What is Native Advertising?

Native Advertising is a term which we hear a lot nowadays, but what is it? Depending on who you’re talking to, native advertising can be anything from fully-fledged advertorial articles to search advertising in Google. In summary, however, it describes the process of bringing the advertising into the ‘content stream’, rather than tacking it on the outside. In other words, the advert looks as if it’s ‘native’ to the site where it appears.

The respected Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is working with a definition that covers six types of advertising:

  • In-Feed Units (e.g. the ads which appear in Facebook and Twitter streams)
  • Paid Search Units (e.g. Google search ads)
  • Recommendation Widgets (e.g. those ‘elsewhere around the web’ panels)
  • Promoted Listings (e.g. ads appearing within online store listings)
  • In-Ad/IAB Standard (a standard sized ad, outside of the ‘editorial’ area, sold with a guaranteed placement)
  • Custom (stuff they can’t categorise)

There’s no doubt that online, native advertising is the way ahead. Old-school ‘banner ads’ decorating the page still get sold, but their value for money has tanked, unless on a pay-per-click basis, which can offer increasing value as click-through rates fall. The IAB says that with ‘native’ advertising, “display advertising has been freed from the right rail and leaderboard to which it has long been confined and now has license to settle anywhere on the page. A corollary benefit of this move is getting advertising into the user’s natural activity stream — where print and TV advertising have always been.”

Advertisers have always wanted to get into the main content of the media where they advertise. At the moment, publishers are keen to allow this, while attempting to follow some sort of good practice which distinguishes paid and original content. How much longer this will continue is another matter. We’ve almost forgotten how the ads in Google search results used to be in bright coloured boxes, now that they only have a barely-visible icon to identify them.