If you’re feeling a bit confused about native advertising, you’re not alone.

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve almost certainly encountered native advertising before.

If you’ve ever excitedly shared your Golden Retriever result from a quiz that reveals “What Breed Of Dog Are You?” …

Or clicked on a link to discover “5 Foods That Burn Belly Fat Fast” …

Or even felt all the feels from that “Homeless Goat Saves Blind Kittens From Burning Building” story (ok I might have taken some creative license with that last one) ..

…. then you’ve joined the hordes of readers who are embracing native ads.

While some of that is just click-bait for the sake of getting more shares and likes, it’s not all phishing and overhyped headlines.

These days it’s hard to click around the Internet without bumping into native advertising. Although, if the advertiser has done their job well enough, you might not even realizing you’re looking at a paid promotion.

Native advertising is paid promotional content that’s designed to LOOK like regular content, but is actually promotional sales copy in disguise.

It’s crafted to match the format, feel, and function of the medium, channel or content source on which it’s being digested.

For example, if a reader is browsing through a news website, then native advertisers might create a promotion that looks like an editorial article (called an Advertorial).

These editorial-style articles or letters often serve as “pre sales” pages that warm up cold traffic coming from paid advertising.

Done right, native ads are NOT meant to trick readers into thinking they’re a real news story
(savvy Internet users can almost always tell promotional material from real stories)

Instead, they’re designed to create congruency, trust, and familiarity with a reader before you go “full promo” and ask them for a sale.

In this article we’ll break down what native advertising actually is (and what it is not), the different types of native advertising, and how you can use them to warm up cold traffic and get the profitable click – all with plenty of examples along the way.

Where Did Native Advertising Come From?

While it seems like native ads are a new thing born out of the Internet, they’ve actually been around since the 1900’s. Back then, marketers would coordinate media coverage with popular events so that advertisers could run relevant ads that matched the mindsets of the people attending the event.

Ford Motors did a great job of this by running relevant ads adjacent to car races. 

Then, in 1910, brands started running “advertorials” alongside news articles. Advertorials are paid promotions that are designed to look like an editorial news article. For example, Cadillac hired marketer Theodore MacManus to place this advertorial in The Saturday Evening Post back in the early 1900’s.

After that, the native advertising trend started growing rapidly (although not as quickly as it is today) and brands started “sponsoring” radio programs in the 1930’s, and eventually television shows and soap operas in the 40’s and 50’s.

In fact, did you know that’s where the term “soap opera” came from? Companies like Proctor and Gamble sponsored and underwrote these television dramas to market their soap!

Flash forward through the infomercials of the 80’s and the search engine ads of the early 2000’s, and you arrive right on the doorstep of sponsored and native content plastered all over the Internet on sites like Buzzfeed, BBC, Gawker, and more.

Now, according to Google Trends, native advertising is on the same trajectory path that content marketing was on back in the early 2000’s. And by all evidence, it’s only going to grow bigger and faster than ever before.

We’ll dive deeper into the trends and predictive growth of native advertising later, but for now let’s take a quick look at the different types of native promotions.

Types Of Native Advertising

While the creative possibilities of native advertising is seemingly endless, most of this content falls into one of three main categories.

  1. Sponsored Content
  2. Recommended Content
  3. In-Feed Search and Social Content

You’ll see each these broken down and expanded upon in many marketing guides, but most native advertising content fits fairly well into these simple categories.

Let’s look at some examples.

Sponsored content

Usually reserved for large advertisers with big bookoo bucks, you’ll find sponsored content is much-loved by viewers as a refreshing and entertaining break from the constant barrage of traditional advertising.

These are articles, videos, and other media that appear on publisher websites and look like something that’s about to go viral.


Like this partnership between Men’s Health and Fitbit that birthed a mini-series called The Adventurist:

Or this subtle partnership between The Dodo and Samsung about photographing dogs in New York City which attracted over 12 MILLION views on Facebook alone!

Sponsored content is an opportunity for brands to get really creative. Like this example from Chase Bank and The Wall Street Journal that allow you to virtually explore cities like New Orleans, San Francisco, and Miami.

The results were astounding. The Wall Street Journal generated over 500,000 views with an astonishingly-low bounce rate of only 7 percent.

As you can see, the entertainment aspect blends seamlessly with the advertising message – reducing resistance and making these promotions utterly shareable.

Because of the high cost of sponsored content, it’s usually the playing field of large brands and corporations, but the other types of native advertising are more accessible for all brands and marketers.

Recommended Content

Recommended content is where most marketers play.  In this situation, native advertising articles appear alongside sponsored content or actual content as a relevant suggestion.

You’ll see this listed as “you might also like…” or “similar articles” on sites like Buzzfeed, Wired, Daily Mail, or any other content publisher.

If you’d like to get your content recommended by big publishers like TMZ, BBC, or Business Insider, then content networks like Taboola or Outbrain can make that happen.

