What is Native Advertising?

By Native Advertising Institute on September 21, 2019
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Let me ask you a question. How good is your understanding of what exactly native advertising is? Is it that vague elusive unicorn? Maybe you know what it is, but you find it difficult to explain to stakeholders or clients. If any of these scenarios ring true, you've come to the right place.

Unlike other forms of marketing, native advertising presents a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between companies and customers in ways traditional advertising only dreams of. 

In the following, we provide you with all the relevant information to enable you to see the potential of native advertising and how your company will benefit from using this approach.

But first, how can we define native advertising?

The Definition of Native Advertising

Here at the Native Advertising Institute, we define native advertising in the following way: Native advertising is paid advertising where the ad matches the form, feel and function of the content of the media on which it appears.

In other words, at its core, native advertising should be great content, that looks and reads as organic content, but is, in fact, paid content.

That’s right, native advertising is paid content in disguise, published on third party websites, paid for by the advertiser.

The paid content “piggybacks” on the efforts of the third party site, to reach another, large audience, rather than through the advertiser’s own channels.

Reaching the audience of a third party website means, that you have to create content that fits into the site’s own content universe. Otherwise, your content will stick out like a sore thumb and people will notice it for that, instead of noticing your actual message.

As stated in the beginning, the success of native advertising hinges on great content, and in this regard native advertising resembles content marketing quite a bit. However, content marketing prefers publishing content through owned channels, while native advertising takes advantage of an audience built by a third party website.

That being said, native advertising can and often should be a part of a content marketing strategy. Native Advertising is yet another way of reaching a highly targeted audience through great content.

Why Does Native Advertising Work?

People are used to ads. Actually, they are not just used to them, they are so fed up with ads, they have become somewhat blind to ads. This is because ads, in general, are unwanted, interruptive and often get in the way of the consumer engaging with the content they’re interested in.

People tend to “tune out” all the normal ads, so how do you get their attention? Do you “yell” at them with brighter colours and greater discounts?

No, you go a different path, showing up, where consumers don’t expect to find ads, and in a way that focuses on a relevant subject, message or an interesting narrative.

With native ads people don’t feel like they are looking at an ad even though native ads are tagged with “Sponsored”, “Advertisement” or something similar. Native ads don't disrupt the experience the way a banner, pop-up or in-line ad does.

And it works.

Studies show, that people look at in-feed native ads up to 53% more than standard banner ads. Add to this the fact, that people share native ads more frequently than they share traditional ads, and that when asked, 70% wants to learn about products through content, rather than traditional advertising.

Native Ad Content Types

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Publishers Will Continue to Embrace Native Advertising – Here’s Why

So, what kind of content should you create to tap into the power of native advertising?

Generally, there are three types of content, that work really well within the framework of native ads and has a high probability of engaging the audience.

Other than being different types of content, each one caters to one type of media as well, exploiting the strengths of that specific media.

What is an advertorial, you ask? Basically, it’s an advertisement, in the style of an editorial, published in a print media such as a newspaper or magazine. An advertorial is usually long-form and combines the journalistic style and form with the purpose of an advertisement.

The advertorial looks like the rest of the magazine or newspaper except for a label, that informs the reader, this is paid content. After all, we don’t want to mislead the audience.

If the advertorial is well written, with purpose and it contributes with relevant information and perspective, the reader, the publisher, and the advertiser all benefit from it.

On tv and radio, a sponsored program works a bit differently in that this content type utilizes the relation between the program and the sponsor, to shine a light on a subject or product.

On social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, promoted posts, also known as sponsored posts, enables the advertiser to target specific groups within their base of followers. The reach might not be as wide as with an ad, but it will take a deep dive into your selected target group.

And since any social media feed quickly overflows with posts, the sponsored or promoted posts is a great way to make sure your followers notice your content.

How Do You Know Native Ads Are Working?


The success of native advertising is usually measured in audience engagement, meaning the extent to which users are engaged, actively interested or involved in your content.

Through the magic of the internet, every view, click and time spent on site is collected and can be analyzed, and every printed media has statistics that show how many readers it is possible to reach through an advertorial.

These are the data types we can draw on to create an understanding of audience engagement. However, it is important not to look at a single metric, but to look at several in combination.

There may be few readers of an advertorial, but if it’s the right readers, and they spend a long time reading, the advertorial might still be a success.

Recently, the industry has been pushing for harder metrics, more aligned with brand objectives. It’s a good idea to look toward tracking these metrics from the start. In this way, it’s easier to show proof of success and get future buy-in.

If you haven’t already employed native, when you do, you’ll likely notice an increase in brand awareness as well as lead generation through native ads. Customer loyalty also seems to grow more through native advertising, so get started!

Find out where your customers are hanging out; which websites, facebook pages and media outlets have the attention of your target group. Create great content that fits the style and format of the media and engages the established audience.

How To Measure Native Ad Campaign Effectiveness

Do You Want to Know More About Native Advertising?

For more about native advertising, visit our website. There we host a wealth of native knowledge - in the form of articles, ebooks, reports and more - created by the Native Advertising Institute as well as industry experts from around the globe.  

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