native advertising

Native Advertising. What Is It and Why Is It Important?

858 600 Bartosz Bielecki

In this article, you will find the answers to these questions:
What is native advertising?
What are the examples of native ads?
Are native ads better than display ads?

Native advertising (or native ads) – you probably heard this term before and might be wondering what’s all this fuss about. And trust us, it’s high time you caught up because native advertising is something you simply cannot ignore if you want to be a successful marketer. Let’s get you up to speed, but first, let us ask you this question:

How do you like your chances of surviving a plane crash? If you thought about a positive reply to that question, please stop reading now, and consider calling a shrink. If you haven’t lost your mind, though, how would you react, if you found out that your chances of survival are 475 times higher than somebody actually clicking on your online banner ad? Would you call those who advertise that way crazy?

The Internet is flooded with good ol’ banner ads. The paradox is that the more of them there are, the less visible they become. It’s come to the point that there is a term for this phenomenon – banner blindness. Internet users naturally tend to completely ignore banners and their lookalikes, treating it as irrelevant content.

Display ads still work, but their efficiency has dipped significantly over the years. Marketers are in constant search for effective advertising forms, and this has resulted in some pretty interesting, and most importantly, effective alternatives.

One of these alternatives is native advertising. An up-and-coming ad format that’s already being utilized as a way of monetization by the majority of news media companies. Native ads constitute for about 20% of all advertising revenue – which signifies nearly a twofold increase in one year – and some project this number to grow even faster, reaching 74% by 2021.

Native ads are defined as involuntary, promoted content, which is displayed online in a non-disruptive manner. The goal of native ads is to take on the looks of their surroundings by appearing as relevant content.

Native Advertising Types

The governing body of online advertising, the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) distinguishes six kinds of native ads. Here’s the complete rundown.

In-Feed Ads

native advertising in-feed ads


The most frequently seen native ads are called “In-Feed.” You will find these mostly in social media in the form of Sponsored Posts on Facebook, Promoted Tweets on Twitter, Sponsored Content on LinkedIn, and so on.

In-Feed Ads, generally speaking, are the advertisements that appear in between the content you’re scrolling through. They are not limited to social media; plenty of popular news sites incorporate them too.

These ads can link to sponsored content, assume the form of an embedded video, or encourage you to download an app.

Search Ads

native advertising search ads


Another type of native ad is so-called “Search Ads.” You encounter them while Googling virtually anything. Search Ads are always linked to websites.

Search Ads are the promoted search results that advertisers pay for to show at the top of the list. Of course, they can be found not only on Google but also other search engines like Yahoo! and Bing.

Recommendation Widgets

native advertising recommendation widget


Whenever you’ve finished reading an article online, and beneath you see a box with other stories, titled, for instance, “From Around the Web” or “Recommended By,” you’re dealing with a Recommendation Widget.

Recommendation Widgets contain pictures and short descriptions linking to some sort of long-form content, like a story, from an outside platform.

What differentiates this form from In-Feed Ads, is that they don’t appear more or less randomly in the feed the user is scrolling through, but rather in a dedicated box congregating the ads. They are embedded into the website in the spot the publisher chooses.

The ad unit looks like the rest of the page, often like a link to another article. It can’t be mistaken for a banner, and the fact that it’s an advertisement is only disclosed by formulations like “Around the Web” or “You May Like,” with small-font information about the provider of the ads.

native advertising promoted listings


This category of native ads is only visible on ecommerce sites and alike. Promoted Listings show up in exactly the same manner as other products or services, but with a note stating that it is an ad.

Promoted Listings help highlight and distinguish your product, ultimately increasing your sales.


native advertising in-ads


Now, this one is a bit tricky. An In-Ad is more of a traditional, banner-like ad situated outside of the main text but containing contextually-relevant content.

In-Ads are useful for building brand awareness, as they combine a brand’s logo, image, and a bit of text, all linked to a landing page, and are well-targeted as they’re displayed next to pertinent content.

Custom Native Ad Formats

native advertising custom ad formats


The last category distinguished by the IAB is for all the native ads not falling into the above categories. Companies (and not only companies, as you will learn in a second) are interested in alternative, yet very popular platforms, for displaying “custom” native ads.

To give you a sense of what these may be, let’s take Spotify and Airbnb as examples.

Spotify became an unexpected native ad publisher when advertisers started branding their playlists. Airbnb was utilized by Sweden (yes, the country from Northern Europe), in its “Sweden on Airbnb” campaign. The country’s most prominent sites have been listed on the popular accommodation rental platform to make them appear as if they were apartments, putting into action a very creative idea for native advertising.

Native Ads vs Display Ads

By now, you are probably wondering what makes native ads the solution for banner blindness. Let’s dive into the data.

GE’s native ad click-through rates (CTRs) were as high as 8%, compared to an average of barely 0.05% clicks on display ads. And this is only one of plenty examples of the tremendous success of native ads in recent years. It is believed that on average, native CTRs are 308 times higher than for display ads. Fancy another example? Mini’s native ad campaign on Buzzfeed resulted in a 33% brand lift. The numbers speak for themselves.

Native ads yield outstanding results because users clicking on them are far more engaged and interested in the promoted offer than it is the case with banner ads. This means that native ads don’t affect user experience in a negative way, which is especially important from a publisher’s point of view.

Because of that, they have proved to be a great way of monetizing ad space. In-Feed mobile ads are a highly coveted commodity for publishers because they do not take up additional screen space and can be displayed seamlessly. And, in light of native ads’ quality demonstrated by their high user engagement, advertisers are willing to pay more for these ads.

This is not to say, however, that native ads are perfect. A lot of consumers have complained that they are misleading or confusing, which might lead, in theory, to a slight decline in trust in the publisher.

It is the task of the advertisers to produce high quality and genuine ad content, and it is the responsibility of publishers to accept ads that won’t result in a consumer backlash.

So, summing up, when you consider that native ads are profitable both for advertisers and publishers and do not impact users’ browsing experience (assuming they’ve been properly designed), it’s hard to deny that native ads have truly become a revolution in the online advertising industry.

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