The Ultimate Native ads guide

Over the past years, we’ve seen a steady decline in the effectiveness of traditional advertising efforts. This is due in part to increasing skepticism on the part of readers but also due to general ad fatigue, whereby readers have become so accustomed to being advertised to that they’re no longer responsive to ads.

Gone are the days where a simple banner ad could win customers. And this makes good sense, doesn’t it?

Imagine you’re on the internet. You’re probably either looking for some entertainment or your searching for the answer to a specific problem. Now an ad pops up and disturbs your experience. Are you likely to click through on that ad? Probably not.

Even if the ad is relevant to your search activities, the very fact that it has interrupted your online activity will - at the very least - make you ignore it. At worst, it may even degrade your opinion of the brand that commissioned it.

This is where native advertising comes in. And guess what? It works!

  • Consumers look at native ads 53% more than they do display ads
  • Native ads create an 18% increase in purchase intent and generate 9% higher brand affinity than banner ads do
  • Not to mention, engagement with native content is found to be on par with - or in some cases, slightly higher - than engagement with regular editorial content

Native advertising is not exactly new. More recently, though, it’s been growing in prominence and financial importance.

In 2017, for example, native advertising brought in 20% of overall advertising revenue for news media organisations, that number is expected to be 36% by 2021. For magazine publishers in 2017, native brought in 31% of ad revenue, expected to increase to 46% by 2021.

Native advertising, it seems, is trickling into the mainstream, becoming an essential tool in the marketer’s toolbox.

This comprehensive guide discusses definitions, best practices, and industry trends, all with the goal of helping you create great native.

Native advertising, it seems, is trickling into the mainstream, becoming an essential tool in the marketer’s toolbox.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: What is Native Advertising?

Chapter 2: What’s the Difference between Native Advertising and Content Marketing?

Chapter 3: What’s the Difference between Branded Content and Native Advertising?

Chapter 4: Is Native Advertising Deceptive?

Chapter 5: Native Advertising and User Experience

Chapter 6: Formats and Platforms for Native Advertising

Chapter 7: How to Use Native Advertising on Social Media

Chapter 8: Important Metrics for Native Advertising

Chapter 9: Great Examples of Native Advertising

Chapter 10: Native Advertising Trends

Chapter 11: How Do you Create a Native Ads Strategy

1. What is Native Advertising?

Maybe you only have a vague idea of what native advertising is? Or 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.

What is native ads?

Created to match the form and function of the space in which it’s hosted, native advertising or native ads is non-interruptive advertising that readers actually select to consume.

Native advertising serves to bridge the gap between companies and customers in ways traditional advertising can only dream of. So now you need to know exactly how and why native advertising works.

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?

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 published on third party websites, paid for by the advertiser.

The paid content “piggybacks” on the efforts of the third party site, to reach an audience outside of what the advertiser can reach through its 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.

The paid content “piggybacks” on the efforts of the third party site, to reach an audience outside of what the advertiser can reach through its own channels.

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 colors 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 they are tagged with “Sponsored”, “Advertisement”, or a similar label. Native ads don’t disrupt the experience the way a banner, popup, or in-line ad does.

And it works.

Native ads are more frequently looked at and shared. Above this, research shows that 70% of consumers prefer to learn about products and services through content. Native advertising is perfectly suited to deliver on that.

Native Ad Content Types

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.

  • Advertorials in newspapers and magazines
  • Sponsored programming on tv and radio
  • Promoted posts on social media

Each of these different content types take advantage of the strengths of their respective 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 that it’s paid content. After all, we don’t want to mislead the audience.

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

On tv and radio, a sponsored program works a bit differently. 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 goes deeper into your selected target group.

And since any social media feed quickly overflows with posts, the sponsored or promoted posts are 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 are 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.

2. What’s the Difference between Native Advertising and Content Marketing?

Native advertising is an extension of content marketing and provides marketers with a platform to place content in front of a wider audience they wouldn’t ordinarily reach.

While both tactics have the fundamental goal of promoting products and services without appearing as advertising, there is a significant difference in the approach, cost, and delivery.

The Essence of Content Marketing

The ultimate goal of content marketing is to build a following of readers that trust your brand. It’s a long-term strategy that demonstrates credibility and positions you as an expert in your field.

