Native Advertising: What Is It Exactly?

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Breaking down native advertising in plain English, and how to employ this powerful trend at your business.

Native advertising this, programmatic that. The buzzwords fly freely, but does anyone ever take a moment to really explain what the heck is going on in plain English? The reality is that new "trends" are really old ones, re-packaged or spun a bit, and that is definitely the case with native advertising. So what is it, how does it work, and how can you get in on the action? Keep reading.

What Is It?

Simply put, native advertising is a form of sponsored content. Wherever it is, be it Twitter, Facebook or your website, it looks like it's supposed to be there. It is the definition of contextual. Let's take a promoted pin, for instance:

via Pinterest as published by Digiday

 The pin looks and acts like all the other pins, but down at the bottom, you'll see that it's marked as "promoted." Facebook and Twitter are two other big ones that employ native advertising, which they disperse among the content you've chosen to see by following or liking.

If you think about it like television, commercials are to traditional advertising as product placement is to native advertising (so long as it doesn't change the format of the show).

In August 2014, a study by 614 Group and OneSpot revealed some pretty impressive stats:

  • 69 percent of marketers believe that native advertising is valuable
  • 22 percent view it as the future of digital advertising
  • 52 percent of marketers assert that getting to right level of scale is their job No. 1 for native advertising and content marketing
  • 87 percent employ their own websites as a means to promote content
  • 80 percent use social networks

How Does It Work?

In traditional advertising, let's say for a magazine, editorial and advertising are kept very separate. The editorial team is charged with creating content that is within the voice of the publication, and at it's core, promotes their mission and brand values. The nature of editorial is truthful and journalistic, and is the main reason why readers will patronize a publication-because they trust it. There is no ulterior motive in editorial besides telling a story in the way the writer intended it to be told.

Native advertising blurs the lines. Take Forbes' March 2015 cover, for instance:

Forbes cover March 2015 native advertising

This move was a bold one. Typically, what is now known as "native advertising" lived in the back of a magazine, where sponsored content existed but looked and acted very different from editorial content. This new iteration of native advertising made many feel like they were being misled, and the journalists weren't too happy about it either. Former staff tweeted that they had "just sold-off its last bit of editorial integrity" and were "pushing forward the complete bastardization of journalism".

The difference between the Forbes example and Pinterest might be subtle, but it's clear: in order to maintain the trust of your audience and/or potential customers, be clear about your motives.

How Can You Get In On the Action? 

As a B2B marketer, you've probably already been thinking about how exactly you can get in on the native advertising action. If you're using Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, it's relatively easy-promoted pins, tweets and posts are a regular part of their advertising products now.

Native advertising example Dell on Business.com Additionally, most B2B publications are prepared for native advertising. Business.com was built to be a native platform, and the opportunity for sponsoring native content was baked into our new design. Want in on the Business.com native action? Contact us.

Native advertising on business.com CA

If you're looking to create native advertising opportunities for your clients and customers, this is a good time to get to it.

The logical (and most important) place to start is to create for the mindset that native advertising is a marriage of the minds between editorial and sales. Native advertising should present the message of the advertiser in the voice of the publication, while making sure that it's clear to your audience that the content is sponsored.

In order to do this well, you need to get all stakeholders onboard, and early. Make sure your sales team is talking to your content/editorial team before promising anything to an advertiser. Talk to your design about how you'll differentiate sponsored native content from published editorial. Talk to tech about how it will be implemented.

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