What Is Native Advertising?
Native advertising is an advertisement or promotion that visually and functionally conforms to the platform it’s displayed on. For example, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are full of posts by brands and brand ambassadors that look interchangeable with a normal user’s updates and tweets. By allowing advertisers to design ads that fit within the visual style of the site, users will be less inclined to skip them.
Additionally, some native ads are served by the publisher’s (i.e. website) own servers (e.g. quickbooks.intuit.com for this website), which makes it harder for ad-blocking algorithms to detect and block. This fact alone may mean native advertising is the wave of the future.
How Does It Differ From Sponsored Content?
The line between sponsored content and native advertising is a thin one. So thin, in fact, that many marketers have a hard time actually describing a tangible distinction.
Sponsored content is created by the publisher and simply “brought to you by” an advertiser. The advertiser rarely, if ever, has any say in what the content is, and the content itself is written with no bias in mind. In other words, it does not explicitly promote the advertiser.
For example, if GE wants to bring more attention to green energy, they might look for sites that specialize in this content and sponsor this content. This aligns their brand with the green movement and implies to the public that GE is a green organization. It can also be used as a way to align a brand with certain types of content.
Native advertising, on the other hand, is meant to actually convince you to buy or do something with minimal intrusion into the viewing experience. Because it’s likely written by the advertising company itself, some marketers view it as a type of content marketing.
How Does it Differ From Custom Content?
Similar to sponsored content, custom content is created by the publisher, but normally has some type of tacit relationship to the advertiser. Continuing with the example above, GE may wish to bring more attention to the benefits of using LED light bulbs. By approaching a publisher like Consumer Reports or another site, GE could ask that the site create a post about LED light bulbs, perhaps including a plug for GE somewhere in the post. GE would then normally have the ability to also sponsor this content, including its branding and logo on the page.
Custom content can prove to be a sticky proposition for publishers, as many of them believe it compromises their credibility. Some, however, believe that this potential conflict can be avoided by calling out what is and what is not sponsored or custom content. This way, the boundary between information and advertising isn’t violated.
What’s the Future of Native Advertising?
As mentioned above, native advertising’s malleable nature means it can seamlessly fit into just about any website or platform, making it difficult for ad blockers to block and allowing for a less jarring user experience. As online users become more sophisticated, publishers’ and advertisers’ ability to generate revenue without disrupting the consumer’s experience will be key.
So far, native advertising has proven to generate revenue, implying that it’s a model that’s here to stay. Publishers will no doubt look for more creative ways to incorporate native advertising, thereby increasing revenue generating opportunities.
Great. Should I Use It?
If you are a small business owner who uses online advertising, then native advertising might be a viable option for you. In general, the cost of native advertising typically falls in line with traditional display ads. As with any online advertising, the cost will ultimately rely on the number of impressions served and the publishers that you use for your ads.
Even so, chances are that you currently spend a nominal amount for online advertising, so switching all of those dollars to native advertising may not be in your best interest. As ad-blocking add-ons and software are not yet ubiquitous, you shouldn’t worry too much about missing out on revenue or ad views with traditional online advertising.
While native advertising is by no means new, it has certainly enjoyed a higher profile over the past 12 months, and will continue to do so as advertisers look for more innovative ways to reach consumers, and publishers look for more innovative ways to generate revenue. For now though, small businesses can rest assured that traditional online advertising is still more than enough to promote your products and services.
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