Native Advertising – Everything You Need To Know

Looking for answers on native ads, then you’re in the right place. Here we unpack what it is, why it’s important along with some juicy examples.

native ads

What are Native Ads?

Native advertising is a form of paid digital advertisement created to match the look & feel of the website’s editorial environment and are cohesive with the content on the landing page.

This form of advertising can be very effective in the digital world because people are passively consuming content and are more likely to be engaged when they don’t realise they’re being advertised to.

Here are a few examples that we plucked from the web:

image showing screen shot from website. The image contains a number of thumbnails and a banner ad to the right of the page, the native ads are displayed in the lower half of the page with 6 full thumbnails and article titles visible whilst the next 3 articles are below the page fold.
The image above shows an example from the website, the native ads are highlighted with the neon blue arrow that we’ve added. Otherwise, the only giveaway is a small headline with the word “PROMOTED” and the Outbrain logo.
Screen shot of a news article from the bbc website, taken from a user in Australia (the BBC run ads for users who view from outside of the UK).
The above is an example taken from the BBC website – it shows the end of an article about the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. Taboola is running the native ads here. You can see that the Beeb have boxed them off by using a grey background – again, the only giveaway that these are ads is the “Recommendations by Taboola” and accompanying “Taboola Feed” logo at the top of the grey boxed-off area.

You can see from these examples of native ads that they almost “blend in” to the main page content – at least they do in contrast to traditional banner ads (you can see a traditional banner ad in the SMH example above).

What is Native Advertising?

Diving deeper into the concept, native advertising is fundamentally about seamless integration. In a world where audiences have grown wary of overt advertisements, the subtlety of native advertising offers a reprieve. It capitalizes on the element of surprise, ensuring that advertisements don’t disrupt but rather complement a user’s browsing experience.

At its core, native advertising seeks to provide valuable content within the context of the user’s experience in a non-disruptive way. Instead of jarring the user with a stark, out-of-place advert, it introduces promotional content in a manner that’s consistent with the platform’s natural environment. This strategy not only makes the content more digestible but also encourages organic engagement, leading to a more genuine interaction between the brand and its target audience.

The brilliance behind native advertising is its chameleon-like ability to adapt. It moulds itself according to the platform it’s presented on, taking on its characteristics and blending in. Whether it’s an article, video, or infographic, the content is tailored to look and feel like the rest of the site. This approach, however, also necessitates transparency. Proper disclosure, such as using terms like “Promoted” or “Recommendations by”, is essential to maintain the audience’s trust (see earlier examples from SMH and BBC websites). While native advertising aims to camouflage its promotional nature, it also upholds an ethical responsibility to signify that what the user is viewing is, indeed, an ad.

Why is native advertising important?

The most significant advantage of native ads is that they are non-intrusive and connect with users in a format of their choice. Unlike traditional ad formats like display ads or banner ads, native ads blend in with the web page’s organic content. 

This “blending in” effect is actually really positive from an engagement perspective – ever heard of “banner blindness” where people have become predisposed to simply ignoring those pesky banner ads. Native content is much harder to be blind to, as it blends with the main website content.

As more and more consumers on the internet are becoming resistant to traditional forms of advertising, native ads have become a great source of revenue for some organisations and in many cases, they have started outperforming traditional ad formats.

Fun Fact! The first ever display banner was published on in 1994 for a campaign by AT&T. This ad generated a massive click-through-rate (CTR) of 44% over the period of four months – dreams do come true!

This is the first-ever display banner – from A&T as display on (now

Since then, display banners have developed a bad reputation for being ineffective, unengaging, or, worst of all, ignored. As per the Q1 2020 ad benchmark report from AdStage CTR for display ads have decreased 41% year over year since Q1 2019

Source: Google Ads Display Network Benchmarking Report 2020

The above might even be painting a slightly positive picture of the performance of Google Display Ads, when you consider Google’s own previously public data which shows a CTR of just 0.05% for all display formats (that’s just 5 clicks for every 1,000 impressions). Sadly this data was last updated in 2015 since which Google have stopped reporting on aggregate CTRs (see below for reference):

Image above shows pre-2015 DoubleClick data from when Google used to make CTR benchmarks publicly available. You can see the average CTR for all formats across display sits at 0.05%.

