What Is Native Advertising? What's the Fuss About?

Today, most advertising is native advertising. Yet, many business leaders don't know what it is. There are several different kinds. Sometimes a certain type is referred to as if it's the only kind. Discussions about this topic can be confusing, as a result. It's time to clear things up. Native ad expenditures are growing by about 25% or more each year, making this an important topic.

Five Types of Native Advertising

Content Recommendations

Have you ever noticed something that says "Recommended for You" or something a long those lines, along with links to articles or other content? These recommendations are often automatically generated by a widget, based on the cookies your internet browser stores. Revcontent is an example of a widget that does this.

Paid Search Ads

These are the ads you see on Google search results pages and sometimes on the margin of a website or "on top" of a video you're watching. Companies big and small pay for each click on these ads. They are displayed either because you've searched for a related word or phrase or because the website or video you're watching is closely related to the advertised product, service, content, etc.

In-Feed Native Ads

Publishers often show you a list of content they think you might read, usually based on information your browser or website account gathers or the page you're visiting at the time the ad is displayed. This can be in a variety or layouts but usually you'll see headlines, a photo and a transcript for each article or video in the list. If a company has written something and has paid the publisher to host it on his site, it may show up in the list. "In-feed" tends to apply to news, as opposed to entertainment or reference.

Promoted Listings

This usually refers to product or service listings on e-commerce or directory sites. By promoting your listing, you make it more visible to consumers. There may be a complex algorithm that decides when your promoted listing is displayed to shoppers but it will probably be displayed more often than similar listings that are not promoted.

Custom Ads

Any kind of ad that doesn't fall into the above categories is called a "custom ad." For example, if you collaborate with a mobile gaming company to animate brand endorsements made by video game characters, it would fit into the category of custom native advertising.

Are there Any Problems with Native Ads?

Some say we will learn to ignore native ads, just as we learned to ignore popups and banners. For now, though, native is advisable. A study by Sharethrough found that more consumers looked at native ads 25% more than traditional banner ads. They were 18% more likely to buy a product after seeing a native ad than they were after seeing a banner ad. In other words, native ads boosted purchase intent by 18%. Brands were 21% more personally identifiable when advertised natively, the researchers say.

Native Ads Must Be Labeled as Such

Although we wouldn't call it a problem, the rules governing native ads have tightened over the years. If native ads or content are not marked as such, it is a violation of the law. This is the reason every AdWords ad (on a Google search results page) is marked with an "ad" icon just under the ad headline. Because of this icon, it's reasonably easy to perceive ad from organic search result or what's been paid for versus what hasn't been paid for.

Journals and other media publishers also must disclose any content that contains native advertising. In this BuzzFeed article, you can see that Motorola is the "Brand Publisher." The article is fun and shareworthy but it contains advertising content, which must be communicated to readers. Another technique used to notify consumers of native content is simply stating that the content is sponsored by a particular company, in writing or in a video/audio recording.

David Kalla