looking for so you click, when lo and behold, within the first quarter of the article there’s a call to action: “One of our sales representatives would be happy to advise you. You can reach them at (...)”.

The content may have answered your question, but at this point you’re put off. Why? Because people inherently dislike feeling “sold to”. The useful information presented in content is devalued the moment a brand overtly tries to sell their product or service. Selling may bring you a customer today, but helping will bring you customers for life.


A means of sharing pricing information

When any mention of money is made in your copy, it becomes an advertisement. If your customers want to find out pricing information, they’re likely savvy enough to find it on your website themselves. Native ads should give the reader useful information and, if appropriate, a subtle nudge in the right direction to encourage them to learn more.



We’ve all seen the headlines. ”New skinny pill takes the world by storm”. “Local mom exposes shocking anti-age secret—learn the $5 trick to her amazing results.” What makes so-called “clickbait” so frustrating is the fact that it promises value that most of the time isn’t met.

The payoff is never as good as the reader had hoped for, which inevitably leaves them feeling duped. There’s no question that headlines are incredibly important, but creating thought-provoking titles that make fairly small promises, followed by content that exceeds expectations, is a far more effective strategy when it comes to native ads.




Image Credit:

Final thoughts

The last couple of years have seen the colossal rise of native advertising and its widespread adoption amongst the advertising community—and that growth is set to continue at an explosive rate.

Gone are the days when native was considered an industry buzzword or fancy new form of digital advertising. It has officially entered the mainstream, and is increasingly swallowing up larger and larger portions of marketing budgets across the world.

Topics: Insider, Blog Posts, Featured, FAQ

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