The added value of content marketing is that high-quality content can improve your search engine rankings and improve your organic online visibility.

The Essence of Native Advertising

Native advertising is essentially a content marketing tactic. The objectives are the same in that you are publishing content that provides readers with value. In a nutshell, native advertising is paid content presented as organic content. It is hosted on third-party websites, the space of which is paid for by the advertiser.

The fundamental requirement of native advertising is to seamlessly integrate a piece of content into a targeted environment. Regardless of the platform you buy ad placements for, the content must appeal to the site’s general audience.

It Comes Down to Owned Media vs Paid Media

In order to fully grasp the difference between native advertising and content marketing, it is important to understand the difference between owned media and paid media.

In the words of digital marketing influencer, Heidi Cohen, “An owned media platform is a content management system where the information, its format and the means of distribution are totally under your organization’s control.”

Content marketing, therefore, is an inbound marketing strategy that involves building your own audience and pulling it towards your advertising platforms.

Native advertising, on the other hand, is regarded as paid media which takes advantage of an audience that has already been established by a third-party platform.

Essentially, native advertising involves paying for ad placement, in order to gain access to a wider readership.

Exposure to an existing audience saves a significant amount of time and resources. The initial outlay is more expensive, but the potential response rates are more immediate.

In a nutshell, native advertising is paid content presented as organic content. It is hosted on third-party websites, the space of which is paid for by the advertiser.

3. What’s the Difference between Branded Content and Native Advertising?

How do you tell the difference between branded content and native advertising?

We’ve all heard the term branded content thrown around quite a bit, and even for those active in the industry, differentiating between branded content and native advertising is not such a straight-forward task. That’s why we’re here to clear it up for you.

Generally speaking, branded content is content which is developed for distribution by the brand itself.

Native advertising, on the other hand, is where content gets promoted on other websites and where getting the ad in front of readers is paid for.

As discussed previously, some examples include:

  • Promoted posts on Facebook
  • Promoted content recommendation on other sites

Make sense? Well here’s where it gets a bit more confusing…

In many cases, a publisher–for example a news site–will themselves write an article on behalf of a brand. In fact, we’re seeing more and more teams within the newsrooms entirely dedicated to the pursuit. These are often referred to as brand studios.

Generally speaking, when a publisher produces content on the part of a brand, this is can be considered a custom native ad—at least according to the IAB Native Advertising Playbook 2.0. This wasn’t always the case, though. In the past, content such as this was deemed branded content, hence the confusion that still lingers today.

How Do you Tell Native Advertising from Branded Content?

The difference essentially lies in where the content has been placed. For instance, when content is created for a brand’s owned channels, this can be considered branded content. When content is created with the intent of distribution elsewhere, with the tone of voice, content, and format selected according to intended placement, this can be considered native advertising. Content which is made with the intent of distribution is still considered branded content until that content is turned into an ad.

These may sound like technicalities and perhaps they are, but industry-wide agreement on certain definitions is important for moving the native advertising discipline forward and ensuring high quality standards.

Branded content is content which is developed for distribution by the brand itself. Native advertising, on the other hand, is where content gets promoted on other websites and where getting the ad in front of readers is paid for.

4. Is Native Advertising Deceptive?

With the rise in native advertising, there has also come a lot of naysaying and not all of it is unfounded. Since native advertising is still rather nascent with regard to entering the mainstream, there haven’t been all too many standards in place to ensure consistent quality and avoid instances of deception.

A big issue, for example, has been the labeling of native ads. While publishers are required to label native ads, many have gotten by with quite subtle labels. Some still refrain from labeling altogether. In 2018, for example, 9% of publisher globally were still not labeling native advertising. In the magazine industry, that number is 14% with a whopping 34% that consider poor labeling practice to be the greatest threat to native advertising.

The fact of the matter is, native advertising is not meant to be deceptive. It’s not meant to pass for editorial content in efforts to deceive readers. In fact, it’s poised to be more transparent and offer greater informational value to readers. The problem is, many practitioners did – and still do – think that by tricking into consuming native ads, they will be able to have a greater impact.

It turns out, the opposite is true. In fact, research shows that the more transparent and explicit a sponsored label is on a native ad, the more receptive the reader is to it. This is particularly true if the ad is contextual and relevant to the reader’s experience.

