For reaching and interacting with target consumers, digital advertising is a crucial marketing tool. However, as consumers’ methods of finding and interacting with content get more sophisticated, native advertising offers businesses a fresh channel for spreading their message.
Below, we go over everything you need to know about native advertising, including what it is, why it’s significant, how it functions, and how to utilize native ads to accomplish your marketing objectives.
The term ‘native advertising’ refers to a paid ad placement that appears in the same format and style as the non-paid content where it’s placed. For example, sponsored posts on your LinkedIn feed are clearly labeled as such, but otherwise, they look the same as the organic posts around them.
Native ads can be found everywhere, from your favorite publisher sites to your favorite social channels.
As an advertisement that fits seamlessly into the user experience, they’re more contextual than other forms of digital advertising (e.g. display and banner ads). Instead of appearing off to the side or across the top of a web page, native ads mimic the look, feel, and function of a medium’s content.
This formatting helps improve the user experience, making the ad part of the user’s feed rather than an interruption. While people are trained to ignore banner ads and the like, native ads have a better opportunity of being seen — precisely because they blend in.
Due to their effectiveness, native ads are becoming more and more popular, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all digital display ad spending. In fact, native digital display advertising spend in the US was expected to reach a new high of $87.6 billion in 2022, more than doubling in just three years.
Content has become a central part of our lives. From the moment we wake up to the moment we say goodnight, we devour news articles, television shows, photos and social media posts. According to eMarketer, the average US adult spends 12 hours and 1 minute each day consuming media. Yes, you read that right.
With so much content in our lives, and so little time to consume it all, today’s web users have trained themselves to ignore intrusive ads and more people are using ad-blocking software to remove ads from sites altogether.
Native advertising is designed specifically not to look like an ad, making it harder to ignore. Instead, it’s designed to look like the rest of the content on the page. According to research from Outbrain, 75% of consumers trust content and recommendations seen in the editorial environment (native ads), versus 54% who trust user-generated content and recommendations.
Native ads also have the potential to increase conversions. A study by Taboola found that native ads were more effective than the industry average at raising brand favorability, message association, and customer consideration.
Similar to other forms of advertising, native ads have several formats, each with its own set of advantages. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has identified the following six types of native advertising.
1. In-feed units
In-feed native advertising units are similar to the scenario we outlined above. If you’re seeing sponsored posts appear in your social media feeds or on a publisher’s site (e.g. Forbes, Mashable), those are in-feed units. They’re paid placements that appear directly in-line with other articles, posts, or editorial content.
In-feed units look different from site to site as they fit into each site’s unique user experience.
2. Paid search units
Native advertising is also a popular advertising method for search engines. Those top-of-the-page advertising placements you’re bidding on? Technically, they’re native ad placements as those top paid search results are made to fit in with the organic search results below them.
3. Recommendation widgets
Another spot where you’ll find native ads on publisher sites, social media, and even search engine results pages is in recommendation widgets. You’ll often see these ads off to the side of a web page, or even at the end of an article, to recommend additional content you might like.
4. Promoted listings
If you have an online shopping habit (like many of us), you see promoted listings regularly. To give you an example, when searching for new marketing books, several sponsored listings appear on Amazon.com. However, while those publishers paid for those media placements, they’re made to look just like the organic listings.
5. Display ad with native elements
This type of native advertising looks just like any other ad you might see online. You may even see them in an ad container or banner. What makes them native, however, is that they’re contextually relevant to the site they appear on and the content they appear next to.
Campbell’s, for example, placed an in-ad unit on allrecipes.com for their recipe collection. While the ad doesn’t look like the actual recipes listed on the site, it is contextually relevant to the page.
Given the speed of technological change and the potential for publisher partnerships, the IAB’s last type of native advertising leaves the door open for a range of possibilities. Creating a new Snapchat filter is an example of a custom native ad. The filter, while a form of paid media, fits within the app’s user interface alongside Snapchat’s other filters.
Many native ads are placed through programmatic buying; that is, an automated buying and selling of ad space through an intelligent platform. Programmatic advertising has seen double-digit growth year-over-year for multiple years, with total spending expected to pass $200 billion in the U.S. and $493 billion globally in 2023.
This comes as little surprise considering the speed, accuracy, and intelligence of programmatic ad buying software. Just plug in your campaign goals and KPIs, and watch the programmatic algorithm evolve based on audience behavior. The marketplace can change in an instant and programmatic buying can help to ensure that your ad campaigns quickly adapt to change.
Read Also: Native Ads vs Display Ads
When applied to native advertising, your in-feed, paid search, or other native ads will have a greater ability to reach specific audience segments. The programmatic algorithm will also help optimize native ad campaigns, doubling down on what works and pausing what doesn’t.
