You’ve probably heard the term “native advertising.” What is it? Why should you know about it? What does it mean for you? Three AKHIAns answer your questions:

Defining Native Advertising
Amanda Vasil

When it comes to overused marketing industry buzzwords, native advertising is an easy one to add to the list. But considering native ad spending will reach $7.9 billion by the end of 2015 and grow to $21 billion by 2018, it’s worth giving a second chance. Let’s define it:

Ads that are in the same format as the unpaid/organic content featured on the channel

It’s important to remember that native advertising (just like regular print, broadcast and billboard ads) costs money and requires a budget. So what’s the attraction? It gives content an extra boost for increased visibility, it has more refined targeting and it’s less disruptive, almost “hidden” among unpaid content. You may not realize it, but you’re surrounded by it in almost every medium you consume each day:

  • Advertorials in print magazines and e-newsletters
  • Product placement in movies and on TV
  • Adwords from Google search results
  • Sponsored posts in social media feeds like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • And countless other sources

Here, we focus on two digital platforms that are making a splash with native: social media and pay-per-click

Social Advertising
Ryan Collins
Ryan Collins

Social advertising can pay off with huge dividends for businesses. Having the right skills, a healthy budget and optimized targeting is a formula for success.

These ads run on channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others. Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat’s ad products are not yet open to the marketing public.

There are three types of social advertising:

  • Traditional, such as in the right sidebar of your Facebook or LinkedIn feed
  • Sponsored content
  • Promoted channels, such as a “page likes” campaign on Facebook

Focusing on sponsored content, let’s use Facebook and Instagram as examples. Sponsored posts on these two channels are native because they live right alongside content posted by your personal connections (that’s considered “organic”). On all social channels, native ads are listed with words like “sponsored” or “promoted,” though sometimes those disclosures are in small font and might be hard to read. Check out this example from my personal Instagram feed:


Or an example from Twitter itself, in my Twitter feed:


Thanks to the budget-friendly, cross-channel advantages of social advertising, not to mention the advanced targeting, native ads are within the reach of any business, big or small.

Caroline Bogart

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is another important type of native advertising to consider. It’s basically an auction system where advertisers bid on keywords in order to place their ad in search results (like Google or Bing) when people search terms related to those keywords. But the trick is that the highest bidder doesn’t always win. Search engines award higher ad positions to advertisers with high-quality, relevant, well-organized campaigns and ads, not just those who spend the most money.

It’s considered native advertising because these ads are shown above and alongside organic listings, almost inconspicuously. In fact, before search engines actually labeled them as ads within the search results, they were so inconspicuous that some people found them misleading. A user had no way of knowing if they were clicking on a paid ad or an organic result. It’s also considered a native advertising platform because you can control where, when and how the story is told.

As attractive as PPC seems, it’s not the right marketing strategy for everyone. You might choose to use PPC if you’re:

  • Looking for immediate results
  • Promoting a time-sensitive offer, seasonal promotion or events
  • Targeting specific segments. PPC offers geo-targeting, device targeting, ad scheduling and more
  • Promoting a product or service people are already looking for online
  • Struggling with SEO (organic rankings)
  • Launching a new website
  • Re-branding or simply struggling with branding—it’s not always just about getting leads

You might not want to invest in PPC if you:

  • Have a new or innovative product that’s unknown
  • Don’t have anything of value to offer (such as helpful tips, case studies or a white paper), but you still expect a user to fill out a form with their contact information
  • Don’t know who your audience is or how they interact with search engines
  • Have a very niche audience and your keywords don’t get searched often
  • Don’t have the right budget for the keywords you’d like to bid on (for example, commonly used words will typically be more expensive)

PPC is a numbers game, and you can get data and results very quickly. Using that data, you can continually adjust and refine your strategy to make the most of your advertising dollars.

There you have it: a quick overview of native advertising and all the benefits it can provide to your business. Of course, a key consideration is disclosure. As Digiday points out, many people notice the content of native advertising, but they don’t always realize it’s promotional. On the flip side, native ads heavily labeled as advertisements tend to be ignored by consumers. At the same time, these ads are clearly here to stay and have made their mark across the digital space.

For more information on disclosure and how the FTC regulates it, check out their native advertising guidelines.