While we’re seeing more and more truly exceptional and high-quality examples of native advertising springing up left and right, we’re still certainly seeing low-quality examples that are giving the discipline a bad rep – remember that one time when the Atlantic ran a native ad for Scientology?

The best thing that we can do is work toward industry standards and ethical practice. Surround yourself with like-minded peers and continuously discuss and challenge one another. We have a great opportunity to make advertising transparent and trustworthy through native, but we must safeguard the discipline.

Research shows that the more transparent and explicit a sponsored label is on a native ad, the more receptive the reader is to it.

5. Native Advertising and User Experience

The effectiveness of any website can largely be determined by its ability to retain people’s attention. Online, the attention span isn’t impressing on its own, but by focusing on usability, user experience, and great content of course, a website can retain people’s presence for a long time and secure their return.

This makes a website interesting to marketers as a means to reach an audience and get their products and services in front of the right people.

The user experience is vital to a website’s ability to retain their users’ attention and as such, anything that jeopardizes this experience, potentially jeopardizes the website’s future.

Traditional Ads Demand Attention

If you visit a website and browse its content, you are often exposed to ads. They might be banners, large images or even video with sound, but the common trait is that they all seek to gain your attention.

You could say that their entire purpose is to get you to notice them instead of the content on the actual site.

This makes traditional marketing efforts obtrusive and disruptive to the user experience.

Native Advertising Blends In

The whole idea with native advertising is for the native content to blend in with the rest of the content on that particular platform. The content is presented in the same style and format as any other piece of content on the site.

Native ads are delivered inside the user’s experience which makes native content non-disruptive. Your attention flows seamlessly between editorial and native content, with focus on the value you gain from the content.

Unobtrusive advertising gets your message out in front of people without sparking their resent for you being there. When native advertising is done right, you aren’t interrupting their flow, in fact, you are contributing to it.

When Do Native Ads Hurt the User Experience?

Nothing’s perfect, and it is possible to break people’s flow of content-consumption with native advertising.

Overall this happens when your native ads don’t line up with the style of the platform. It happens when your content fails to hit the same nerve as the rest of the content. It happens when your content isn’t relevant to the user.

In short, your native content interrupts the user experience, when it doesn’t live up to the ideals of native advertising.

Labels Don’t Hurt

The label identifies your content as advertising to the user, and some companies and marketers are reluctant to put the label on their content thinking it will hurt their CTR and overall engagement.

However, imagine being curious about a piece of content, clicking on it only to find out it actually is a piece of paid content, advertising in disguise. You feel hoodwinked, your user experience is disrupted and now it feels less safe to navigate the publishing website. At the same time, your regard for the advertising company has taken a hit.

Studies show that labels don’t hurt user experience, quite the contrary. The reason is, that user experience is guided by expectations. As long as the user gets what they expect, it doesn’t matter whether the content is editorial or paid, the experience is continued.

When you label your content, the user doesn’t feel mislead which creates a better experience and increases your company’s credibility.

The 5 Best Practices to Improve User Experience

To help you steer clear of interrupting the user experience, we have collected five best practices for your native advertising efforts:

  1. Improve relevancy with better targeting and by distributing the content in the right section of a website.
  2. Focus on the long run to build credibility, don’t use click bait to drive traffic now and risk decreasing peoples trust in the company.
  3. Label everything and preferably with a byline to show, that editorial staff has created the content.
  4. Be aware of differences in what works on different platforms, with different formats and content types.
  5. Give people an opportunity to respond to your native ads. You can learn a lot about your audience’s intentions and preferences, which will help you optimize the content as well as adjust the relevancy.

With these five guidelines, you should be able to not only secure but improve the user experience and, as a result, the performance of your ads.

Nudge, Measure, and Analyze

Native advertising is in many ways that virtual gentle prod or nudge, to get people to take a certain action. Usually clicking on and reading a piece of content. So how many responded to that nudge? How many read the content? How long did they stay on the site?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions you don’t know whether your content and your distribution of the content has been effective. More than that, you don’t know how well your content fits into the users’ experience.

Measuring click-through rates, page-views, and time spent on site are important to determine the effectiveness of your native content. Low CTRs can mean anything from bad headlines, poor images, or poor location on site as well as low relevance for the users.

