Back to Basics: What is Native Advertising?

Back to Basics: What is Native Advertising?

Native Advertising: Maybe you’ve heard the term buzzing from your industry peers, tech buddies, or maybe your go-to marketing gurus or entrepreneurs. Native Advertising has made a splash and – you’ve been hearing about it here since 2014 – it’s here to stay. So what is Native Advertising and what are Native Ads? And why should you care?
We’re so happy you asked!  We’re going to break it down for you:

What’s the Difference Between Native Advertising and Content Marketing?

Content marketing aka “content-first” is a type of marketing that aims to build a relationship with a targeted consumer by providing quality content. The brand wants to become a trusted friend. Like, that friend who has all the good advice and you could totally call if you’re in a bind? That’s the goal: building an ongoing and trusted relationship between a brand and consumer. And quality content = engagement = sales.
→ Psst. Want some more detail? We dive into why content marketing creates higher engagement here 

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The definition of Native Advertising is, well, in the name: ads that are native to the environment they live in – so they have the same look and feel as the content surrounding it on the page. Native Ads aren’t obtrusive or obnoxious, just: headline, picture and description.  (A banner ad, on the other hand, looks the same regardless of its surroundings. It often is an image with text and a button over it. You are very aware it’s an ad.)

Native Advertising falls into content marketing because it’s not a typical aggressive ad per se, but an invitation to engage with valuable content if you feel compelled.

Native Ad example that we (Bidtellect) created for a super awesome client:


See? Totally blends in! AND it offers something of value! Fun tips, informative content – it’s relevant and valuable.

An aggressive banner ad example: 

I’m overwhelmed just glancing at this, aren’t you?

Are Native Ads New?

As much as we’d like to admit otherwise, Native Advertising isn’t brand new. For example, this advertorial matching the look and feel of the newspaper it appeared in in 1901. It’s a real native ad!


It reads like a news blurb, offers valuable information, and then a product to help. Yes, it’s an ad, so the company (in this case, Hostetter’s) paid for the placement, but it’s subtle and less obnoxious, so you more likely to trust it.

Somewhere along the way, ads – especially on the internet – started trying a little too hard and got noisy, annoying, and invasive – to the point where users actually started to tune them out. Users eyes became trained to ignore the banner causing “banner blindness” in an effort to sift through the noise and find what they want to read on the site in the first place! The banner ad bubble is bursting and individuals – like you and me! – prefer ads that provide valuable content and feel like a story (92%, in fact. Read more.)

We all want to feel like we are in control, not forced to buy something. We also want to see content that is relevant and personalized (without being creepy).

What Are the Types of Native Ads?

There are a few types of Native Ad Units available (according to the IAB Native Advertising Playbook, which is the industry standard!), but Bidtellect is the only place where you can get all of them and optimize towards the highest-performing on any device. You can maximize based on what works best for you, not on what you’re limited to.

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In-feed: The most premium Native advertising placement. It is sponsored content that appears consistent with other published articles (with headlines, description, and images), appears in-line with a given publisher’s original content.

In-Ad: This is an advertisement that appears outside the publisher’s original content but inside a leaderboard, rectangle, or skyscraper ad space. Creative may mimic the look of the original content.

Recommendation Widget: An advertisement or sponsored content (headlines, images, video and/or text) that appears in-line with the publisher’s recommended viewing content. It usually says “Recommended” somewhere near it – hence the name! – and is similar/recommended for someone viewing the publisher’s page.

Here’s an awesome compare-all visual of the types of Native Ads and how they appear on all devices – including video!

Don’t Forget Video!

In-Feed VideoThis user-initiated format is ideal for marketers that want to distribute long-form content (90 seconds or longer) across the web. The click-to-play format is user-initiated and pre-qualifies consumer interest in the content (if if you’re interested, you click it!). Watch it in Action.

Outstream VideoThis auto-play format positions video assets within sections of a site where consumers are actively consuming content, enabling marketers to align their message with consumer interest. Watch it in action.

AutoPlay Video:  This allows users to preview short form content before deciding to engage with the video. After viewing a short clip, viewers must click to expand the video, enabling marketers to identify audiences who chose to engage with their video. Watch in action.

Is Native Advertising Really #trending?

