Okay, maybe “everything” is a slight exaggeration, but we’ve worked up some interesting tidbits for you because even if you don’t know quite what it is right now, native advertising is now more than mainstream. It’s spreading over the digital landscape like kudzu.

So, what do I need to know?

1. Native advertising is nothing new.

In fact, it’s been around nearly as long as advertising itself. A native ad is a paid promotion that’s designed to blend in with existing content. Think an advertorial in a magazine or product placement in a TV show. In its current digital marketing/buzzword sense, native advertising is defined by the experts as “a paid ad that is so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the user experience that the viewer simply feels that it belongs.”

2. It’s also not a fad.

The rising influence of native advertising is not a blip; it is a fundamental shift in digital marketing. Smart advertisers will adapt to this rapidly-evolving ecosystem and gain a competitive advantage. Native advertising is here to stay, so don’t be surprised if “Go native or go home” becomes the next big marketing motto.

“There is a renaissance underway in digital advertising that is driving brands, publishers and consumers to communicate with each other in more personal and natural ways. Native advertising is an important piece of this evolution.”—Patrick Albano, Yahoo

3. It is truly taking over.

Native advertising overtook display advertising in 2016, and according to BI Intelligence, by 2021, it will account for a whopping 74% of the digital ad buys.

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4. Native ads are all around you.

There are lots of different types of native ads.

  • In-Feed – Think a sponsored Facebook post
  • Paid Search – Those sponsored results you see when you Google something
  • Recommendation Widgets – That “You Might Also Like” section at the bottom of articles
  • Promoted Listings – Those sponsored results you see when you’re shopping on Amazon
  • In-Ad with Native Elements – It’s a hybrid, often with the shape and branding of a display ad, but with relevant native content added in
  • Custom/“Can’t Be Contained” – An advertiser and a publisher create custom content together, like a sponsored playlist on Spotify

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What’s so special about native ads?

First and foremost, they’re more interesting and less intrusive than traditional ads. We’ve all had this experience: You Google something and click on a link that looks promising. As you’re trying to read, you’re distracted by some jiggling, flashing animated ad or, worse, a pop-up ad that literally blocks you from what you want to see. That’s one of the biggest reasons consumers like native ads better: they don’t interrupt your online experience.

With a native ad, not only are you not angering potential customers, your ad isn’t even something they seek to avoid. Did you catch that? Your native ad will be clearly marked “Sponsored,” and people will still want to click on it.

So, how much do people like native advertising? As it turns out, they really, really like it.

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What makes for successful native advertising?

The first part of the equation is editorial skills. To be effective, a native ad must blend in with the existing content of its host site. It must tell a good story that is interesting or helpful, and it must inspire engagement (clicking on a link or sharing with others). The second key to success is marketing skills, knowing just the right platforms and target audiences for maximum reach and resonance.

There are a lot of buzzwords surrounding native advertising—form, function, integration, targeting, TOFU (No, not the congealed soy product. More like “top-of-the-funnel brand engagement metrics,” and if you know what that means, you can probably stop reading because you know more than I do.)—but the goal is straightforward: hit the right people in the right places with a message that is relevant to them. It’s a bit tricky to talk to people about your brand without actually trying to sell them anything, but when it’s done well, native advertising is tough to beat.

Can my business benefit from native advertising?

Absolutely! The upsides are many—relatively low buy-in, higher-quality clicks, increased brand loyalty—and the downside, as long as you’re upfront about your content being sponsored, is nil.

So, whether you’re new to the world of digital advertising or you’re exploring new avenues to engage potential customers, my advice is “Go native!”

Ask your marketing partner how native advertising can help grow your business. Or if you’d prefer, we are happy to help map out a plan. Our creative and marketing teams are adept at developing engaging campaigns—from advertorials to videos, branded content to boosted posts—and placing them in front of highly-targeted audiences across multiple platforms. Contact Liz Pelt today.

About Heather Carroll

Heather Carroll joined the Agency in 1996 and is involved with nearly every aspect of copywriting and content development, including print, PR, television, radio, digital and social media. She graduated from Pensacola Junior College with honors and went on to attend the University of West Florida. She has 20 years’ experience as a copywriter/editor and project manager.

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