Advertising Technology

What is Native Advertising?

Native advertising is a form of paid advertising where the ad content seamlessly blends with the look, feel, and function of the platform on which it appears. The primary goal of native advertising is to provide relevant and valuable content to the target audience, without disrupting their browsing experience. Native ads often mimic the style and tone of editorial content, making them less intrusive and more engaging than traditional display ads.

What Are The Benefits of Native Advertising?

  1. Enhanced User Experience: Native ads are less disruptive and blend naturally with the content on a platform, providing a more positive user experience.
  2. Higher Engagement Rates: Because native ads resemble editorial content, they tend to generate higher engagement and click-through rates compared to traditional display ads.
  3. Better Brand Perception: Native advertising allows brands to showcase their expertise and offer value to their audience, leading to improved brand perception and trust.
  4. Improved Ad Relevance: Native ads are typically more relevant to the user, as they are designed to match the content and context of the platform.

What Types of Native Advertising Are There?

  1. Sponsored Articles: Brands collaborate with publishers to create sponsored articles that align with the editorial content of a website, providing valuable information to the reader.
  2. In-feed Social Media Ads: Advertisements on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are designed to look like regular posts, ensuring they blend seamlessly into users’ feeds.
  3. Content Recommendation Widgets: Platforms like Outbrain and Taboola provide content recommendation widgets that display sponsored content alongside related articles on publishers’ websites.
  4. Branded Videos: Brands create videos that offer engaging and valuable content, which can be shared through video-sharing platforms like YouTube or embedded in relevant articles.

Native Advertising Best Practices:

  1. Focus on Content Quality: Native ads should provide valuable and relevant content that resonates with the target audience, enhancing their browsing experience.
  2. Maintain Consistency: Ensure that the ad’s design, tone, and messaging are consistent with the platform’s editorial content, making the ad appear more natural and less intrusive.
  3. Target the Right Audience: Use targeting techniques to ensure that your native ads reach the most relevant audience, increasing engagement and the likelihood of conversion.
  4. Monitor and Optimize: Regularly track the performance of your native ads and make necessary adjustments to optimize their effectiveness, ensuring maximum return on investment.
  5. Disclose Sponsorship: Clearly label native ads as sponsored or promoted content to maintain transparency and adhere to advertising guidelines set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Why Disclosure is Critical With Native Advertising

As defined by the FTC, native advertising is deceptive if there is a material misrepresentation or even if there’s an omission of information that is likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances. That’s a subjective statement, and I’m not sure I want to defend myself against the powers of the government.

The Federal Trade Commission defines native advertising as any content that bears a similarity to the news, feature articles, product reviews, entertainment, and other material that surrounds it online.

FTC Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses

Lord & Taylor paid 50 online fashion influencers to post Instagram pictures of themselves wearing the same paisley dress from the new collection. However, they failed to disclose they had given each influencer the dress, as well as thousands of dollars, in exchange for their endorsement. Each violation of that lack of disclosure could have resulted in a civil penalty of up to $16,000!

More than one-third of digital media publishers are not compliant with the FTC’s rules that govern website native ads and sponsored content.


Disclosure of native advertising is the law in the United States and in many other countries. But disclosure of a relationship with a brand isn’t just a legal issue, it’s one of trust. Too many marketers believe that disclosure could impact conversion rates, but we’ve not witnessed this at all. Our readers have been with us for a decade and trust that, if I publish a product recommendation, I’m doing so with my reputation on the line.

Transparency with the consumer is critical, and promotional pieces shouldn’t suggest or imply to consumers that they are anything other than an advertisement. If a disclosure is necessary to prevent deception, the disclosure must be clear and it must be prominent. 

Adam Solomon, Michelman & Robinson

A good example of disclosure in native advertising is when the disclosure is clear and conspicuous, and it’s placed in a location where it’s easily noticeable and understandable to the audience. The disclosure should clearly indicate that the content is sponsored or an advertisement, and not editorial content.

One example of a clear disclosure is when the word advertisement or sponsored is prominently displayed at the top of the content, and in a font size that is comparable to the headline of the article. Additionally, the disclosure should be in a different color or font style than the rest of the content, so that it stands out and is easily recognizable as a disclosure.

Another example of a clear disclosure is when the advertisement is presented in a separate section or box, with a clear label that identifies it as sponsored content. This makes it easy for the audience to distinguish between editorial and sponsored content.

I wouldn’t ever risk my reputation. In fact, I get solicited almost daily to publish articles and get paid to backlink and I turn them down. At times, agencies even have the audacity to request that I post something with no disclosure. I write them back and ask them why they believe violating federal regulations is okay… and they disappear and don’t respond.

The History Of Native Advertising

The infographic and article discuss the history of native advertising, tracing it back to the first advertorial in the late 19th century. The article discusses how native advertising has evolved over time, from the early days of advertorials in print publications to sponsored content on social media platforms. The infographic highlights key milestones in the development of native advertising, including the introduction of Google AdWords in 2000 and the rise of programmatic native advertising in recent years.

The article also explores the benefits of native advertising, such as its ability to increase brand awareness and engagement with audiences. However, it also acknowledges some of the criticisms of native advertising, including concerns about transparency and the potential for misleading consumers.

OB Infographic Native Advertising layout v2 1 1

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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