For example, let’s look at this lifestyle article published on BusinessInsider.com:

You can see the traditional advertisement there on the right – that’s paid advertisement.

And if you scroll down a bit you can see the “sponsored content” section in the sidebar here:

But if you keep scrolling, you’ll see both in the sidebar and at the bottom of the screen a section that promotes other content recommended from around the web:

These are all recommended content articles promoted by Taboola.

You’ll see how the “recommended from the web” tagline blends easily into the reader experience on BusinessInsider. It looks almost identical to the rest of their suggested internal content, but in reality, is paid advertising for brands who are using the Taboola content network to promote their native advertising pieces.

It works so well, that there’s no need to even hide that it’s paid promotion! You can see the Taboola logo right at the bottom of the suggested content column.

In-Feed Search and Social Content

This is often the easiest place to start when first approaching native advertising. In-feed social and search ads are cheap, easy, and can be set up in less than an hour.

The definition of In-Feed content is pretty self explanatory…. They appear inside the content feeds of social platforms like Pintrest, Youtube, and Facebook.

Like this…

The benefit of using an in-feed native advertising over a traditional paid social advertising is that – when you go native – you leverage the power of social proof and social context.

Advertisements are often unwelcome on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They trigger “salesman” alarms and create resistance and defensiveness since they’re “getting in the way” of readers’ social enjoyment.

But in-feed ads blend into the content of the news feed so that readers WANT to click on them and read them.

Like this one on Twitter (which, ironically, is promoting a platform competing with Twitter)…

Or even Pinterest:

What Native Advertising Is NOT

While the principles behind native advertising are fairly simple, perhaps the most confusing element is how much the lines between the different types of natives ads blur together.

There are sponsored in-feed ads labeled as “promoted” or “advertisement”, recommended content labeled as “sponsored” articles, and sponsored content titled “from around the web.”

As you can see, it’s easy to get confused!

The most important thing to remember is…

It all works to capture attention and help lead readers further up the buyer’s awareness scale – getting them to know, like and trust you so they’re primed to purchase by the time you ask for the sale.

To help define native advertising further, let’s look at a few examples of what native advertising is NOT.

For example, traditional PPC ads are not native advertising – like these ads in the sidebar here:

Traditional banner ads are clearly making an offer to “buy now” – like this:

Image Source: DigitalMarketer

And while normal ads have a profitable place in marketing, they’re usually ignored on platforms like social websites or content publishers because people are oversaturated and overmarketed to.

Native ads are interesting, sharable, and low-pressure since they’re not directly asking for a sale. In fact, people often SEEK OUT native advertising content because it looks … well… CONTENT!

And most importantly, native advertising blends in seamlessly with the platform or channel where it’s published.

While Click Through Rates have been dropping rapidly since the early 2000’s, native advertising continuously gets more clicks, and drives more sales than traditional banner ads:

How Do Companies Implement Native Advertising Funnels?

Here we’ll take a quick look at how native ad mini funnel might work. If you want to learn how to quickly and easily implement native advertising into YOUR business, read Part 2 of this series here.

Dollar Shave Club is a notoriously successful example of native advertising. They created an engaging brand story supported by an entertaining advertising campaign and combined them into a Native Advertising Mini Funnel.

First, they created click-bait-worthy ads like these:

These ads were placed on websites like weather.com or cnn.com using content networks like Taboola, Outbrain, Adblade, and more.

When people clicked on these ads, they were sent to Advertorial articles like this one:

And after reading the article, people would click through to the actual sales page / homepage at https://www.dollarshaveclub.com – where they would see a funny and entertaining video, and eventually, be asked to buy.

The trick is – by the time they got to the sales page – they were already familiar with the brand, and were already primed for the sale.

While this is a simple example, it’s extremely effective, and has sold millions of razors all by itself. A more complicated funnel could also include a promotional email series, remarketing, or VSL (video sales letter) thrown into the mix.

Is Native Advertising Right For Your Business?

Hopefully this article has provided some clarity about how native advertising works. It’s a great way to warm up cold traffic coming from PPC ads by getting readers in the right mindset BEFORE you ask them to buy. 

The trick is to create engaging content that matches the format and feel of the medium where it’s published. Then, after your readers are already entertained and primed on the topic related to your product, you can move them further into your sales funnel. 

In Part 2 of our native advertising series we break down the full native advertising funnel – including how and where to implement each piece, and how to get a big lift in your business right away.

Read Part 2: Breaking Down The Native Advertising Funnel


If you’d like help implement native advertising strategies into your business, let’s chat!  Click here to learn more about how native advertising can work to increase conversions and warm up cold traffic in your business.

Be the first to know everytime we post a new resource. As a bonus, we’ll send you a our guide on how to get the most out of your copywriter. Enter your details below to get the inside scoop.


privacy We value your privacy and would never spam you





    3 replies to "What Is Native Advertising?"

Comments are closed.