Native Ads: Balance Brand Promotion with Compelling Content

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“Content marketing is slightly different than native advertising. The difference with content marketing is that it’s often written by the brand itself,” Drummey says. “It’s stuff that your current customers or your prospective customers might find helpful or interesting; you’re writing it for them. It’s a long-tail form of sales or user acquisition because you’re hoping that by being a helpful or interesting authority in this space, they will try you out when they go to try out a product in that space.” He cites online dating platform OkCupid as a company that frequently engages in content marketing—instead of investing in banner ads, it draws from its vast amounts of user data to craft articles with online dating tips.

John Miller, president at Scribewise, also sees a difference. “Content marketing is much broader [than native advertising],” he states. “If you’re a brand, content marketing can exist in an email campaign, on your own blog, it can be white papers that you promote through digital advertisements and even non-digital advertisements—it’s a much broader spectrum, and some would even say that when you get to sales collateral, that’s still part of your content marketing strategy. Native advertising is a piece of content that is handpicked and placed with a specific media outlet. Native advertising only exists on a media entity.”

Handova—who notes via email that “brand journalism” is another term for native advertising—agrees that it is best thought of as a subset of content marketing and proposes that one way to understand native advertising is to look at where it falls in relation to three general categories of media: earned, owned, and bought. He defines earned media as “the traditional PR-generated material that places companies and their spokespeople in news articles by reaching out to reporters to cover their clients.” In contrast, owned media refers to any content that a company hosts on its own properties. Finally, bought media comprises material that a company has paid for to run on a third-party outlet, including banner and click-on-me text ads, as well as native advertisements that blend in with that party’s content.

Regardless of how it is thought of in relation to content marketing and other forms of advertising, it is clear that native ads have the potential to be mutually beneficial for both the platforms that host them and the brands that pay for them—they can be a valuable source of revenue for the host platforms, and the brands that sponsor them can reach new or larger audiences. “Both publishers and advertisers are looking at native ads as a new type of marketplace to work together—for publishers, to take advantage of the influence that their audience has, [and] advertisers, to achieve real marketing objectives,” Schreiber observes.

“Native ad headline writing and copy writing has become a really important creative tactic to drive as much brand association and brand lift as possible,” he adds.


Perhaps the single most important aspect of a native advertisement is that it fits in seamlessly with the content of its host platform. According to Miller, the ad will be most likely to succeed if it “looks like it belongs,” as this will ensure that people will be “in the right frame of mind” to process it. If the ad stands out, consumers will be less likely to engage with it, as they’ll feel it is disrupting their experience.

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