Last week, Facebook announced native advertising functions in their Facebook Audience Network. The function is intended to help publishers and developers, and ultimately Facebook itself, generate more revenue from the platform.

While generating more revenue for Facebook is a motivator for the release of the product, how does a business benefit from publishing, and paying for, native advertising?

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Believe it or not, we see native ads everywhere, most of them on social media. They are known as posts, tweets and stories. Native advertising is a subset of content marketing, the practice of using content to build trust and engagement with prospective customers. What’s more, native advertising has been a part of strategic marketing since the early 1900s — in print media, undoubtedly.

Native advertising is described as advertising with a narrative structure that mirrors surrounding editorial content, also known as sponsored content or advertorial content. Native advertising has been transformed by a new digital frontier.

While there has been an increase in the popularity of native advertising in digital form, it is a recent phenomenon. Business Insider is reporting that by 2018, native advertising will exceed $20 billion, with $11.9 billion predicted revenue in social media alone; however, the projections are also broken down in three main native ad types — social-native, native-style display ads, and sponsored content.

Really, what’s the fuss all about?

Native ads perform better than traditional display advertising, particularly on mobile. Desktop native clickthrough rates (CTRs) averaged a respectable 0.15%, while native-mobile ads had CTRs over 1%, according to recent data from Polar Media Group and Celtra, respectively.

Consumers are generally positive about native advertising, but advertisers and publishers must ensure that ads are relevant and are purchased by trustworthy brands to avoid the risk of backlash. In this case, an advertiser can ask the top media properties in the industry to create an advertorial-looking information piece that positions your business as a thought leader.

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Types of native ads

In-feed advertorials

This kind of ad functions like any other elements on the page on which it is placed. Often, it delivers the same type of content experience, i.e. video, story, etc. An in-feed ad is part of a publisher’s normal content; it is written in story form to match the surrounding stories and allows for an individual to play, read, view, or watch without switching to a separate page.

Promoted listings

These are designed to fit seamlessly into the browsing experience. This type of native ad is presented to look identical to the products or services offered on a given site, such as social media, and is typically linked to a special brand or product page of the business’s choice.

In-ad

This type of unit is placed outside of editorial. It contains contextually relevant content within the ad, and links to an external website.

Custom

There are no limits to the possibilities when an advertiser and publisher work together on custom advertorials.

Creating the native ads

While native ads are mostly editorial-focused, typically using the same voice as the publication or website where they will live, there are guidelines a business must follow in order to benefit significantly from them.

  • Use language that conveys that the advertising has been paid for, even if that unit does not contain traditional promotional advertising messages.
  • Make the ad large and visible enough for a consumer to notice it in the context of a given page

For media companies — traditional or digital — that are conscious of their journalistic integrity, the development of native advertising makes things more complicated in terms of deciding what’s acceptable and what is not. Ultimately, the editor calls the shots when it comes to advertorials. They are held accountable for the content quality and credibility — and whether or not it contributes to the commercial worthiness of the media.

Have you used native advertising as a strategic marketing initiative? Comment below to start the conversation.