Paid Search

Native Ads Will Increase This Year: What You Need to Know

According to a recent survey from the Associated of National Advertisers and reported on by Search Engine Land, native advertising budgets will rise in 2015. The survey talked with 127 client-side marketers in Q4 last year and found that 63 percent of marketers say they will spend more money. It’s a new initiative for many and something that has been on the minds of marketers looking for something new to try in the New Year.

However, the survey also found that native ad spending still only accounted for 5 percent or less of total advertising budgets for the 68 percent of respondents. Although this might not be the largest sample size to offer any real conclusions, it’s enough to get the conversation going. What is native advertising, and should marketers utilize it more in 2015?

How Native Advertising Works

Native advertising is a method where an advertiser provides content in the context of a user’s experience in order to gain extra visibility. In other words, it is paid content that advertises something, but it is made to look organic when it is published on a website. It goes right along with the theme and feel of the site, so it’s easy for readers to miss that they’re even reading an advertisement.

You may have also heard the term “advertorial” in the past. Some experts believe that native advertising is just a fancy word for advertorials given because advertorials needed a facelift, but there are a few subtle differences that are agreed upon:

  • Native ads are written in a way where the reader may not realize they are reading an advertisement. Advertorials are usually OK with being seen as advertising.
  • Native ads are only published once, which follows the rules of quality and unique content. Advertorials can be published in more than one place.

In other words, native advertising is unique because the content has to align with the websites already established style and tone and written for that specific audience (which makes native ads difficult to spot). In the end, still in 2015 there are not any guidelines that publishers have to follow when publishing native ds, which brings us to the next section.

The Case For and Against Native Advertising

As you may have started to see, native advertising is actually a controversial practice. A few points both for and against:

Why Native Advertising is a Good Practice

  • According to Wordstream, click-through rates tend to be much higher than typical advertisements and engagement is usually much stronger.
  • Although consumers may feel tricked (discussed in the next section), these types of advertisements are generally more pleasant to read.
  • Many publishers have found success in native advertising when they give consumers a way to tell the difference between a native ad and an editorial.

Some Problems with Native Advertising

  • You run the risk of losing trust with your audience by using deception.
  • If you publish a native ad and accept money in exchange, you cannot objectively report on anything that concerns that company in the future.
  • There are no adequate measurement tools for native advertising campaigns, so it’s tough to gain any insight into its effectiveness.

Some Great Native Advertising Examples We Saw in 2014


Buzzfeed often has what are called “promoted posts,” so in their defense they are letting us know that the content was written by an advertiser. Nonetheless, you can clear see that the content is written in the same style as other Buzzfeed articles and the content is only published on Buzzfeed. If it weren’t for their hint, you may never know they were native ads.

In the example below, you see that Weight Watchers is promoting a post in the typical Buzzfeed list-style. Nothing about Weight Watchers is ever mentioned, but the topic itself deals with needing someone’s help and does list exercise as one place where it helps to have a partner. This then leads you to think, “Hey, maybe Weight Watcher could be my partner!”


The Onion

The satirical newspaper The Onion utilizes this practice often. Again, the articles are never written explicitly about the advertiser or their product, but the topics are mentioned enough to bring light to issues and different companies. In the example below, the post is sponsored by Food Should Taste Good. It’s written in the style of the Onion and while it never mentions their company, it points fun at the fact that you can’t just look for one word on a food label. This is probably something their company could teach you about, isn’t it?


The New York Times

The New York Times is absolutely not known for publishing native ads (unlike Buzzfeed and The Onion), but recently Mashable reported on one native ad that was published for Netflix. The sponsored post below shows an advertisement that plays off of their original series Orange is the New Black, and therefore never mentions Netflix. It does say that this is a sponsored ad, but other than that it goes right along with content you’d normally read in The NY Times.


For a full list of examples as well as a few native ads that didn’t work, I recommend visiting this article from Wordstream.

Where Do You Go from Here?

As with most controversial practices, it’s up to you to decide where you want to go from here. So far in 2015 it seems that native advertising can be very beneficial, but only if done correctly and carefully. I predict that we will see more and more native ads on different platforms but we will have a warning that the content is a native ad (such as the way Buzzfeed uses the practice). According to CopyPress, “Although native advertising isn’t widely accepted by advertisers and publishers, it is supposed to be THE way of advertising by 2016.”

For more information about how to setup a successful native ad and how native ads relate to mobile, check out this article we wrote in May of last year.

What do you think about native advertising? Do you think it has a place in your strategy in 2015? Let us know in the comment section below.

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