Use of un-targeted adverts on platforms such as television, video marketing or online ads, including popups and full page adverts, has dropped by 9% over the past few years, while native advertising has increased by 25%, according to studies by eMarketer. This may soon result in native ads becoming the most popular digital advertising option among marketing teams. 

Native ads are meticulously crafted adverts made to blend in with the digital platform – webpages and social media to name a few – they appear on. Designed to look and feel like natural content, native ads integrate visually and tonally with existing content, subtly driving user attraction and engagement. This revolutionary method diverges significantly from traditional advertising techniques like banner ads, pop-ups, or sidebar ads, which are easily distinguishable from the surrounding content and interrupt the user experience. 

What led to the rise in native ads?

In the early days of online advertising, methods like banner ads were novel and effective. As internet usage grew, so did users’ aversion to these intrusive ads, often causing irritation and deliberate avoidance. Ad blockers became prevalent, and the term ‘banner blindness’ was coined to describe the tendency of users to unconsciously ignore overt ads. The shift in user behavior prompted advertisers to rethink their strategies, leading to the development of a new form of advertising; native advertising.

Native ads achieve an 18% higher level of purchase intent from users when compared to banner ads.

-Market Splash

Native advertising aligns with the content-driven nature of modern internet usage, where users seek valuable and engaging content. The idea was to create ads that didn’t feel like ads, bypassing the growing resistance to traditional formats. This evolution was fueled by the rise of social media and content marketing, emphasizing the importance of quality content and user engagement. 

Where will you find native ads?

In short, native ads are designed to be seen but not overtly noticed, prior to user engagement. They are custom-made to attract and engage users without interrupting them. Native ads are about connecting with the audience on a deeper, yet more subtle, level instead of just blending in visually. Personalization of native ads extends to how native ads target audiences on similar web pages, leading to an almost unconscious improvement in engagement and click-through rates from users. For example, a user reading an article about healthy eating might encounter a native ad for a health food product or a related cooking gadget. This ad is not randomly placed; it’s the result of sophisticated algorithms analyzing the user’s content preferences and online behavior. By appearing on web pages with content that the user is already interested in, without taking focus or distracting from the content, these ads are more likely to resonate and elicit engagement. 

The massive rise in the application of native ads has led to their inclusion in almost all forms of advertising. Some of the most popular and beneficial applications include:

In-feed units

These ads are the chameleons of the social media and news site world, blending seamlessly into the scrolling experience. They look like any other post or article you’d encounter, but with a small hint, like a “sponsored” tag, to show that they’re a different tune. Their power lies in their non-disruptive nature, engaging users without pulling them out of their content immersion.

Search & promoted listings

These subtle nudges seen in search engine results or eCommerce sites are dressed up to look like regular listings. They’re the quiet suggestions that appear when you’re searching for a new book or browsing for shoes, gently guiding you toward a product or service.

Content recommendations

Often found at the bottom of an article, these recommendations seem like the friendly locals suggesting you visit a hidden gem in their town. They blend in as part of your reading journey, offering paths to related content as a continuation of interest and engagement.

Sponsored content

This is the storyteller of native ads. Found on news sites and blogs, these articles or posts are woven with a brand’s narrative, sharing a story or information that resonates with the reader, all while subtly integrating a brand’s message.

Branded content

Posts, where influencers merge their personal stories or experiences with a brand’s message, can feel recommendations from a reliable and familiar source, fitting smoothly into an already existing content engagement. Branded content is commonly used in many areas, such as blogs, social media, and video-based content.

What sets native ads apart?

Banner ads and pop-ups are intrusive and disruptive to the user experience. They detract from the content a user is engaged with, leading to annoyance, ad fatigue and ad avoidance. Native ads, conversely, integrate smoothly and subtly into the user’s content stream, offering relevant information without the ‘hard sell’ approach. Potential users end up reading and engaging with the ad, often without even knowing it. 

Email marketing campaigns, though personalized to an extent, struggle with low engagement rates. The campaigns are perceived as unsolicited or irrelevant so they are ignored or discarded entirely. Native advertising sidesteps this issue by presenting content in an environment with which the audience has already chosen to engage, increasing the likelihood of the content being welcomed and consumed.

Methods like search engine ads, while highly targeted, still appear distinctly separate from organic search results and can be overlooked by users who are focused on non-sponsored content. Many users will deliberately scroll past the sponsored ads to engage with more organic search results. Native ads, in contrast, are woven into the fabric of the user experience, appearing as a natural extension of the content the user is already interested in.

Overt social media ads, although far more targeted, often interrupt the flow of a user’s social media experience. Overt social media ads are typically inserted into feeds or stories, but their distinct advertising nature can be off-putting to users. Native ads within social media, however, are designed to be indistinguishable from organic content, making them less intrusive and more likely to be engaged with. They offer a storytelling approach that resonates more naturally with the audience, as opposed to the more direct, explicit, and sales-focused traditional social media ads.

In video advertising, pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads on video platforms will interrupt the viewing experience, leading to frustration or the use of ad-skipping features. Native video ads, embedded within the content or created in collaboration with content creators, provide a smoother viewing experience. They maintain the narrative flow and are often more accepted by the audience, as they do not disrupt the content and are considered to come from a reliable source.

Why you can’t afford to miss native ads

Native advertising has revolutionized digital advertising. The ability to blend with content, through non-intrusive and engaging content, sets it apart from traditional advertising methods. Aligning with the audience’s interests and behaviors, native ads capture the attention of users effectively and resonate deeply, making them an indispensable tool in modern digital strategy. Whether through in-feed units, search and promoted listings, content recommendations, sponsored content, or branded content, native advertising gives a unique and compelling way to connect with audiences.

Users pay 53% more attention to native advertising in comparison to banner ads

— Taboola

Florian Bacle

November 12, 2023

6 Min read