Native Advertising

Native advertising, which can be translated as “advertising in a familiar (natural) environment”, is a form of advertising in online and print media in which the advertisements can barely be distinguished from the actual editorial pieces. In this way, you get the reader’s attention without them being disturbed from their content. Ideally, users will not even notice that it is native advertising, but instead will think the advertising texts are regular content.

What is native advertising?

Implicit with its very name, native advertising refers to a discipline in which ads take on a more natural appearance, most often one that reflects an editorial look or feel; here, a context-intensive approach is often taken, meaning that the content ideally matches the environment in which it’s placed. Both the platform’s design as well as the expected behavior of its users are the most important focus points with this style of ad. These points should be adapted and addressed as much as they possibly can.

What makes this form of advertising special is the way in which published content is mixed with advertisements. The original content and the advertisements should ideally blend together so well that the user experience remains almost identical, regardless of what is being looked at or read. As is the case with content marketing, the user remains the focus point here, and the content of the ad should speak to their perceived needs.

What kinds of native advertising are there?

The implementation of native advertising and the visual and content design of native advertisements is strongly dependent on the platform where the advertisement is being used. Accordingly, the following different forms of native advertising can be recorded:

  • Native ads in the editorial environment (content marketing included)

    The classic form of native advertising is direct integration into the editorial context of a website. For this purpose, advertising texts are adapted to the same style as ordinary editorial pieces and mixed in with other articles, or listed in a “You might also be interested in the following articles” list. In both cases, it is important to mark these ads as a “Sponsored Post”, “Advertising” or “Ad”.
  • Social media ads

    Paid advertisements in social media networks like Facebook or Twitter can also be assigned to native advertising. These ads are fed into the timeline or news feed in the same style as standard contributions.
  • Native ads in the context of search engine marketing

    Paid ads (SEA) in search engine results also follow the native advertising concept. However, this also requires a link to informative content and a suitable keyword set – otherwise the natural effect is quickly lost.
  • Advertorials

    Closely related to native advertising are advertorials. However, these PR texts primarily focus on the brand or product and the incentive to buy (not the benefit to the customer).

How do native ads work?

At its core, native ads are nothing more than paid advertisements, which, in contrast to more traditional banner advertisements, match their surroundings in terms of both looks and content. The effort involved in native ad campaigns is much higher when compared to display ads; this is due to the most important component involved in the discipline: content, as well as distribution and optimization being much more labor intensive than for a simple advertisement.

The basics of native advertising: the content

Native advertising just can’t work without interesting, informative content, so it’s important for advertisers to create content themselves or outsource this task to marketing agencies. Just as is the case when developing a classic content strategy, it’s crucial to ensure that all the material is tailored to a specific target group. Many different formats are at users’ disposal: whether it involves using photo galleries, videos, music or developing tutorials, the type of website in question always determines the type of website that’s to be created. Following this, it’s important to provide creative, premium content. Neither the brand nor the company should be the focus point here; instead, it’s important to make sure to always add value for the reader, as such content is shared by users, which increases the potential for going viral.

Finding the right platform for your content

The next step is make sure that content is displayed on the proper platform. There are many different providers that make use of native ad servers in order to place their customers’ content on all relevant channels. These providers preside over special advertising networks intended for native marketing purposes, and convey relevant editorial websites to advertisers. Servers take on the automated display and scaling of the respective entries.

Many systems go so far as to automatically match their native titles and teasers to the target website of their audiences. Together with the right design, native ads are able to blend in and match their surroundings, adopting the look and feel of the partner website. In effect, the native ad imitates the “look and feel” of the partner site and is effectively embedded.

Optimizing native advertising campaigns

As is the case with other advertising campaigns, there’s more to this advertising method than simply displaying ads; optimization also plays an important role. Depending on the provider, it’s possible to use a large number of different analytical functions with the help of the native ad server. Tracking individual campaigns and ads and evaluating them is essential for those wishing to optimize campaigns and exhaust budgets in the most efficient manner. To this end, optimizing everything from individual content elements to teasers and titles is now the name of the game. Some providers also provide various methods for carrying out quality control methods. With the help A/B testing, heatmaps, and other options, it’s possible to track content and find out valuable information based on these findings.

The advantages of native advertising

Even if native advertising is considered to be a lot of effort, it still has some decisive advantages over classic web advertising, which speaks to the use of this kind of ad. These advantages include:

  • Native ads are perfectly tailored to the user’s reading habits
  • Advertising can be optimally aligned to the target group
  • Potential customers are reached at the right time and right place
  • Also offer the reader usefulness in terms of content
  • Subtle, unobtrusive advertising form
  • Particularly effective on mobile devices

Through the natural integration of advertising, native advertising offers a high chance of not only being seen by the user, but also clicked on and perceived as positive. Thus, it clearly stands out from classic advertising formats like banners or pop-ups, which are not only annoying to users but also often overlooked. However, native ads not only promise a higher click rate, but often also have a positive effect on the image and acceptance of the brand or company. Another advantage: due to its informative, entertaining character, good native advertising content is often shared by consumers with friends, acquaintances or social media followers.

Which native advertising providers are there?

Marketers are not on their own when it comes to distributing created native advertising content: Different providers have specialized in native advertising, and providers will differ primarily in which target platforms are used, which technology is used for publishing native ads and how the service is billed. The more well-known native advertising providers include the following:

  • Taboola
  • Outbrain
  • Plista
  • Ligatus

Native Advertising: A blessing or a curse?

Even though native advertising has undoubtedly established itself as a practical and effective form of advertising, it is still controversial. Critics often refer to native ads as stealth marketing that deliberately misleads users. Supporters, however, are relaxed about this accusation and refer to the fact that native advertising content is always clearly labeled as such by publishers.

A more decisive question for advertisers and publishers is the question of what effect native advertising content has on visitors. By hiring an advertising provider, there is often a lack of control and overview over which pages the advertising content is published on or which ads are placed on which pages. Therefore, both advertisers and publishers run the risk that native ads have a negative effect on their image and credibility. However, alternatives like banner advertising and pop-ups also have this problem – and are perceived by many users as much more intrusive and annoying.

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