Restoring the Balance: Native Advertising, Branded Content, and Finding a Win-Win-Win for the Internet / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Restoring the balance for marketing through native advertising, branded content, and finding a win-win-win for the Internet.

The digital advertising industry is fraught with media hyperbole, every week with a new company claiming a panacea that will revolutionize the workflow, targeting, or optimization for all marketers.

However, looking back, how many of these solutions (outside of Google and Facebook), have really truly reached a preeminent, and more importantly, indispensable position in the marketplace where it touches almost every single marketer or agency?

The entire industry ebbs and flows with new solutions coming out every week, or month, with old ones dying off, or struggling to get by. From the looks of it, this will always remain the case.

Marketers have been known to be attracted to shiny new objects, and want to test the brand new kid on the block that claims to solve all their problems. But all this does is to set up incentives for an industry that is in a constant state of churning out new products, and burning the ones that don't work.

Venture capital has only exacerbated this with more of these "me-too" companies surviving longer than they should due to artificially elevated capital constraints (or lack thereof).

Related Article:Will Vlogging Be the Next Big Thing in Branded Content?

Adtech companies, and also bootstrapped publishers, will have to learn how to survive in this brave new world of digital and mobile advertising -- without the cushy safety net of venture capital.

Ad blocking adds another layer of complexity to this equation, now with consumers exerting their choice on what ads are, and are not, acceptable to them. Invasive, below-the-fold audio-on auto-play in-banner video ads are no longer a monetization option for serious publishers, especially those that care about the retention of their users, and long term viability of their business.

These types of intrusive ads will only serve to further chip away at the trust of consumers until it will be a lose-lose-lose for all parties involved.

With venture capital in adtech dying off, and ad blocking calling for a new standard in digital advertising, we as an industry, must rally around an equitable solution that works for all stakeholders involved.

The only reasonable choice for this is native advertising. Other names it goes by: Sponsored Posts, Branded Content, Advertorials, Promoted Posts, etc. These are ads that are produced natively by the publishers, which means that they not only fit the form factor of the content, as they do in beautiful magazine ads, but also in content-style and prose.

Typically the execution of these require a much more custom approach by multiple departments within the publishers' organization: media sales, account managers, ad operations, editorial, and maybe even an in-house creative team.

When all these come together, something beautiful happens, the consumer feels less obstructed by the ad at hand (and doesn't feel deceived as long as the ad clearly states that it is sponsored), the publisher makes a much higher CPM due to the custom nature of the post, and the advertiser gets their message across to a much more amenable consumer due to their brand being presented in the exact vernacular and taste of the audience.

Financially, this works much better for the publisher, as these are premium CPMs that are comparable to pre-roll video, Homepage Takeovers, or Site Skin ads. For the advertiser, they get to convey their message using the voice of the editorial team, whom know the audience best, further endowing trust and brand equity onto the advertisers' product.

Lastly, the consumer, as long as properly informed of the ad being 'sponsored' or 'promoted', gets to enjoy a recommendation from their favorite publication on a new product or brand that they can safely trust, instead of being served multiple disruptive, spammy, and irrelevant ads.

Related Article:10 Surprising Facts About Millennials and Content Marketing

Examples of Sponsored or Promoted Posts

  • Typically this will be a single post about the brand, taking on the form factor of a regular article
tiffany-co-native-ad screen shot
Tiffany & Co Native Ad on Popsugar
Samsung Native Ad on Cool Hunting


Examples of Branded Content

  • This will be more in-depth than just a sponsored post. It usually is an entire section dedicated to the brand, with in-depth videos, infographics, and charts executed in a visually stunning manner.
techmahindra-native-ad screen shot
TechMahindra Native Ad on WSJ

Examples of Other Native Advertising Formats Like Content Recommendation Ads

  • Some of the main companies that provide these Content Recommendation ads at the bottom of many publisher sites is Taboola, Outbrain, RevContent, or Content.Ad. Typically these are bought on a cost-per-click by smaller publishers that want to drive traffic to their sites from premium publisher sites.
outbrain-native-ad screen shot
Outbrain Content Recommendation Ad

Related Article:How to Create Content Both CMOs and Audiences Will Love

The digital and mobile advertising ecosystem is constantly evolving, but I can assure you that, as long as we approach digital advertising in an empathetic way, trying to find a real solution to accomodate all parties involved, we can truly find a win-win-win for the industry, and save the Internet.

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