What Is Native Advertising?

Native advertising is the latest trend in digital performance marketing born from the emphasis search engines place on quality content. It is a subset of content marketing and aims at building a relationship with an audience to convert them into customers at some point.

‘Wait a minute’, we hear you say, ‘isn’t that just what content marketing does too?’

You are right, on paper, native advertisement sounds very similar to content marketing, and it resembles paid-for ads too. But what makes it different is context.

The difference between native advertisement, content marketing and display (paid) advertising

Straightforward marketing doesn’t work anymore! Consumers are constantly bombarded with sales messages and they have come to blank them. In addition, they also tend to naturally distrust marketing claims – after all, they can hardly be impartial. To win customers over nowadays, you first need to get them to trust you by building a relationship and demonstrating your expertise with the help of informative content.

Paradoxically, a successful strategy to sell your products or services is to appear not to be trying, and there lies native advertisement, at the confluent of content marketing and unashamedly commercial paid advertisement (usually through via programmatic media advertising) – content that looks just like a normal article for example, but subtly promotes a brand at the same time.

Image result for native ad example

You probably come across them daily, but the advertising component is done so discreetly that you probably haven’t noticed. Search engines ads are an example of native advertising, as are Facebook’s suggested posts or Twitter’s promoted tweets – all that differentiates them from a regular tweet is a small “Promoted By”, “Suggested Post”, “Sponsored” text.

Facebook Native Ad

Companies can also use news feed ads which will feature a promoted post next to real news. But it doesn’t have to be all text. Videos are being used as effectively by brands like Nike.

So, to summarise, the difference between native advertisement, content marketing and paid advertising is that a native advertisement has a direct commercial element, unlike content marketing, but that element flows naturally within editorial content. Native content advertising is usually placed there through programmatic advertising technology, such as the DoubleClick Bid Manager DSP (a Demand Side Platform) or others such as MediaMath, DataXu and numerous others.

What are the benefits of native advertising?

Native advertising combats consumers’ advertising fatigue by being camouflaged as editorial content. People perceive it as impartial content and are, psychologically, more willing to read it, listen to it, share it and be influenced by it.

For a company, it is also an effective marketing decision budget wise. If you think about advertising banners for example, those often work on a “per click” basis. So although it’s great to have lots of clicks, it comes with an incremental cost. But when a brand places native advertisement in editorial content, the only cost is its creation and is independent of the views, so having it go viral will give the company massive exposure without bankrupting them.

Does it work?

Statistics from various sources all point to the same answer: a resounding ‘yes’.
According to research from IPG Media Lab, native ads are 13% more likely to be shared than banner ads. While another study shows that 52% of consumers clicking on native ads intend to complete a purchase, against just 34% clicking on banner ads; 70% of people prefer to learn about products and services through editorial content rather than advertisement.

Dos and don’ts of native advertising

• Do your research
The cornerstone of native advertising is relevant content. You may understand your audience very well, but why would you want to take the risk of guessing what they want to read about when you can find out for sure? Social media is a fantastic research tool as it will show you trends and hot topics into which you can tap.

Set specific guidelines for native advertisement, editorial content and paid ads
As we saw above, there is some overlap of content and purpose between them so it is crucial to set clear guidelines about the goals, tone, structure, etc. of each, or you could end up with material that doesn’t do the job and misses your targets.

Prioritise quality
The golden rules of native advertising are to favour quality above all and to plan your native ads as an integral part of content creation, not as an add-on-if-you-have-time. Like always, you should prioritise what your potential consumers want to hear about, and develop your strategy around it.

• No wolf in sheep’s clothing
As we discussed above, consumers now turn to other sources of information to make up their mind over products and services. This explains the explosion of peer-to-peer reviews or why YouTube bloggers with a large following are being courted by businesses to promote their products.

However, you may also have noticed recent changes, for example reviewers spelling out that they were offered a free product in exchange of an ‘honest’ review, or the appearance of “This video is being promoted by…”. This came in response to advertising standard bodies around the world demanding greater transparency in what is advertising and what isn’t so as not to mislead consumers.

Native advertising, due to its softly-softly approach, has attracted some criticism in the world of advertising as a veiled attempt at presenting advertisement as impartial information. It is therefore essential to make sure that there is no ambiguity in yours. If in doubt, err on the side of caution or you could well get a slap on the wrist from advertising regulators or at least irritate those very consumers you are trying to woo.

• Don’t shoehorn your brand into a topic
The very definition of native advertising is that it should flow as a seamless extension of your content, so don’t try to connect your brand to a topic if it just won’t quite fit, no matter how much it trends. It will just look artificial and will do you more harm than good.


Opinions about native advertising are still divided, but it definitely is the hottest trend in digital marketing at the moment. If you would like to know more, call us on 09 360 2299 or through our contact form to discuss your requirements.

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