Understanding Native Advertising


This Year’s Guide to Native Advertising

Digital advertising is all about creating brand messages that persuade and motivate consumers to take action. The most effective advertising will be eye-catching, memorable, and extremely influential. Great ads break through the clutter and noise of everyday life, disrupting the viewer’s attention to demand their focus.

But there’s also another way. The best digital ads engage your audience without disrupting their online experiences. Instead of thinking they just saw or read an advertisement, consumers come away from a native ad’s sponsored content feeling like they’ve learned something interesting. Native content leaves your audience with a favorable impression of your brand and your expertise by making your brand look more credible, memorable, and, most importantly, trustworthy.


What are Native Ads?
“Native advertising is a paid/third-party advertising format that supports either brand or direct-response goals, and is where the content matches the form, feel, function, and quality of the content of the media on which it appears.”

While it’s been less than a decade since native advertising hit the digital scene, sponsored content has since overtaken display ads as the most popular form of digital advertising. Native ads are seen constantly on social, in search, and on content recommendation platforms but, oftentimes, consumers won’t come away with the impression that they have seen an ad. Since their debut, native ads have become far more sophisticated, using complex design and UX principles in the never-ending grab for consumer attention.

Consumers are becoming increasingly picky about their online experiences. Online readers want great content without ads that interrupt their browsing pleasure. That’s where native ads or sponsored content enters the picture. Rather than interrupting your audience’s natural browsing patterns, you can connect with readers through engaging content that offers something of value to your audience. This results in a browsing experience that feels natural rather than forced or overtly salesy.

Native ads offer a refreshing and unobtrusive form of advertising that syncs beautifully with a full range of web content. It’s no longer necessary to rely on intrusive, click-bait banners to get attention. Digital marketers can create engaging ads in multiple formats that are designed to target people who are actually interested in topics related to your product or service. Native ads place your custom content among related news, popular stories, or viral content in a format that encourages readers to click rather than just scroll on past. Because they provide additional value to the visitor, and drive engagement, native ads offer a value proposition that’s second to none.

The primary purpose of native content is to entertain and inform, while also educating readers about your brand. Publishers like BuzzFeed and a host of digital popular-news sites promote viral content to share with their audience. Paid native advertising lets you leverage their editorial expertise and audience reach to tell captivating brand stories to a wider viewership.


According to both Statista and eMarketer, native digital display ads will make up nearly 61% of digital display advertising spend in this year – that’s a staggering $41 billion in ad spend!

Content vs Marketing

It takes experience along with well-planned, data-driven testing to determine the best format for your digital advertising. While promotional display adssearch adssocial media, and content marketing all have their own advantages, native ads are quickly becoming the preferred choice to cut through the advertising clutter. Rather than market to your audience, native ads are a way to deliver valuable content that has big pay-offs longterm.

On one hand, the ability to measure engagement, alongside the benefits of market segmentation and audience targeting makes social media a prime choice for marketers. For long-term business success, however, it’s important execs stop measuring the impact of marketing by surface level engagement volume (clicks, impressions, leads, followers, likes, retweets, etc.) and start looking at how many of the right people your marketing efforts are reaching. Smart marketing recognizes that its quality of leads and not quantity that matters most for meeting your marketing objectives. For quality lead generation, creating value for your target audience will yield quality results.

Because native ads are clearly measurable and because they capitalize on the credibility of the host publishers’ platform to offer engaging storytelling that proves your subject matter expertise, they offer the perfect blend of content and marketing.

Of course, as with any marketing strategy, native advertising isn’t without its challenges. Native content is custom content, and a continuous stream of custom, long-form content that offers value to your audience takes time. It also relies upon a consistent message between your sales and marketing team, and content that is flexible enough to sync across a range of platforms. To remain valuable, native content must be kept up-to-date so that it continues to offer substance and value to your audience.

You want your online ad to:

  • Raise awareness for your brand
  • Drive potential customers to your business store or website
  • Promote sales of both new and existing products
  • Differentiate your brand from your competitors’
  • Open doors into new markets

Research shows that people remember branded content twice as long as they remember traditional advertisements. Sponsored content is the most engaging when the publishing platform already carries and discusses topics that align with your brand. When done right, this blend of content and product offered to a receptive audience makes any mention of your brand feel like a natural fit rather than an invasive advertisement.

Great examples of native advertising

No matter what ad budget you’re working with, we can help you choose the best native ad platform for your sponsored content. Want to see how it’s done? We’ve chosen a couple of great examples of native advertising to inspire you. While native ads are everywhere, these two examples show you how successful native ads drive engagement by offering creative, humorous, informative, and valuable content in a style synced to match their publishing platform.

Example of Great Sponsored Content on CNN’s online news platform

In a well-timed bid for increased tourism, Japan’s Yokohama City has launched a campaign promoted with native ads on CNN.com. Their sponsored content gives readers a chance to ‘Discover Yokohama’ in the lead up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It’s a perfect example of well-crafted storytelling paired with great imagery that offers genuinely interesting and relevant information for sports history buffs, rugby fans, lovers of travel, and anyone who’s keen on some good trivia facts. Their series of native ads are extremely clickable and leave viewers feeling like they’ve learned something new. Even if you have no interest in rugby, by the time you scroll to the bottom of their content and discover the nice clear CTA button, you’re guaranteed to have a more favorable opinion of Yokohama’s attractions than you would have before you started.


Example of Great Sponsored Content on Buzzfeed

Online travel platform, Agoda, teamed up with Buzzfeed for a hugely successful ad campaign with the goal to “Drive mass awareness, virality, and engagement among travel-interested US consumers, ages 25-44.” They used humorous custom content that fitted perfectly with the audience on Buzzfeed. Their content was presented in list format featuring hilarious examples of why you should put your phone away on your next trip, and the many different times that selfies almost ruined vacations.


Are you ready to get started with creating great content for your own native ad campaign? Want to know more? Contact a MercDigital content and marketing expert to find out what native advertising can do you build your brand!

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