You might have to change several things to make the content work better, but the point is, that all the mentioned possibilities point to a poor user experience. Creating great content that blends into the user experience, sometimes even lifting it, is the ultimate nudge in native advertising.

Measuring, analyzing, and then optimizing your native ads helps you give people just that: The right nudge.

6. Formats and Platforms for Native Advertising

So, native advertising is a way to reach out to an audience in an unobtrusive way that looks and reads as the surrounding content and succeeds in building trust, brand awareness, generate leads, and more.

Sounds great! Now how do you do that? And what formats and platforms should you be using for your native advertising efforts?

If your answer begins with a variation of “I think it has something to do with…”, then you might want to read along because we are about to take you on a guided tour of the “how” of native advertising.

The tour begins with the formats of native ads, dictated by the places where you can publish your content. We’ll discuss the three core formats that dominate native ads online, how they perform on desktop computers and mobile devices, and which solutions exist for getting your content in front of the right people.

What are the Best Native Advertising Formats?

The short – and quite annoying – answer to the question is, “it depends”. Your business may be able to reach the most relevant target group by using formats that would make other companies miss the mark.

If you have your own data on how different formats perform for your business, it might be wise to trust that, over someone else’s list of best practices.

There are, however, some general insights you probably should consider when planning your next native advertising campaign.

Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the available formats for native ads.

Types of Native Advertising Formats

The different native ads can be divided into three core types, as presented by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in their latest native advertising playbook:

  • In-feed, also referred to as in-content
  • Content recommendation ads, available through widgets
  • Branded content, also known as native content

In-Feed Ads

The in-feed native ads are presented as, for example, sponsored posts on Facebook, sponsored content on Instagram, promoted tweets on Twitter. In the feed you are enjoying, you might find sponsored content, and it will look like everything else in the feed, except for the “sponsored”-tag.

In-feed, or in-content, ads are effective because they are unobtrusive and don’t yell campaign slogans at the audience.

These native ads aren’t exclusive to social media, by any means, since you can also find them on content and commerce feeds.

Content Recommendation Ads

Ever noticed the sponsored content in the recommendations section on a news or content site? Those are content recommendations ads. Ever notice how the recommended, sponsored content isn’t always relevant to either your preferences or the site you are visiting?

Yeah, that can be an issue, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The point here is that including your content in the recommendations section is a native advertising format, in fact, it’s a dominant native ad format.

Branded Content

Paid content published in the style and format of an editorial piece on a publishers website is considered branded content.

The common example is the basic advertorial, which looks and reads like a newspaper or magazine article, except for it being sponsored. You can find this format in both print and online.

What about Paid Search?

You might ask, well what about paid search, isn’t that native advertising too?

Paid search looks and feels like the organic search results, yet it’s an ad, and from that perspective, it certainly seems like native advertising. However, the industry looks at search as a separate category of ads and not as part of native advertising.

Native Formats Revisited

You can be successful with your native ads on all three formats listed in this article. What you need to be aware of is the quality of your content and which platform you choose to host your native ads, in order to be sure you’re present where your preferred target audience is active.

That being said, the two dominant formats are in-feed and content recommendation ads. These formats each have their strong suits, both in relation to how people engage with your content and which kind of device best suits the format.

In the following, we dive into a discussion of the two formats and their strengths and weaknesses.

How Do the Formats Perform on Mobile and Desktop?

People are more active on mobile devices and consume more content on mobile. That gives an advantage to mobile over desktop. In fact, the click-through rates are significantly higher on mobile devices than on desktop.

This might be because native ads on mobile fit seamlessly into the feed on social media, in emails, as recommendations on websites as well as in apps. The design on mobile devices simply does a better job of integrating native ads on different platforms.

With that said, though, you should look at this advantage as more as a potential, rather than a flatout “win” for mobile. Overall engagement, it seems, is still greater on desktop, where page views are higher and bounce rates are lower compared to mobile.

All this is to say, with mobile, you might have an easier time getting people to click-through to your content, but once there, they tend to be just as quick to leave. Maybe this is due to the generally higher attention span on desktop.

All in all, it’s safe to say the potential of mobile still isn’t fully fulfilled. People are mobile first and therefore it is a good idea for you to be too, as long as you work to secure more interactions and engagement from all the traffic mobile generates.

