Native advertising is the latest 21st century marketing evolution. Today, consumers are more empowered, savvy, and traditional ad averse than ever before. Consumers want real content with real value – that is why they are on the Internet in the first place. Native advertising provides that high value content, but in a way that also fulfills the role that traditional advertising once served.
In the simplest terms native advertising is an advertisement disguised as genuine content by matching the function, channel, medium, tone, and style of the platform on which it appears. Most often, native advertising takes the form of either a written article or a video.
The purpose of native advertising is not necessarily to deceive consumers, but to fit coherently with the content that appears elsewhere on the platform, providing continuity in the user experience. However, continuity isn’t the only benefit of native ads – they are also immune from ad blocking and provide real value to the consumer.
Native advertising versus product placement
People often confuse or compare native advertising with product placement. However, they are two distinct forms of advertising. In the case of product placement, a product or message is embedded into the content. The difference is that native advertising is the content.
Native advertising versus content marketing
You’re probably thinking that native advertising sounds conspicuously similar to content marketing, however, there are some clear distinctions between the two.
Content marketing is generally part of a broader marketing strategy which involves creating regular content to support, build, and enhance a brand and to influence consumer behaviour. The purpose of content marketing “is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior,” according to the Content Marketing Institute, which explains that content marketing “focuses on owning media, not renting it.”
Content marketing is about communicating more than selling. Marketers deliver real information with value to the consumer with the intention that they will repay this service with their loyalty. Similar to content marketing, native advertising consists of useful, informative, insightful, entertaining but above all relevant content.
Unlike content marketing however, the content delivered by native advertisers does not appear on an owned media channel (such as a company website or blog). Instead native advertisers pay to have their content released on another platform. Native advertising will look as similar to the content platform that they use as possible. Usually the native advertising will be labeled as sponsored content. However, because it fits seamlessly with the platform’s brand, style and messaging, and because the native ad is entertaining and useful, visitors will pay attention to it.
Native advertising is starting to gain traction
Native advertising has been used since 2010, but has only really taken off in the last few years. Like content marketing, native advertising is on the rise, steadily increasing in popularity along a similar trajectory (albeit native advertising is slightly behind and just beginning to gain serious traction). For businesses this means that the time to jump onto the native advertising bandwagon is now.
Native advertising is effective
Native advertising is gaining in popularity for one simple reason: it works. According to Forbes, native ads are viewed 53% more frequently than non-native ads, they increase “brand lift” by over 80%, boost conversions by up to 60%, and “purchase intent is 53% higher when consumers click on native ads instead of traditional ads.”
Types of native advertising
According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau there are six types of native advertising:
- In-feed ads are located in the paid platform’s usual content feed (i.e., in the same location that non-paid content appears). This has been used effectively by companies like Buzzfeed, Upworth and NowThis on social media.
- Search ads appear in search results on paid platforms which usually offer native advertisers a guarantee that their content will appear at the top of the results with no distinction from ‘real’ content apart from a small paid content disclosure.
- Recommendation widgets recommend native advertising, but do not publish it directly in the newsfeed. Generally, these ads are prefaced with a call to action (CTA) or suggestion such as “You might also like…”
- Promoted listings are featured on non-content websites and contain paid listings for services or products that are presented in a manner cohesive with the rest of the site.
- In-ad native advertising contains relevant content within the ad, links to an offsite page, offers guaranteed placement and is measured on brand metrics like interaction and brand lift, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. This in-ad native advertisement takes on the tone and style of the satirical news website on which it appears.
- Custom native advertising does exist in forms which do not fall into any of the above mentioned categories.
The nature of online advertising is changing, presenting more opportunities than ever before to advertisers, and providing more contextually relevant content to consumers. Although native advertising has been around now for over five years, it has recently started an upward trajectory which suggests that it could soon become the primary method of online advertising. For businesses the time to begin native advertising campaigns is now.