July 21


The Power of Native Advertising and Engaging with Consumers

By Hanson Cheng

July 21, 2023

  • minute read
  • Last Updated on July 21, 2023 by Hanson Cheng

    In this comprehensive article, you’ll learn about native advertising, its definition, characteristics, and types of ad units. You’ll discover the benefits of utilizing native advertising, such as improved user experience, higher engagement rates, and ad-blocker resistance. The article also provides examples of native ads, including branded content articles and sponsored social media posts, along with tips for creating effective native ads.

    What is  of Native Advertising?

    Native advertising is a form of online marketing in which the ads are designed to match the look, feel, and function of the media format in which they are placed. It is called “native” because it is intended to blend seamlessly with the content, style, and tone of the website or app, making it more likely to engage users and drive results.

    Native ads are usually paid for by an advertiser and placed on a platform outside of their own media to promote a specific brand, product, or service. The primary objective of native advertising is to provide users with valuable, non-disruptive content or experiences that can help enhance their engagement with a brand or its offerings.

    Characteristics of Native Advertising

    Native advertising can be distinguished from traditional display ads or banner ads by its unique characteristics, which include:

    1. Content-driven: Native ads are often based on engaging, relevant, and useful information that is designed to benefit the audience. They focus on storytelling and providing value rather than directly promoting a product or service.

    2. Seamlessly integrated: Native ads are designed to blend seamlessly with the content, context, and format of the platform on which they are placed. This can include matching the same fonts, colors, and styling as the surrounding content and replicating an editorial format or layout.

    3. Non-disruptive: Compared to traditional display ads, native ads are less intrusive, disruptive, or distracting. They do not interrupt the user experience and usually do not require users to click on or interact with them to access the content they are interested in.

    4. Targeted: Native ads can be targeted by demographic, interests, behaviors, or other factors to reach a specific audience segment that is more likely to be receptive to the message or offer.

    5. Brand promotion: Native ads often promote a brand’s message, product, or service, but they do so through content that provides value to the user. This can include educational or entertaining information, useful tips, or engaging storytelling that can indirectly drive brand awareness, consideration, or conversion.

    Types of Native Ad Units

    There are several types of native ad units that can be used by advertisers to reach and engage their target audience, including:

    1. In-feed ads: These ads are placed within the natural flow of content on a website or app, such as article listings or social media feeds. They appear in the same format as the surrounding content and often include text, images, or videos.

    2. Sponsored content: This type of native advertising involves creating content (such as an article, video, or infographic) sponsored by a brand and published on a publisher’s platform. The content is designed to be engaging and relevant for the target audience while subtly promoting the brand’s message or offer.

    3. Custom content: Custom content involves creating a unique experience or piece of content specifically for a brand within the publisher’s platform. This can include branded games, interactive infographics, or quizzes that provide value to the user while also promoting the brand.

    4. Recommendation widgets: These are small, contextual units that display relevant sponsored content recommendations in the form of links or thumbnails. They are typically placed below or alongside editorial content and are designed to match the look and feel of the publisher’s website.

    Platforms and Channels for Native Advertising

    Native advertising can be leveraged on a variety of platforms and channels, depending on the target audience, goals, and content format, including:

    1. Social media: Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer numerous native ad options like sponsored posts, promoted tweets, and carousel ads that blend seamlessly into users’ news feeds.

    2. Content discovery platforms: These platforms, such as Taboola and Outbrain, use recommendation algorithms to serve sponsored content on publisher websites based on user interests and browsing behavior.

    3. Publishers’ websites: Many online publishers and media outlets offer native advertising options, such as sponsored articles or custom content, that can be distributed within their existing content and audience.

    4. Mobile apps: In-app native ads can be customized to fit within the context of a specific app, such as a game, news app, or utility app. These ads are designed to appear in the same format and style as the app’s content, making them less intrusive and more engaging.

    5. Video platforms: Video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo offer native advertising opportunities through sponsored videos, branded content, or pre-roll and mid-roll ads that are designed to enhance, rather than disrupt, the viewing experience.

    Benefits of Native Advertising

    Native advertising is a type of advertising that seamlessly blends with the content on a website or platform by appearing as a natural element of the user experience. This form of advertising is gaining popularity among marketers because it offers numerous benefits compared to traditional display ads. In this article, we will delve into the advantages of using native advertising – improving the user experience, higher engagement rates, increased brand awareness and conversions, and ad blocker resistance.