It’s a process, so don’t neglect the desktop experience, since it currently outperforms mobile on engagement.

How Do you Get Your Content in Front of an Audience?

The two dominating formats in native advertising, in-feed and content recommendation ads, can be set up and controlled through specialized online services.

The different social media networks each have their own services, and there are also third-party platforms that let you set up and optimize native ads on several networks at once.

And it works roughly the same way with content recommendation ads, but you might want to take a long look at how they work. Generally, these services provide a widget that companies and publishers can integrate on their website. The widget fills in some of the content slots with sponsored and promoted content.

The idea is that the visitor on the site is recommended other relevant pieces of content to consume and some of these will be sponsored, native ads. The key word here is ‘relevant’.

What you need to be aware of is that the companies who provide these recommendations have different ways of determining what is relevant to the visitor.

Some have an algorithm, which focuses on popularity as the primary metric to determine relevance. This means that you might be recommended an article on the “Top 10 Sexiest Men in Hollywood,” even though you were reading a piece on climate change. The subjects have arguably very little, if anything, to do with each other, but the recommended article might be very popular, and that is why you are exposed to it.

On the other hand, some providers of content recommendation widgets take the subject and the hosting site into account when determining what is relevant.

As native ads rely heavily on the viewer’s perception of relevancy, it is not surprising that the latter tends to perform better. In fact, if the native content doesn’t seem to be relevant or it turns out to miss the mark when clicked on, it often reflects poorly on the company.

If content is king, relevancy is a kingmaker.

When it comes to branded content, the process of bringing it in front of people doesn’t really rely on automation. Usually, branded content is much more of a collaboration with a publisher, than just a paid service.

If content is king, relevancy is a kingmaker.

7. How to Use Native Advertising on Social Media

The various social media platforms are quite different from each other, and it might feel a bit overwhelming to try to grasp their full potential in a native ad strategy.

How to use native ads on social media platforms can seem confusing when they have different ways of creating and presenting ads, and the types of content differ in both form and function.

We are Here to Help

In the following, we discuss these aspects – and more – in order to help you get the most out of your native advertising efforts on social media.

Keep in mind, not all social ads are native advertising, it is not the media platform that makes it native advertising, it is the content and the way it is presented. If the ad promotes content, not an account or an offer, and it blends in with the surrounding content, it is considered native advertising.

So much for the overall definition of native ads on social media, but before we dive into the different ways to promote your content, we will address the ‘why’: Why should you use native advertising on social media?

The best answer is actually another question:

Where is your Target Group?

One of the main goals of native advertising is to be present where your target group is hanging out. Native ads take advantage of an existing audience by publishing content on an established platform, which on social media could be groups and pages on Facebook and popular channels on Instagram and Twitter.

That is why the question above is one of the most important questions you are going to ask yourself when planning a marketing campaign.

The answer will be different depending on your business and the goal of your campaign, but chances are that one of the places your target group hangs out is on social media. It’s more a question of defining which social media platform they use than if they use any.

Because social media is being used to such a great degree today, your native ads could find a lot of success through social channels.

Influencer Campaigns

One of the most effective ways of reaching a specific audience is to collaborate with an influencer. These “gatekeepers of attention” have spent a lot of time and effort on collecting followers and subscribers you can gain access to.

What sets influencers apart from media companies and other professionals is that they typically have a very strong connection with their audience, and their audience is usually very engaged.

This means that your content is more likely to be noticed when presented through an influencer than in a group or as a social ad.

You can find influencers on just about any social platform, though Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook might be some of the more prevalent ones. Besides the social platforms, many influencers have their own blog on a website of their own.

Instagram: Sponsored Content

As we just mentioned, influencers are a great way to use Instagram to reach a specific audience, but this social media platform also has a more direct way for you to use native ads: Sponsored photos and videos. So what are sponsored photos and videos on Instagram?

They are basically advertisements that look and feels like everything else on Instagram except for the label ‘Sponsored’ which replaces the time stamp.

The idea is to present the Instagram sponsored ad in a way targeted users already know and enjoy and therefore the basic format of an Instagram post is retained.

The targeted users are selected based on their activity on Instagram and the parent company Facebook.

