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What Native Advertising Is Not

Jul 27, 2014 / by Vitaly Pecherskiy

Undeniably, Native Advertising is the talk of 2014. Everyone in the digital space has defined and re-defined the term in attempts to make sense of what counts as Native Advertising versus advertorials or a permutation of banner ads.

Here, instead we’ll define what isn't Native Advertising, relying on both the IAB Native Advertising Playbook and our opinion at StackAdapt.

In-Banner Ad

As the Native Advertising trend ramps up, it's clear that there's a gap between the demand for native ads and the available infrastructure to meet it. As a result, many companies repurpose their existing banner technology to serve ‘native’. What comes out is not native advertising. An ad taken out of context can aesthetically have the same characteristics as a true native ad, but when seen live on the site where it renders, it becomes evident that it's simply a repurposed banner ad.

An ad that's been aesthetically formatted according to the site, but still fitted into a banner ad placement, is not Native Advertising.

Most Content Discovery Widgets

A few content discovery widgets can be categorized as Native Advertising, but the majority of them cannot be called as such. It comes down to the question of relevancy, and whether these widgets appear in-stream.

Given that widgets already don’t match the style or function of the site and don’t behave like page content, targeting and ad placement makes a fundamental difference in defining them as native ads.

While some companies do a great job in providing relevant content to readers, most of the time it is quite random. Putting these non-targeted stories on the right hand side, mixing it in with banner ads, is definitely not Native Advertising.


At StackAdapt, we believe that native ad units need to have:

  • Form
    • must be in-stream
  • Function
    • must match the function of the site (i.e. sponsored content in a content rich environment)
  • Integration
    • can lead to content on either publisher or brand web property
  • Targeting
    • targeted both contextually and behaviorally
  • Measurement
    • campaigns largely focused around brand awareness

Above all, there must be clear disclosure (shading, labeling etc.) that this is in fact an ad. As with Ad Sense, there must be a way for users to learn who powers these native ad units and learn about why these ad units were served to them.


As the Native Advertising ecosystem continues to evolve, it is expected that more standardization will be requested from brands, and therefore a push for IAB to enforce it. Given the infinite number of themes/formats/layouts of sites, the unfortunate reality with Native Advertising is that its standardization will move it closer and closer to banner advertising. In order to avoid this, it's the responsibility of all parties involved – publishers, advertisers, and ad tech companies, to work with units that follow the guidelines from IAB and to think of ways that would create value for all stakeholders.

Topics: Blog Posts, Resources

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