    Improving User Experience

    One of the primary benefits of native advertising is its ability to improve the user experience on a platform. This is because native ads are designed to blend seamlessly within the content and context of the site. By matching the form and function of the content, native ads don’t feel intrusive and are less likely to annoy or disrupt the user’s browsing experience.

    Higher Engagement Rates

    Native ads generally have higher engagement rates than traditional display ads because they are more subtle and camouflaged within the surrounding content. Users are less likely to be turned off by native ads, as they don’t look or feel like ads at first glance. Instead, they provide relevant and useful content that users may find valuable, interesting, or entertaining.

    Higher engagement rates can lead to better ad performance and increased overall click-through rates. More people engaging with your ad means more clicks and potentially more conversions for your product or service. Increased engagement can also result in stronger brand recall, leading to greater brand loyalty and opportunities for future up-selling and cross-selling.

    Brand Awareness and Conversions

    Native advertising can help businesses in creating brand awareness effectively. By positioning the brand within the platform’s content, native ads help users become more familiar with the company or product. This is particularly important for smaller businesses or those new to the market, as native advertising can help “introduce” them to a larger audience.

    Brands can use native advertising to tell their story, provide meaningful content, and highlight their expertise in a given industry. By doing so, potential customers can develop a deeper connection and understanding of the brand, which and, in turn, may lead to increased conversions. By offering valuable content, native ads nurture the relationship between brands and consumers organically, making it more likely for users to convert.

    Ad Blocker Resistance

    With the widespread use of ad blockers, it has become increasingly difficult for digital marketers to reach their target audience. Native advertising offers a more effective solution because it is less susceptible to ad blockers. Since native ads are integrated within the website or platform themselves, they are less likely to be identified and blocked by ad-blocking software.

    Examples of Native Advertising

    Native advertising refers to marketing techniques where ads are placed strategically within the content of digital platforms, blending seamlessly with the surrounding environment. By being non-disruptive and non-intrusive, native ads are more likely to resonate with the target audience, triggering engagement and conversions.

    Branded Content Articles

    Branded content articles are stories, news, or feature articles that blend seamlessly with a publisher’s existing editorial content. These articles may promote a brand or product but do so indirectly by informing, entertaining, or inspiring readers. They offer added value by providing relevant, engaging content that complements the publisher’s overall digital strategy.

    For example, a company selling meal planning services might sponsor a series of articles on healthy eating, meal prep tips, or nutrient-dense recipes. Rather than focusing on the brand itself, the content dives deep into the subject matter, ensuring readers walk away with valuable information.

    Branded content articles are effective because they allow advertisers to connect with their target audience more authentically. Readers come to trust the source of information and, by extension, the brand sponsoring the content. Collaborating with reputable publishers can significantly boost a brand’s credibility while garnering increased audience engagement.

    Sponsored Social Media Posts

    Sponsored social media posts, or promoted content, are native advertising techniques that involve paid ads appearing within users’ social media feeds or timelines. Unlike traditional display ads, sponsored posts are designed to look like regular content, mirroring the platform’s format and tone.

    Influencer Partnerships

    Partnering with social media influencers is another form of native advertising that involves collaborating with popular personalities or industry experts. By leveraging the trust, credibility, and influence these individuals have amassed with their loyal followers, brands can promote their products or services more organically.

    Influencers may create content like product reviews, unboxings, tutorials, or themed posts that showcase products or services to their followers. They may also offer honest opinions, share their experiences, or recommend the brand to their audience, resulting in increased interest and conversions.

    Selecting the right influencers with an engaged audience and aligning with the brand’s values and message is crucial for a successful influencer campaign.

    Product Placement and Integrations

    Product placement and integrations are native advertising techniques where advertisers pay to have their products or services featured within other types of content, such as movies, TV shows, video games, podcasts, or even live events. This technique is a way for brands to promote their offerings in a subtle, non-intrusive manner that builds familiarity and recognition with their target audience.

    Examples of product placements include a car driven by an actor in a movie, a brand of soft drink appearing in a TV show, or a smartphone used by a character in a video game. These endorsements can create positive associations between the brand and the content and drive interest from viewers seeking to emulate their favorite characters or personalities.

    Product integrations, on the other hand, are more deliberate and involve weaving the brand or product into the narrative or storyline. They subtly showcase the brand’s value proposition and functionality in a way that complements the surrounding content.