The information gathered is used to determine the users’ interests, and if they are relevant to your brand, they will see your ad.

Facebook: Sponsored Posts

With a sponsored post on Facebook, you pay to make sure, your followers see your content.

What this means is that you will only reach people, who already ‘Like’ your page. While this may seem ineffective, the truth is, that it can be quite necessary in order to make sure your followers see your content.

The reason for this is that it is quite easy for your followers to miss a post if they aren’t logged in when the post is active in the news feed. Adding to this, Facebook uses an algorithm to determine how interesting your content is to each follower and rank it accordingly in their individual feed.

Because of this, pages on Facebook only reach about 16% of their followers on average, and this goes for all pages, not just business pages.

A sponsored post is simply a post that you pay for to show up in your followers’ news feed the next time they are active.

The post will be labeled ‘sponsored’, it is easy to spot in a typical feed, it is simple to launch, and it drives better engagement from followers.

Because social media is being used to such a great degree today, your native ads could find a lot of success through social channels.

Twitter: Promoted Tweets

In contrast to Facebook, promoted tweets on Twitter can help you expand the reach of your content, by presenting your best content to your followers as well as people who aren’t following you. Yet!

When creating your promoted tweet, you can select an existing tweet to promote or create a new one with a specific, promotional purpose in mind. The promoted tweet will be visible in a user’s timeline on any device if Twitter finds the tweet relevant to the user.

Again, the tweet resembles a normal tweet except for the ‘Promoted’ tag, and you can use it to drive traffic and leads as well as offer deals or promote sales.

Use the promoted tweet in whatever form that makes sense to you, but if it is a part of a native ad campaign, remember to promote content instead of offers, deals, or discounts.

LinkedIn: Sponsored Updates

With a sponsored update on LinkedIn, your company can easily promote any post to a targeted audience’ news feed. Like the promoted tweet, LinkedIn’s sponsored update is a way to expand your reach and connect with new followers.

The update itself looks just like a regular one except for the ‘Sponsored’ tag, and it is a great way to promote your content to an audience of your choosing.

LinkedIn has a lot of information on the users’ jobs, titles, location, education level, and their companies which all makes for good filtering when choosing your audience.

With a sponsored update on LinkedIn you might not get as much traffic as on other social media platforms, but you will get highly qualified traffic.

8. Important Metrics for Native Advertising

As native advertising continues to grow in prominence, becoming an even more integral part of marketing strategies and bringing in larger chunks of advertising revenue for publishers, the question arises, how can we measure and truly prove the worth of native?

As spend on native ads increases, brands will increasingly insist on harder metrics to prove ROI and justify spend.

A recent report by the Native Advertising Institute showed that in 2018, while performance metrics—such as audience engagement and time spent seemed to be on the rise, harder metrics—such as using sales numbers to measure effectiveness seem to be on the decline, at least in the news media industry. For example, 2018 saw a fall in the number of publishers using sales as a metric, dropping from 32% of those surveyed in 2017 to 24%.

The magazine industry, according to another NAI report, seems to be shifting slightly more toward the harder metrics, with sales as a metric becoming more prominent among magazine executives—lifting from 26% in 2017 to 28% in 2018. Along the same lines, purchasing intent as a metric is being used more frequently—17% in 2018, up from 10%. The fact of the matter is, though, traffic (a metric used by 67% of magazine executives) and audience engagement (a metric used by 73%) are still by far the most popular KPIs.

Perhaps these sorts of measures have cut it up to now, but industry experts predict this won’t be the case for long.

“They are simply prerequisites for success. Advertisers, though, are often times looking for ‘harder’ conversion metrics,” states the report in response to the overwhelming reliance on these softer metrics within the industry.

A Call for Harder Metrics

How to measure the performance of native advertising is a prominent challenge in the industry. More specifically, the need for better performance indicators, more in line with client business objectives.

“Good native advertising must, at least, be measured on what kind of relevant content it attracts and, more importantly, on client KPIs,” explains Pierre Wingren, Head of Native Advertising & Programmatic at N365 Group. He continues:

“In 2019 there will be no such thing as a “great piece” if it’s not delivering on the agreed upon KPIs. Whether it’s sales, B2B leads or just engaging and relevant traffic is, of course, up to the client. For years we’ve been talking about this and we can now see a trend where more clients are becoming aware.”