How to Develop Native Ads?
Native advertising is more popular every year, as companies realize its benefits for improving the user experience (and their bottom lines). That’s why organizations are spending more money on native ads.
But, how can organizations ensure they spend wisely and get the best results for their native advertising strategy? Here is how to develop a great native advertising strategy:
1. Set your SMART campaign goals
As with every strategic plan, the first step is to know where you want to go. Clearly define what you want to achieve. For example, if you want to generate leads, get more sales, increase website traffic, or more. Ensure your goals are SMART (Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely). Be specific so you can then track the success of your strategy.
2. Define your target audience
Once you know what you want to achieve with your campaign, you should understand who is the receiver of your ad. You may have an idea of who is your audience, according to your buyer personas. Factor in location, age, gender, and interests to narrow your audience. However, don’t be too narrow, as native ads are a great way to show content to new audiences. The right level of targeting can ensure your ads get to the right users at the right time.
3. Select where you will publish
No less important to know who to publish, is where to publish. As part of your native advertising strategy, you may choose to advertise through an ad network or directly with the publisher. If you choose to go the direct way, examine the publisher’s reach and the size of their audience. Most importantly is to check how relevant is their content for your users. Think as your reader would do, and select publishers that can provide value.
Leveraging an ad network produces more accurate results. An ad network evaluates thousands of publishers and finds the most relevant for your brand. And all of it happens by the time the publisher page loads, thanks to the magic of programmatic advertising.
4. Build attractive ads
The best strategy cannot succeed if the ads are not attractive to the user. The ads need to catch the attention of the user and encourage them to click on them. Keep in mind to test several combinations (A/B testing) until you find out which ad is better for your campaign.
5. Define and allocate your budget
Assigning a budget for the campaign can make it or break it. How much your campaign will cost will depend on how much do you spend on your campaign items, like your cost-per-click. Identify what is your ideal CPC and how much is your spending limit.
6. Monitor, test and adjust.
Once you launch the campaign, you should track the performance of your ads. Test headlines and images, the KPIs like the number of impressions, clicks, and conversions.
These six steps can help you design a successful native advertising strategy.
The Future of Native Advertising
It’s safe to say native advertising will continue to evolve. Stay ahead of the curve by keeping up on the following native advertising trends.
Currently, native ads are seen on search engines, publisher sites, retail sites, and social media platforms. The latter is forecasted to grow by nearly 14% in 2023. Instead of purchasing ad placements on publications, brands are investing more on in-feed advertisements, such as LinkedIn Sponsored Content and other similar ad types found on social media.
In the fourth quarter of 2022, mobile website traffic hit an all-time high of 59.16% of all web traffic. And as a whole, mobile digital advertising spend is expected to reach nearly $400 billion by 2024. Considering the advantages that native advertising presents on mobile devices, native mobile ads will also become an even more key investment. With limited real estate on mobile devices for display or banner ads, native ads afford more opportunities to engage your target audience on mobile.
Native video ads
According to eMarketer, native video advertising grew 42.6% in 2022, to $32.61 billion, and is forecasted to hit $38.3 billion in 2023. As consumers continue to demand more video content, native video ads are becoming more prevalent in social media feeds, publisher sites, and more.
Modern buyers value authenticity. User-generated content (UGC) helps build brand authenticity, creating deeper connections with your audience. Expect to see more native ads exploring UGC. For example: you might see more polls, surveys, or social media posts appear in native ad placements to drive audience interaction and build trust.
While native advertising resembles natural content, it’s important for credibility and trust-building that advertisements are clearly labeled as such. Expect to see more and more platforms creating ad disclosures that are more prominent — even on native ads. This gives the user greater transparency on what is and isn’t a paid promotion, so they can make more informed content consumption decisions.
Here are six factors to consider when choosing a native advertising network:
- Audience: Check that the native advertising network’s reach covers your target audience. This includes verifying the locations where the platform drives traffic from. If your product is targeted to English-speaking countries, your ad network reach needs to target those too. Look at the niches and industries they cover.
- Ad formats: The more variety of ad formats the ad network covers, the better. Choose a solution that can give you in-feed, recommendation widgets, mobile native ads, etc.
- Targeting options: Different tools deploy different technologies. When you compare platforms, pay attention to the targeting options they offer. While one platform can let you select publishers, others won’t give advertisers that much control.
- Bidding models: Each platform offers different bidding models. For example, manual or enhanced cost per click, cost per action, cost per view, cost per mile.
- Reporting: Consider how the system will report performance. Choose a solution that offers the most information. Ask which KPIs can you measure, if you can export and customize reports, and what are the filters available.
- Price and requirements: The signup price needs to align with your advertising budget. Before signing up, check the bidding models, requirements, and sign-up costs.