    Creating Effective Native Ads

    Native advertising has been growing in popularity in recent years as the advertising landscape shifts to a focus on user experience and non-intrusive ad formats. Native ads seamlessly blend into the publisher’s content, providing value to the audience without disrupting the user experience. When done well, native ads can drive engagement and deliver a strong return on investment. 

    Aligning with Publisher Guidelines

    One of the keys to creating successful native ads is ensuring that your ads align well with the publisher’s content and adhere to their guidelines. These guidelines often include specific rules around the topics that can be covered, the tone of the content, and linking policies. By closely following the publisher’s guidelines, advertisers can ensure their ads will be approved and will blend seamlessly with the publisher’s content.

    To achieve alignment, conducting thorough research on the publisher’s website or consulting their media kit is important. Understanding the publisher’s target audience, their preferred content types, and the overall layout of their site can help shape the native ad strategy. It’s also advisable to closely follow the ad specifications provided by the publisher and ensure that the copy, format, and visual elements align with their guidelines.

    Ensuring Content Relevancy

    Another essential factor for successful native ads is ensuring the content is relevant to the audience it is being served to. Since native ads are designed to blend in with the publisher’s content, the ad should provide value to the reader and naturally fit within the context of the surrounding content. This often means that native ads should be informative, engaging, and of interest to the target audience rather than being overly promotional or sales-driven.

    Using Engaging Visuals

    Visual elements play a significant role in capturing the audience’s attention and driving engagement with native ads. Compelling visuals can help establish a connection with the audience and communicate the brand message more effectively. When selecting visuals, prioritize high-quality and relevant images or videos that align with the ad’s theme and complement the written content.

    In some cases, publishers may have specific guidelines around the use of visuals, so ensure that your chosen images or videos meet their criteria. The use of original and unique visuals can help your native ad stand out from the competition, and incorporating elements of visual storytelling can engage the reader and create a lasting impact.

    Transparent and Clear Labelling

    Although native ads are designed to blend with the publisher’s content, it’s crucial that the ads are transparently labeled so the audience understands they’re engaging with sponsored content. This transparency ensures that users do not feel deceived, increasing the credibility of the ad and fostering trust between the brand, publisher, and audience.

    Most publishers will have guidelines or specifications for labeling native ads, with common practices including the use of terms like “Sponsored,” “Promoted,” or “Advertisement.” Clear and consistent labeling helps maintain a positive user experience and encourages the audience to engage with the ad, knowing that it is promotional content.

    In summary, creating effective native ads requires a keen focus on alignment with publisher guidelines, content relevancy, engaging visuals, and clear labeling. By following these key components, you can create native ads that engage your target audience, blend seamlessly with the publisher’s content, and ultimately deliver a strong return on investment.

    Measuring the Success of Native Advertising

    Native advertising is a marketing strategy that has gained immense popularity in recent years. It entails embedding advertisements within digital content, such as blog posts or websites, rather than displaying them as stand-alone ads. This helps build authenticity, relevance, and engagement, ultimately leading to better results.

    However, to validate the effectiveness of native advertising and ensure its successful implementation, marketers need to measure its success using several metrics. This article will delve into key performance indicators (KPIs), engagement metrics, conversion metrics, and return on investment (ROI) to assist marketers in assessing the success of their native advertising campaign.

    Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

    KPIs are quantifiable values that demonstrate how efficiently an organization is achieving its objectives. In the context of native advertising, KPIs help marketers ascertain the performance of their native ad campaigns against their broader goals. Some common KPIs for native advertising include:

    1. Impressions: The total number of times an ad has been displayed to users. A higher number of impressions indicates higher visibility and reach of the ad.

    2. Click-Through Rate (CTR): The ratio of the number of clicks on the ad to the number of impressions. A high CTR implies that users find the ad content engaging and relevant.

    3. Time on Site: This metric measures users’ average time on your content. A longer duration signifies increased user engagement and interest in the material being advertised.

    4. Social Shares: This KPI indicates the number of times users share content on social media platforms. Higher social shares mean more people find the content appealing and are likely to recommend it to others.

    5. Bounce Rate: This metric represents the percentage of users who leave your site after viewing only one page. A low bounce rate usually indicates that users find the content engaging and are exploring more content on the site.

    Engagement Metrics

    Engagement metrics measure how users interact with the native advertising content. These metrics can reveal user behavior and preferences insights, enabling marketers to optimize their native ad campaigns accordingly. Some significant engagement metrics include:

    1. Video Completion Rates: For native video ads, this metric tracks the percentage of users who watch the entire video. A high completion rate indicates that users find the video content engaging and valuable.

