While native advertising is still a relatively new concept to some, it is coming into its own and has earned its place in a marketer’s arsenal.


What is native advertising?


Native advertising is sponsored or branded content that matches the form of the publication where is appears, also known as advertorials. 


Do not get native advertising confused with content marketing. Native advertising, while it may look like regular content at a glance, must be clearly branded to indicate that it’s a paid for advertisement, not regular editorial content. 


It is a great way to get a more in-depth message across to an audience. For example, a magazine advertorial about the benefits of a branded face wash, compared with a still image ad that is eye catching, but which can only convey a certain amount of information. 


Does it work?


The great thing about online native advertising is it will not get blocked. There are now 198 million active ad block users worldwide and native advertising is an effective way to get around this issue by integrating brands’ messaging into editorial content. 


Another advantage of native ads is that on first reading, many people do not realise that they are reading an advert. It may be that the audience only realise when they spot the header or sign off ‘sponsored by’ that they realise they are being sold an item.


Unlike banner ads, it can be hard to prove ROI on native advertising. But big names in the media industry are giving it their backing. Digiday reported that Forbes offered a money-back guarantee: “Advertisers had to spend $250,000 in native plus display over 60 days (up from the minimum BrandVoice package of $150,000). If they don’t get a lift in at least one of four metrics (awareness, favourability, recall, purchase intent), they get their money back.”


Media giant WPP’s data-driven unit Xaxis is also backing native advertising. Larry Allen told BeetTV,“The new inventory source is native. We see that effectively replacing display in the coming years.” 


Who’s doing it well?


Buzzfeed is the reigning champion of native advertising and one of the best examples around, thanks to its ‘sponsored content’. It offers up humorous ‘listicle’ style articles and quizzes that seamlessly fit into their usual style. The only difference from its usual editorial content is that these advertorials carry a ‘promoted’ or ‘sponsored’ banner and have an advertising message from the sponsor at the end of the article. 


Gawker revealed that Buzzfeed is valued at $1.5billion, tripling its revenue from 2012 to 2014, and hitting $46 million in early 2014. There is a noticeable relation between its profit and its reduced investment in editorial content: In 2013, Buzzfeed spent nearly $12million on editorial but in the first half of 2014 alone, it spent $10.5million. 


Some excellent examples of Buzzfeed native adverts include:


‘20 people that are doing it wrong’ by Virgin Mobile


Native advertising was being used as far back as 2013: look at this classic example from Virgin Mobile: it’s amusing and relatable (although not with a very explicit message as most articles are today) and ends with the simple hashtag #RetrainYourBrain and a link to Virgin Mobile Live.


‘Sunbathing: Expectation vs reality’ by Cancer Research UK 


This article delivers the serious message of being aware of the risks of skin cancer without being too preachy. It’s not even all about skin, it also has memes on frizzy hair and the glue in your book melting! The sign at the bottom of the article is simply ‘ Find ways to #loveyourskin this summer on YouTube with Cancer Research UK.’ 


‘15 things only people who just bought their first home understand’ by Yorkshire Building Society


This is a very targeted piece of content, which will certainly get young people who are looking to buy, or have just bought, their first home. This is exactly the audience that Yorkshire Building Society wants to sponsor, but approaches the dry subject of banking in a fun and indirect manner.


‘15 things we did at school that future students will never understand’ by Intel


Nostalgia is always a popular draw on Buzzfeed. This article harks back to the days of overhead projectors and floppy disks, with a friendly (but not so subtle) sign off: ‘Technology’s come a long way. Upgrade your old school gadgets for the new year with Intel-powered 2 in 1 devices!’

If you’re not already convinced by the power of native advertising…


These stats prove what a powerhouse native advertising is set to become:


Native ads are viewed 53% more than banner ads


Native ads generate an 82% in brand lift


Native ads in Europe are set to grow by 156% over the next five years 


Native ads will be worth £10.29billion by 2020


9 out of 10 PR agencies see native advertising as an opportunity


It is forecasted that social media will drive more than 33% of growth in native social network advertising