What does Native Advertising look like?

Native ads can be found on social media channels as sponsored posts or recommended content on various websites. Although native ads integrate seamlessly into the web page, some legal guidelines and laws prevent them from being deceptive. Afterall we can’t have advertisers being too sneaky sneaky and tricking people into spending their hard-earned! 

You can usually tell that it’s a native paid ad by looking for a few distinguishing features. For example, you will often see markers such as “sponsored’ or ‘promoted by’ with a headline text or thumbnail, indicating that users view paid advertisements. As shown in the example below – 

These subtle indicators do add a level of transparency for users so that they’re aware they are consuming paid content – although as with everything digital, some people may not notice the “paid/sponsored” markers – remember, people tend to skim through content quite quickly, potentially ignoring the less prominent headlines/logos.  An example of this is the number of people out there who don’t know the difference between a Google search paid and organic listing (admittedly, Google do seem to have started to make the differences between the two less conspicuous over the years) – so how can we expect them to spot native ads!

Native Advertising Channels

Native advertising can be run either manually or programmatically across the following networks:

  • Social – In-feed and carousel ad formats on Facebook or Twitter
  • Open Web – Content discovery platforms like Outbrain & Taboola display native ads across popular publisher websites 
  • Search – Ad lists or Sponsored search results on Google – while many advertisers associate native advertising with sponsored content and blog posts, the word actually refers to a far broader range of content. Paid search ads that display alongside organic results fit into the native ads framework as these ads are clearly labelled to enable consumers to clearly distinguish between paid and organic content. Also the tone and the format of the ads match the feel of organic content being displayed on Google providing a seamless user experience. 

Benefits of native advertising 

  • Perception – Native ads often have higher levels of engagement from the target audience. This is because native ads don’t feel like display advertisements; people are more inclined to view them and consume their content.
  • Brand Awareness – Native ads contribute to improved brand awareness due to being viewed often (frequency baby – oh yeah), which helps prevent ad fatigue  It’s really common to see native ads alongside news content, which obviously gets a lot of views – make sure you understand whether a view means somebody actually SAW the ad or whether it just loaded somewhere on the page (and was potentially out of sight).
  • Less Competition – While it’s true that Google and Facebook have the largest audiences, this means lower competition. Still, as the aggregation of the entire internet is much broader, it also provides an immense opportunity to scale. 
  • Higher CTR – Ad’s contextual relevance means that native advertising can produce a high Click-Through Rate (CTR) and if the landing page experience is good, you could also see a boost in conversions. 
  • Reach – Native ads reach users across the most trafficked sites. You can reach audiences across sites like Yahoo, Business Insider, MSN, CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post, etc. With native networks, you can reach audiences across various placements and grow your business.

Need help with your native ads?

If you are looking for assistance with existing campaigns or are keen to diversify your marketing strategy with Native Ads, get in touch with a Native Ninja using the form below.

    Jon Dawson, CEO of Digital Ninjas
    Jonathan will get back to you soon

    A Summary of Native Advertising

    To wrap native advertising up in 10 key characteristics:

    • Seamless Integration: Native ads blend with the publisher’s content (see examples from the SMH and BBC at the top of this article), offering a non-disruptive user experience.
    • Valuable Content: Designed to provide relevant information in the context of the user’s current experience.
    • Adaptive Nature: Tailored to match the look and feel of the specific platform, whether it’s a news site, social media, or a blog.
    • Organic Engagement: Encourages genuine interactions between brands and audiences due to its subtle promotional approach.
    • Platform-Specific: Ad content varies based on where it’s placed, be it articles, videos, or infographics.
    • Transparency is Key: Proper labelling, like “Promoted” or “Sponsored,” is essential to maintain user trust (again, reference the example at the start of this article).
    • Performance Metrics: Most platforms offer analytics to gauge ad performance and user engagement.
    • Examples of Providers: Taboola, Outbrain, and native ad functionalities on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
    • Cost-Effective: Native can offer better return on investment (ROI) compared to traditional advertising due to higher engagement rates.
    • Targeted Delivery: Many platforms allow brands to target specific demographics or user behaviours, ensuring content relevance.