    2. Interaction Rates: This metric refers to the percentage of users who interact with the ad, such as hovering over, clicking on the links or elements within the ad, or any other calls to action. Higher interaction rates suggest the effectiveness of the ad’s design, messaging, and overall user experience.

    3. Scroll Depth: This metric evaluates how far down the page users scroll before exiting the site. Greater scroll depth implies that users find the content engaging enough to read and explore further.

    Conversion Metrics

    Conversion metrics track the number of users who take a desired action after engaging with native advertising. Conversions can vary depending on the goals of the campaign, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading an app. Some widely-used conversion metrics are:

    1. Conversion Rate: The ratio of users who convert (take the desired action) compared to the total number of users who interacted with the ad. A higher conversion rate indicates a more effective native advertising campaign.

    2. Cost per Conversion: This metric calculates the marketing cost required to generate a single conversion. Lower costs per conversion signify a more efficient native advertising investment.

    3. Qualified Leads: This metric tracks the number of potential customers who have shown interest in your product or service by engaging with the native ad campaign.

    Return on Investment (ROI)

    ROI is a critical financial metric that assesses the overall profitability of marketing investment. For native advertising, marketers must calculate the ROI to determine if a campaign is yielding positive results. To compute the ROI, divide the revenue generated by the native ad campaign by the total investment and multiply the result by 100.

    In conclusion, measuring the success of native advertising campaigns is crucial to determine their effectiveness and optimize them for better performance. Marketers must use a combination of KPIs, engagement metrics, conversion metrics, and ROI to develop a comprehensive understanding of their native advertising success.

    The Challenges and Criticisms of Native Advertising

    Native advertising has become a popular business model for publishers and advertisers alike. Although the effectiveness of native ads in engaging with consumers is undeniable, the practice has its fair share of challenges and criticisms. 

    Concerns about Transparency and Trust

    One of the primary criticisms of native advertising is the concerns surrounding transparency and trust. Consumers are often wary of content that seems misleading or manipulative. Native ads, which are designed to resemble editorial content in appearance and style, can create confusion among readers about whether they’re engaging with editorial content, sponsored content, or disguised advertisements. This lack of clarity can blur the lines between objective journalism and brand promotion, potentially eroding readers’ trust in the publisher.

    Moreover, some advertisers and publishers do not explicitly disclose the sponsored nature of native ads, which can further erode trust in this content and, ultimately, damage the publisher’s reputation. This concern has sparked heated debates among industry stakeholders, with some arguing that native ads should be clearly labeled as sponsored content, while others believe that such labels could discourage user engagement.

    Ad Saturation and Banner Blindness

    Another challenge for native advertising is ad saturation and banner blindness. As more publishers adopt native ads, consumers are increasingly bombarded with sponsored content, often encountering it in their social media feeds, search results, and newsfeeds. This proliferation of native ads can contribute to “ad saturation,” in which consumers become desensitized to marketing messages and, as a result, are less likely to engage with them.

    Regulatory Compliance, Disclosure, and Guidelines

    Regulatory compliance and disclosure are other significant challenges native advertising faces. In many countries, regulatory bodies have imposed guidelines and requirements for publishers and advertisers to disclose the sponsored nature of native ads clearly. These requirements protect consumers from being misled and maintain fair competition in the advertising industry.

    However, compliance with these rules can be a challenge for both advertisers and publishers due to the varied nature and evolving forms of native ads and the sometimes subjective interpretations of what constitutes proper disclosure. Meeting the legal requirements for disclosure can also be a balancing act, as marketers must maintain transparency without alienating their audience or violating various platforms’ policies on sponsored content.

    Difficulty in Scaling and Distribution

    Finally, scaling and distribution present unique challenges for native advertising. Unlike traditional display ads, which can be created once and then distributed across multiple platforms and ad networks, native ads often need to be tailored to the specific platform or publisher on which they appear. This level of customization requires more resources, time, and effort from both advertisers and publishers, making it difficult to scale campaigns effectively.

    Moreover, some advertising networks and platforms may not support native ad formats or may have strict guidelines and requirements for native ads, further complicating the distribution process. Advertisers may need to work closely with publishers and platforms, negotiating contracts and adhering to unique specifications, adding even more complexity to an already intricate advertising landscape.

