What is Native Advertising?

Aug 06, 2013


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Advertisers have long struggled to truly engage audiences. For many years, the web seemed like it might solve that problem, until advertisers realized potential customers ignored banner ads just as they skip past commercials on the DVR. But that didn't stop advertisers from trying to use the implicit interactivity of the web. Enter: Native Advertising.

Often confused with content marketing and advertorials, native advertising is different than either of these other tactics. As Michael Raybman put it on iMedia, "In my view, it is defined as content that seamlessly blends into the context, design, and functionality of every page that it appears on, while being overt about its sales intention." Wikipedia adds, "The advertiser's intent is to make the paid advertising feel less intrusive and thus increase the likelihood users will click on it."

Native advertising, however, changes from one context to the next appearing in every possible format: video, images, articles, etc. The shape-shifting nature of this form of advertising makes it hard to spot-and explains why it is so often confused/overlaps with other popular types of advertising. The integrated nature of the ads also make some people uncomfortable as they often blur the lines between editorial and advertising content.

Five Examples of Native Advertising

  • Facebook Promoted Posts-Facebook users are familiar with these types of ads though they aren't unique to Facebook. (Other social platforms, such as Twitter and Tumblr, have also started allowing marketers to promote posts and ads to users.) They often mimic the look of other posts, and have become a relatively unobtrusive part of the Facebook experience.
  • Suggested Content-Have you ever clicked on a suggested story at the end of an article only to be taken away from the site you were on? Congratulations, you clicked on a native ad! These use the context of what you're reading to suggest related content to you.
  • Search Engine Ads-We've all gotten so used to paid ads at the top of our search results that we hardly ever think about it, but this is an example of one of the simplest forms of native advertising.  After all, what's more native to the search experience than search results?
  • Sponsored Content-Editors and sales department have long battled over the separation of editorial and advertising content. But in the age of native advertising, the wall that separates these two is getting a whole lot shorter, if not actually coming down. For instance, these Buzzfeed posts are actually Target ads.
  • Branded Video-Study after study tells us that video is the most engaging form of media we have at our disposal. So it's no surprise that many companies have turned to branded video to get our attention. Of course, this is no ordinary video. It will be contextually relevant, and be a seamless part of your digital media experience.