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The Anatomy of a Killer Native Ad Creative

Sep 25, 2015 / by Daniel Kohler



What makes a "good" native ad?

It’s a question that we at StackAdapt hear a lot, and unfortunately it’s one there’s really no simple answer to. Every brand, every campaign and every audience is different, which means there’s no hard-and-fast rule or magician’s formula to producing a compelling native ad creative.


Consumers are becoming increasingly receptive to native advertising, and brands are capitalizing on this fact. So much so, that eMarketer predicts that native advertising spend is expected to double from $2.4 billion in 2013 to $5 billion in 2017. Consequently, the comparatively orthodox display advertising is lagging behind, and is projected to grow at less than half that rate.

Brands are already seeing some remarkable results from their native initiatives. Take General Electric’s (GE) triumphant campaign with Buzzfeed. The seemingly “boring” company ran a hugely successful native ad campaign on the popular publisher site Buzzfeed, and the results were better than expected. The campaign lifted consumers’ perception of GE, and re-established them among the millennial demographic as an inspiring and innovative brand.

The key to a successful native ad is, of course, in the name—it should blend in and be delivered seamlessly through a publisher’s website. It should appear native to that page. The goal is to grab a user’s attention (without resorting to the use of clickbait-style headlines), entice them to read your content, and then create content that’s good enough to live up to their initial expectation.

Here are some factors which, in my opinion, can turn a good native ad into a great one.

Experiment with the principles of colour psychology

We’re all taught that red can signify danger and the colour yellow is the happiest hue in the spectrum, but there are much broader messaging patterns to be found in colour perceptions. Colours play a substantial role in purchasing and branding. In a study called “Exciting Red and Competent Blue", research confirmed that purchase intent is greatly affected by colours due to the impact they have on how a brand is perceived. This means that colours have the ability to influence how consumers view the "personality" of a brand.



Here, Land Rover uses earthy colours to convey it’s “outdoorsy” reputation. images courtesy of TripleLift


When it comes to picking the “right” colour to grab an audience’s attention, research has found that predicting consumer reaction to color appropriateness in relation to the product is far more important than the individual color itself.
 So, if Harley Davidson owners buy the product in order to feel rugged, you could assume that the fuchsia pink edition wouldn't resonate with customers particularly well. Explore the principles of colour psychology and narrow down what colours represent exactly what your brand is about. Then, try A/B testing different creatives to see which colours perform best.


Imagery shouldn’t be an afterthought

Not all images are created equal. A strong image on a native ad can capture user attention, inform them before they’ve even had the chance to read the headline, and even persuade them to click through to your content. On the contrary, the wrong image can confuse and even repel users. Choosing effective imagery is really more of an art than a science, but that doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t a few guidelines you can follow to incorporate powerful imagery into your creative.




The first step is to think about what message you want to convey, and then pick an image accordingly (many marketers do this process in reverse order). Next, try to ensure that the image is eye-catching and attractive to look at, but doesn’t overpower the ads accompanying text. Lastly, it’s good practice to avoid incorporating text into your ad image—that’s what the headline and body copy is for. However, for those instances where a little image text is necessary, be sure to follow the 20 percent rule.

Reel readers in with a winning headline

David Ogilvy, often hailed as the “Father of Advertising”, famously said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as they read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Ogilvy’s statement just goes to show the continued importance of the headline. Advertising may have transformed dramatically since the “Mad Men” era, but the backbone of a good ad remains the same: it’s all about captivating headlines. Next time your crafting that all-important headline, try taking a little more time than you normally would. After all, a good headline has the power to make or break your campaign.


Some ideas for producing attention-grabbing headlines include directing a question at the reader, producing an ever-popular “how-to” guide, or using a headline with a number in the title, which always performs well.

Use loaded language

Emotive language, sometimes referred to as “loaded language”, is wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes. Emotive words and phrases evoke strong emotional connections and produce positive or negative reactions that go beyond their literal meaning. Let’s use the term “tax relief” as an example. Tax is a word that’s unlikely to conjure up positive emotions in just about anyone, but when you add the emotive word “relief” to the phrase, it will stir a different, more positive reaction in the reader due to the connotation associated with the word “relief”.






Some of these tips may appear to be common sense, but this list was formulated after witnessing countless creatives failing to put these guidelines into practice. With a little planning and strategy to each of the major elements of your native ad creative, your campaign results could skyrocket. 

Topics: Insider, Blog Posts, Featured, Resources, FAQ

Written by Daniel Kohler

Director of Sales

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