    The Future of Native Advertising

    Native advertising has evolved rapidly in response to the growing demand for less intrusive and personalized ad experiences. The ability of native ads to blend seamlessly with the content they’re embedded in makes them a popular choice for marketers and publishers alike. As native advertising continues to mature, it’s essential to explore the emerging trends and the likely future of this ad format. In this article, we’ll dive into some of the key areas driving growth and development in native advertising.

    Emerging Formats and Platforms

    The proliferation of new ad formats and platforms will significantly shape the future of native advertising. As more and more channels adopt native ads, marketers are presented with new opportunities to reach and engage with their audience. For instance, the rise of social media has led to native ads becoming a staple feature of platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

    In addition to social media, native advertising is heading towards newer platforms such as podcasts, streaming services, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). These emerging platforms will enable advertisers to integrate their messages seamlessly into various forms of content, providing consumers with richer and more immersive ad experiences.

    Aside from new platforms, there’s a growing interest in using innovative ad formats to enhance the native advertising landscape. For instance, branded content articles, sponsored videos, and sponsored infographics are among the native ad formats that are expected to gain traction.

    Technology-Driven Innovations

    The future of native advertising will be closely tied to advancements in technology, particularly in the realms of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). These innovations will make it easier for marketers to create and distribute native ads at scale while ensuring optimal targeting and personalization.

    For instance, AI-powered content recommendation engines are now being used to recommend and distribute native ads on publisher websites, matching user preferences and browsing habits. Similarly, AI and ML can help with sentiment analysis, enabling advertisers to tailor their messaging according to the emotions evoked by the surrounding content.

    Increasing Personalization and Targeting

    Audience targeting and personalization will continue to play a critical role in the future of native advertising. As mentioned earlier, using AI and ML will help advertisers deliver more relevant and engaging native ads, further enhancing their effectiveness.

    Moreover, data-driven insights will better understand individual users’ preferences, behaviors, and demographics, enabling advertisers to create hyper-targeted native ads that resonate strongly with their target audiences. This heightened level of personalization is expected to improve the user experience while driving better engagement and conversion rates for marketers.

    Stricter Regulation and Industry Standards

    As native advertising matures, we can anticipate increased regulatory scrutiny to protect users’ interests. This will likely require greater transparency and disclosure from marketers and publishers regarding the native ads they display.

    Organizations like the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) are already working on creating industry standards to tackle this issue. The IAB’s native advertising guidelines aim to minimize the risk of misleading or deceiving consumers by requiring clear disclosure of native ads. In the future, we might see more stringent regulations and industry standards that govern how native ads should be labeled and presented to users.

    Native Advertising – FAQs

    1. What is Native Advertising?

    Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed. Essentially, the ad content matches the surrounding editorial content, making it less intrusive and more engaging for the audience (IAB, 2013).

    2. What are the Key Components of Native Advertising?

    The key components of native advertising include content relevance, format, and user experience. The content should be informative and highly related to the editorial material, the format should align with the platform, and the user experience should feel seamless and non-disruptive (Sarid, 2017).

    3. How Does Native Advertising Benefit Advertisers?

    Native advertising benefits advertisers by providing an unobtrusive solution to traditional advertising, increasing user engagement and brand trust. It effectively reaches the audience without interrupting their browsing experience, leading to a higher likelihood of ad recall and conversion (Lee, 2018).

    4. What are the Common Formats of Native Advertising?

    Common formats of native advertising include in-feed ads, promoted listings, sponsored content, and custom content units. Each format serves a different purpose and aims to fit seamlessly into the user’s browsing experience, depending on the platform and content (IAB, 2013).

    5. How is Native Advertising Different From Content Marketing?

    While both native advertising and content marketing deliver valuable information to users, native advertising is a paid form of content integrated into a platform’s editorial framework, while content marketing primarily focuses on creating and distributing branded content across various channels (Aguilar, 2018).

    6. How Can Advertisers Measure the Effectiveness of Native Advertising?

    The effectiveness of native advertising can be measured through engagement metrics such as click-through rate (CTR), time spent on the content, social sharing, and conversion rate. Additionally, monitoring user sentiment and brand lift can help determine the campaign’s overall success (Sarid, 2017).

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    Hanson Cheng

    About the author

    Living in Portugal with my wife and puppies.
    Scaling online businesses and sharing lessons learned on this website and in our email newsletter.

    Always happy to hear from you, so find me on Instagram if you want to say hi!

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