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a marketers guide to native advertising
Aug 04, 2022

Native Advertising: A Marketer’s Guide

Does your digital marketing mix include native ads? Accounting for over 70% of total US display ad revenue in 2021 (source: AppSamurai), Native Advertising has quickly become a proven method for capturing consumer attention. In this Marketer’s Guide, we will break down everything you need to know about Native Advertising so that you can get started with your own native ads.


What is Native Advertising?

Native Advertising is any type of paid advertising that attempts to emulate, in content and form, the form of media it appears in. Basically, it is advertising that blends in seamlessly with its environment. In today’s overly digitized world, it can be challenging for brands to break through all of the noise—so why choose to blend in instead of standing out? The answer is simple: because it works.


Why Native Advertising works

  1. Attention: Like many advertising concepts, Native Advertising is backed by hard data. Consumers look at native ads 53% more than display ads, and native ads create an 18% increase in purchase intent (Source: Outbrain). In an industry where an increase of 1% in email click-through or social media engagement rates is considered a huge success, Native Advertising boasts an incredible advantage over more traditional ad formats.
  2. Consumer trust: Native Advertising also has the benefit of fostering increased trust. A third of consumers were more likely to trust native advertising than traditional advertising, and clicking on a native ad driver on a premium content website had a more significant impact than clicking via Facebook (source: Native Advertising Institute).
  3. Interest: Native advertising also alleviates what advertisers call “ad fatigue”, which happens when consumers become bored and disinterested from seeing too much overt advertising during their day. Native ads usually consist of editorial content instead of “hard-selling”, so they have a greater ability to engage consumers, provided the content is relevant and interesting.


What does Native Advertising look like?

Although they can technically appear in any medium, native ads are most often found
in social media feeds, web pages, and search engines. Wherever they live, all native ads share the trait of “not looking like ads,” instead choosing to emulate the media they inhabit. They are usually highly focused on content rather than hard selling.  Here are some of the most popular formats:

Social media (in-feed): Native ads on social media usually copy average users’ speech patterns and visual style to blend in; Instagram even allows users to take an organic post they created and turn it into an ad! However, careful scrollers will still be able to tell native ads from organic posts—native ads on social media can still be identified by a specific disclosure aspect that is always present. For instance, the word “sponsored” will always appear on Instagram ads, while Twitter ads will always include the word “promoted” at the bottom of the post.

Web pages: Native advertising on web pages can be trickier to spot. Sometimes they are widgets that are placed below or alongside site content and can consist of text, video, and still images. Other times, they are placed between site content blocks. For example, after reading an article online, you might be prompted to read another article on the same subject by a native ad from a completely different organization. Sometimes, the only surefire way to tell if you are looking at a native ad or not is to click on it and see if you are redirected to another website.

Search engines: Native ads on search engines like Google appear at the top of your search results after typing in a query. They can also appear to the right of your search results. Native ads on search engines are one of the oldest native advertising formats.


Native Advertising vs. Content Marketing

Although Native Advertising sometimes employs Content Marketing to blend in and appear more “native,” these two concepts are often erroneously used interchangeably. While both Native Advertising and Content Marketing employ a softer approach than traditional selling, Native Advertising is best understood as a concept, while Content Marketing is a tactic.

As we have already learned, Native Advertising refers to any form of advertising which emulates the format of its environment through an in-stream delivery that does not interrupt the user’s experience.

On the other hand, Content Marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on creating and delivering shareable online marketing materials like blogs, videos, newsletters, social media posts, and podcasts to establish trust and authority in a given market. It can be promoted through paid advertising, like Native, but it doesn’t have to be.


Why use Native Advertising in 2022? 

In case you aren’t already convinced, here is some more data on Native Advertising and why you should include it in your digital marketing mix:

  • Consumers look at native ads 53% more than display ads (source: Outbrain).
  • Native display ad spending in the US is expected to grow 12.5% year-over-year in 2023, reaching $98.59 billion (source: eMarketer).
  • 68% of consumers trust native ads seen in an editorial context, compared to 55% for social media ads (source: Outbrain/Sevanta).
  • The Native Advertising sector is estimated to be worth $400bn by 2025 (source: The Drum).
  •  Engagement rates are 20 to 60 percent higher on native ads than on banners and drive retention rates that are 3x higher (source: MarTech).


Native Advertising best practices

Now that the benefits of Native Advertising have been firmly established let’s look at some of the best practices to keep in mind as you build out your next Native Advertising campaign.

  1. Choose interest over interruption: Native ads are delivered in a stream and featured in a way that does not disrupt the user’s experience of the platform or the media itself—but the power of Native Advertising is diminished when the ad itself is highly disruptive! As an advertiser, you must change your approach from “what would elicit a sale from my target audience” to “what would my target audience find interesting or entertaining”? Creating high-quality content that seeks to entertain or inform will help you create the most impact with your next campaign.
  2. Focus on content: Although Content Marketing is not the same as Native Advertising, the two go well together. Blog articles, podcasts, and entertaining videos are just a few of the Content Marketing tools at your disposal when it comes to creating an eye-catching Native ad.
  3. Test everything: Begin with a clearly defined goal, as well as a testable hypothesis, which can be as simple as “smaller text is always better.” Many advertisers choose to test only two variations through a concept known as A/B testing: they test their original ad against a new version that is different in some way instead of running three or more ad variations simultaneously. The original ad or “control” performs an essential function because it is the baseline that determines whether further experimentation is a success or failure. Once the test is run, the only thing left to do is decide which version of the ad you will continue using.


Native Advertising: Concerns and obligations

Native Advertising is not a perfect science and comes with some issues that all advertisers must consider. Namely, there is some debate around the potential for Native ads to blend into their target environments so well that audiences feel as if they’re being misled. One study found that fewer than 1 in 10 people could distinguish “online sponsored content” from news articles (source:

While things like disclosure aspects that specify when you are looking at an ad go a long way towards informing consumers that they are clicking on an ad, truth, and transparency are something you must keep in mind when creating a Native Advertising campaign. The Guide to Native Advertising created by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States can help provide additional guidance.


Journey Advertising: The future of Native?

According to CSO Seraj Bharwani, “Journey Advertising is a brand’s ability to reach consumers at key moments along the journey with relevant content and creative messaging to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.”

Native ads essentially do just that: they meet audiences at key moments during their Journey, seeking to provide value instead of a quick sale. Looking at your next Native Advertising campaign as a journey will help you see the entire consumer relationship as a connected pathway instead of a final destination.

It is a conceptual framework that you can use to take your Native Ads to the next level. Learn more about Journey Advertising here.


Start your Native Advertising campaign today

illumin lets you harness the power of Native Advertising along a connected journey, allowing you to control ad creative and frequency at each stage and discover the most effective route to conversion.

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