In other words, as native advertising continues to become a more formalised practice, we can’t get away with just trying to produce great content pieces, we need to drive specific results and be looking at the proper metrics for proof that we are.

“Native advertising is maturing and with this growth, advertisers will demand a data and insights-led approach, across all project phases. The data and insights spotlight will require proof that the right content is being planned, that the correct optimizations are being administered in flight and that KPIs are being measured to determine ultimate success….2019 will be the year of ‘prove it,’” predicts Dan Rubin, Executive Director at Studio M, Meredith Corporation.

We can’t get away with just trying to produce great content pieces, we need to drive specific results and be looking at the proper metrics for proof that we are.

Brands Will Need to Step up Too

These ideas seem to be a call to action, not only for publishers or creators of content but also for the brands that commission it. Because as Melanie Deziel, Brand Storytelling Keynote Speaker and Founder of StoryFuel, explains “Those brands who get distracted by shiny new objects in the form of formats or social platforms will find themselves chasing vanity metrics and short-term goals without long-term satisfaction and meaningful impact on their marketing goals.”

9. Great Examples of Native Advertising

Native advertising is becoming the most important marketing trend globally. With its non-disruptive approach, native advertising produces much better results than traditional ad formats.

The new model is growing substantially. In fact, as of 2017, 20% of news media publishers’ overall advertising revenue came from native advertising, and that number is expected to grow to 36% by 2021. For magazine publishers, those numbers were 31% and 46% respectively.

According to new estimates, based off historical data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC, as well as IHS, native display revenue may make up as much of three-quarters of the U.S. ad market.

Consequently, we are now witnessing a continuous development of native advertising strategies, while ad solutions are becoming more creative each day. Below, we walk through five stellar examples of native advertising from 2019.

5 Great Native Advertising Campaigns

Competition in the field of native advertising is getting stronger and more creative. We have seen the coming trends and the way advertisers will be trying to win over the buyers. There are many examples of exciting campaigns, and we’ve picked five of them.

These campaigns successfully implemented modern principles of native advertising. Let’s see what they are about, and what you can learn from them.

Internet: Honest Alexa

To rival Amazon’s ever-popular Prime Days, online marketplace eBay created its own promotional ‘Crash Sale.’ Alluding to the crash of Amazon’s homepage during last year’s Prime Days.

The company promised amazing deals in the event that Amazon’s site crashed again. To promote this cheeky initiative, eBay created a video ad featuring a girl named Alexa (parodying the Amazon virtual assistant by the same name) who criticizes Prime Day’s encouraging her father to check out eBays deals instead.

Witty and timely, is safe to say, we’re big fans.

Media: Chernobyl. The Human Cost of Misinformation: How Silence and Lies Exacerbated the 1986 Chernobyl Disaster

“As HBO’s new miniseries Chernobyl and a companion podcast highlight, propaganda and obfuscation contributed to history’s worst nuclear tragedy—and modern observers are likely to notice the same distortions at play in today’s online landscape.”

In order to promote its miniseries, Chernobyl, HBO partnered with the New Yorker, to give a sneak peek into the events that lead to the Chernobyl disaster, paralleling them to events taking place today.

A simple example, this piece of native advertising could just have well been an ordinary piece by the New Yorker. It seamlessly draws the reader in, then presents a trailer for the show, and then the viewing details.

Food and Beverage: Bring Your Beer to Work Day

In promotion of Heineken’s alcohol-free product, Heineken 0.0%, Heineken created an event titled, Bring your beer to work day, which they commiserated through a promotional video, in which actors from the popular television series, The Office stopped by real workplaces, armed with cases of the beer and the research-backed claim that drinking at the workplace could actually boost morale.

Fun, entertaining to watch, and featuring everyone’s favorite office workers in character, this is certainly native at its best.

Technology: Awards Predictor Powered by Microsoft AI

Leading up to the this year’s Oscar awards, Microsoft paired with the Hollywood Reporter to create an awards predictor, powered by Microsoft AI.

This is a great example of what native should look like ideally, as it demonstrates the value of the product, without having to explicitly mention it, but also because it’s so naturally interesting and timely for readers of the Hollywood Reporter. The predictor, as it encourages audience participation, through voting, gets readers engaging and interacting, certainly not coming across as an ad.