Yep. The stats confirm it. eMarketer – the most reputable source for all things stat-related – confirms that in 2018, 58.3% of US digital display ad spending will be for native placements (up from 54.0% in 2017).
But what about next year? In 2019, Native ad spending will increase to $41.1 billion at which point native ads will account for 61% of total digital display ad spending in the U.S. (eMarketer via the discerning WSJ).  And according to BusinessInsider, by 2021, Native advertising will drive 74% of all ad revenue – that’s three quarters! You see those numbers?!

Like we said before: Native Advertising is here to stay. Will you be left in the dust if your whole budget is going to display?

P.S. We will be diving into Native programmatic and why our clients are constantly telling us that we outperform Facebook. (It’s true!) Stay tuned.

Read More: Why “Content First” Creates Higher Engagement: A Data-Backed Breakdown
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Why “Content First” Creates Higher Engagement: A Data-Backed Breakdown

Why “Content First” Creates Higher Engagement: A Data-Backed Breakdown

Looking to rev up your marketing strategy? Consider a “content-first” approach and native advertising with this data-backed breakdown.

Breaking It Down: Native Advertising vs. Content First

There’s a bit of a confusion between native advertising, content marketing, and “content-first” (which is a content-first approach). Let’s break it down:

Native Advertising refers to creating ads that match the form, function, and feel of the content of the page in which they appear – so “native” to their environment (hence the name). Rather than a traditional “banner ad” that is a flat image with branding within, native ads often feature a headline, a description underneath, and an accompanying image.

A “content first” approach or content marketing is an umbrella term that Native advertising falls into. It promotes relevant, targeted content first as a gateway to a brand or product. But a “content first” also refers to a tactic of driving relevant content to targeted consumers over time, creating retention and loyalty. It is an ongoing process, rather than a one-off approach.

Content refers to media, graphics, video, audio, copy, social media communication, and anything else used to tell a story or communicate an idea. This content is created, published, and promoted to a target audience who would be interested in the content provided (an article, perhaps) or the product. Also think of it as a way to educate potential customers about a product or service, informing them about its benefits in order to gain trust and ultimately boost sales.

A Targeted Viewer is a Happier (Engaged) Viewer 

Do not underestimate the power of relevant content reaching an interested viewer.

According to DemandMetric, 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it and 68% of people spend time reading about brands that interest them. A whopping 80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content (DemandMetric) which creates trust in the brand (Ion Interactive).

This all contributes to… you guessed it… higher engagement and greater sales.

You Can Get Around the AdBlocker

Still not convinced a “content first” approach to marketing is for you? Consider the toughest audience to crack: the skeptical, independent internet user that prefers to ride under the advertising radar – with adblockers.

It’s a large audience: over 615 million devices use an adblocker of some sort, according to PageFair Adblock Report, and interestingly, American adblock users are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree. A HubSpot study reported that 64% of people use adblock services because they consider ads annoying and intrusive.

The good news? Since content is not just an “ad,” but a source of value, content marketing is an effective method to circumvent blockers.

It Helps the Bottom Line

According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing programs, and generates approximately three times the volume of leads…Wow. Ion Interactive reported the same thing.

Leaders are taking notice. 78% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing according to DemandMetric, and according to the 2018 State of Content report from Content Marketing Institute, 86% of B2C and 91% of B2B marketers are now using content marketing (CMI B2C Research & B2B Research).

Content Marketing Trends to Look Out For

In addition to a content-first approach and native advertising, short videos, data-drive, artificial intelligence, context marketing, measurement and anti-fraud will be the focus of marketers in 2018 and beyond, according to AdMaster.


The other emerging trend is original content. Consumers are discerning; they want original, useful content that isn’t brand-heavy. Apple committed to spending $1 billion on original content for its streaming platform and PepsiCo opened a brand new content creation studio in downtown NYC with the aim of generating revenue and creating a vehicle for advertising their products.

Overall, listen to what the consumer is saying.

92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story (Ion Interactive).

According to Forbes, this is a positive: as the industry pivots away from branded content aimed at selling (even gently) to content as a vehicle, there are wide open opportunities for new brands to enter the market and grab the attention of consumers.

Read More: 5 Ways to Increase CTR
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