Native advertising is all the rage these days. The sites you visit are likely flush with native advertising examples–both good and bad.

And for good reason. Native ads work.

Smart marketers are catching onto the effectiveness of native ads and are making the shift away from traditional display ads.

Money spent on display ads is slowly falling, while spending on native ads is rising. eMarketer reports that spending on native advertising will rise to $5 billion in 2017.

That’s some serious money.

With all the cash flowing into native advertising–and the hype surrounding it–you may be wondering how native advertising works. Or, more specifically, how does it fit into your content marketing plan?

Keep reading for a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of native ads and a closer look at some native advertising examples.

What exactly is native advertising?

If you’re still not sure what the heck we’re even talking about, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Around 50% of people have no idea what native advertising is.

Native ads are essentially paid advertisements that look and feel just like the content around them. Good native advertising should blend in with its surroundings.

It should not be indistinguishable (we’ll get into that below), but look enough like the surrounding content so as not to be immediately ignored by the reader.

Let’s face it, many of us are now oblivious to most banner and sidebar ads. We’ve just seen them for so long, that ignoring them has become a sort of second nature.

And marketers are now seeing the shift in attention away from banner and sidebar style ads.

Taking over advertising

According to Business Insider, native advertising will account for 74% of advertising revenue by 2021. Just to compare, native ads currently account for a little over half of ad revenue.

That’s a pretty big jump.

Why they work

Native advertising gives marketers the opportunity to get content in front of readers in a natural form.

Rather than trying to pull the reader’s (or viewer’s) attention away from something else, native advertising allows you to give readers a piece of useful content that points back to your brand.

Done well, native ads give readers value within the context of other content they’re already consuming.

Native advertising and content marketing

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, anyone who’s worked with content marketing knows that it can be tough to create great content and find an audience.

Native advertising can provide a nice boost to your existing content marketing efforts by getting your content in front of an established audience. But, unlike other paid advertising, you’ll want to focus on informing and engaging rather than the hard sell.

Just like you would for your own content channels–your blog or social media–you’ll want to focus on knowing the audience and speaking to their needs.

Native advertising examples

Now you at least have a vague understanding of native advertising, and a hopefully somewhat clearer understanding that it is definitely here to stay.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of native advertising.

Native advertising example #1: Woman Going To Take Quick Break After Filling Out Name, Address On Tax Forms

This quirky (and now somewhat famous) native advertising example comes from an unusual source–The Onion.

While this example doesn’t really fit into the definition of native advertising we explored above, it does provide the advertiser (H&R Block in this case) with some valuable brand awareness.

Since the content is just a funny blurb–written in typical Onion fashion–about a woman taking a break from doing her taxes, there’s really no value being provided to the reader.

Beyond simple brand awareness, H&R Block does do something very well in this ad: sympathize with the reader. Block is essentially saying: “Hey, we get it. Doing your taxes sucks.”

Native advertising example #2: 10 Quotes Every Grad Needs To Read

This example comes to us from the viral site BuzzFeed.

The article itself is–as you probably guessed–a list of 10 quotes from the now famous commencement speech “You Are Not Special” by teacher David McCullough, Jr. The advertiser, HarperCollins, plugs a book by McCullough at the end of the post.

This example came out in early June a few years ago–right around graduation time. And it fits very well with the kind of content you’d find published anywhere else on BuzzFeed.

Native advertising example #3: As Big Data Grows, a New Role Emerges: the Chief Data Officer

Even though this example, which comes from The Atlantic, is clearly labeled “sponsored content” (much more clearly than the first two examples actually), it blends more naturally with The Atlantic’s other content and provides real value to the reader.

This post is written by IBM’s VP of marketing David Laverty and is a repost of a piece that already appeared on IBM’s own blog. It does not make a direct pitch for any products or services but does help raise brand awareness and authority for IBM.

Native advertising example #4: How To Help Protect Your Small Organization

This example, written and sponsored by ADP, appeared in Forbes as a part of their BrandVoice program. In Forbes’ own words, BrandVoice is:

“Forbes  BrandVoice allows marketers to connect directly with the Forbes audience by enabling them to create content–and participate in the conversation–on the Forbes digital publishing platform.”

This is a great example of native advertising. While the piece is clearly sponsored content, it is a long, meaty post that provides real value to the reader.

Again, there’s no hard sell within the piece, just a link back to ADP’s own blog at the end of the post.

Final thoughts

When done right, native ads provide content that is both interesting and of real value to the reader. Good native advertising examples are not spammy articles trying to make a hard sell.

As we explored above, native advertising is a great supplement to your other content marketing efforts. The goal of native ads is to express authority to the reader and point them back to your content.

If you’d like to see how you can take your content marketing to the next level, let’s talk.

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