Media: Amazon Prime Student

Amazon partnered with the Tab, to develop a quiz for students to decide on what series to binge-watch next. It’s incredibly simple, relevant to the demographic and certainly got them some visibility (We’re used to Netflix telling us what to watch next, it’s about time another streaming service did).

The quiz promises to “match you with your new favorite show in seven simple questions,” Saving you “minutes, hours, DAYS of scrolling, only to settle for sub-standard TV viewing.”

Completing the quiz also gave you a chance at winning a cash prize. A win-win. Amazon get’s info on a demographic that’s interesting to them, quiz participants get to interact with content that they find useful and even get a shot at winning a prize.

10. Native Advertising Trends

Today, a whopping 70 million U.S. internet users employ ad blockers. This is equivalent to a little more than 25% of internet users in the U.S. These numbers are even higher in Europe, where 29% in France and 32% in Germany use ad blockers.

This is why native ad strategists and digital markets, in general, are trying to come up with new ideas on how to make their commercial messages more attractive. Here are the trends taking hold so far:

Continuous Improvement

Content quality will keep improving, both in terms of traditional formats and in more innovative formats, such as AI and VR.

Brand-Driven Stories

Another trend of native advertising is to create more brand-centric ads but packed in a well-written story. Advertisers will not hide the brand promotion anymore, they will expose it completely. This type of honesty will attract users with its sheer simplicity and openness.

Better Data

Practitioners will need to ensure that they’re embracing intelligent KPIs to understand the worth of the efforts. Likewise, native ads will need to be built into a broader data-informed strategy.

Content quality will keep improving, both in terms of traditional formats and in more innovative formats, such as AI and VR.

11. How Do you Create a Native Ads Strategy

So you now have an idea as to where you can present your native ads and how. Now you can move on to the strategy, but for this, we will expand the scope a bit.

Native advertising should be used in conjunction with other types of advertising and, usually, native ads are part of a broader inbound or content marketing strategy.

The following guide, therefore, shows the process of creating a general marketing strategy that includes native advertising.

1. What are Your Goals?

Start by defining your goals and objectives with your marketing and advertising activity. You could be generating more leads or seek to increase brand awareness. Take a look at the activities that have made up your marketing efforts, up to now, and find some relevant results you can use as benchmarks for your new strategy.

If you are new to native advertising, you can wait three months and use your findings to set up realistic goals.

Now that you know where you want to go, find out how much you can spend to get there. That’s right, it’s time to allocate resources and create a budget for your campaign activities. Your budget should also have some wiggle room, though, as you want to remain flexible enough to react to the feedback and online behavior as the campaigns progress.

2. Who Do you Want to Reach?

Who is your ideal buyer? Do you know the who, what, where, when and how of your audience? Their interests, habits, preferences, demographic characteristics as well as geographic composition, it all affects your ability to create the right content and build a relationship with your audience.

3. How Do you Want to Reach your Audience?

This is the big one. Plan the campaigns you want to run through the year. We’re talking big picture here, so you don’t have to get into specifics about messaging and content, but set the timelines and budgets for each campaign.

You also need to consider which platforms and formats to use for your native ads as well as the theme and goal for each campaign.

4. Develop Ideas

With the overall structure in place, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. Develop ideas for the content each campaign will run. This requires a good amount of ideation and creativity and at first, just go with it. Find inspiration in the goal of the campaign and your knowledge about the audience.

When crafting the specific ads – and other pieces of content – keep the guidelines of the intended publisher in mind. Tailor each piece of content to fit the platform, format, campaign goals, and the audience. Remember that it must blend in with the rest of the content on a specific app, site, or publisher.

5. Collect and Optimize

How are your native ads performing? You need to know early and often, not just after the campaign has ended. You need to keep track of performance during the campaign and optimize it frequently to maximize the results.

Data is your ever-present friend. You should collect as much relevant data as you’re able to analyze and act on. Experiment with different headlines, images and CTAs, then collect data about how they perform to learn what works the best.

New call-to-action

You May Also Like

These Stories on Native Advertising

Be a Native Advertising Hero - Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Join +10,000 peers and become part of the growing native advertising community.

Comments (1)