BIG BOOK OF INBOUND MARKETING: Chapter 1 - Intro to Inbound Marketing

Fill out the form for your free ebook.


  • Inbound marketing has forever changed the way that businesses are marketing themselves.
  • Understand the advantages and disadvantages of inbound marketing.
  • Understand how the demand funnel works.

>>Content Marketing >>How-To Hive >>Native Advertising

How to Use Native Advertising for Branding


What is native advertising? What isn't native advertising? How do we measure success? Followed by native advertising examples.

What Is Native Advertising?

One of the biggest differences between content marketing and native advertising is who owns it in the end. Native advertising is “pay to play" whereas with content marketing, the brand owns the media asset. In native advertising, you are paying someone else to distribute and ultimately own your content.

Native ads are in a similar (if not identical) format as the real content on the publisher’s site – matching their editorial standards – while meeting the audience’s expectations of quality of content to consume, so it is less disruptive. It’s much easier to drop your message into a stream which people are reading anyway, whether the Facebook News Feed or the magazine-style format of Flipboard, than it is to try to persuade those people to stop what they’re doing elsewhere and read your message instead. Native ads must be clearly marked as "promoted" or "sponsored" or "paid" or "recommended by" – and it needs to stand out with a different font, style, color – to make sure there is 100% transparency. Also, make sure that it is clearly identified as advertising on the page/post itself, not just the page with the link, since once the content gets into a search engine anyone can go straight to that page.

Native ads are content-based and should be truly useful, interesting, and highly targeted to the specific readership so that users engage with the content at a higher rate than traditional banner ads. Native ads are in the flow of editorial content and feed an audiences' need. Brands look for storylines or plotlines that aren't inherent selling points but that readers will connect with, to build content around. Again, nothing is being sold, but there may be an actionable goal for the brand, such as opt-in to get a free report. The goal is to educate, intrigue and ignite the imagination of your target markets, with the hope that it will be shared and go viral.

Native ads must be clearly marked as "promoted" or "sponsored" or "paid" or "recommended by" – and it needs to stand out with a different font, style, color – to make sure there is 100% transparency. Also, make sure that it is clearly identified as advertising on the page/post itself, not just the page with the link, since once the content gets into a search engine anyone can go straight to that page.

Native ads are a great way to legally steal audience and work to drive it to your owned content marketing platform. However, it should be easily skippable by the viewer and not serve as a roadblock to hide, replace or take over the publisher's content. The key to native ad success is creating real partnerships between publishers and brands.

Mobile native ads should leverage the capacities of the app it is hosted by and be viewed as an integral part of the app experience. It should take into consideration the device and the operating system, run smoothly, not make the app crash, respect night modes, idle times, gestures, etc. Mobile ads triggered by user actions are also considered native, e.g., sponsored rewards for user achievements or unlocking brand content after reaching a milestone.

What Is NOT Native Advertising?

The problem with native advertising is that it's hard to achieve scale and relevance at the same time. By definition, the more specific it is to a particular publisher's site the less it can be used elsewhere meaningfully. Therefore, if the ad could run in a million other places it's probably not native. However, Native Ad Networks (NANs) are popping up to dynamically deliver native ads across multiple websites. Google is putting together a native Content Management System (CMS) to hook up with its Dart for Publishers (DFP) servers, mimicking the way that banners are currently sold and placed across the web. That means that content that are native to individual websites would instantly become far more generic and commoditized; it will be quite the balancing act.


Additionally, ads are also not native if they promotes the company’s products or services directly. And again, it's not native if a brand or individual did not pay for the spot.

Is It or Is It Not Native Advertising?

Brand-sponsored content, ads and videos on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Vine and BuzzFeed, Google AdWords paid search ads, content recommendation widgets like Outbrain and Disqus, promoted listings in Amazon and Etsy, etc., technically fail the definition of native advertising because these sites are not publishers; they do not have a conventional editorial branch to speak of. However, since branded content appears "in-stream" in a user’s feed and resemble other feed items, many think they can be considered native ads. In fact, IAB lists these types of ads as one of the core 6 types of ad units most commonly deployed to achieve native objectives. It would be a good idea for you to review IAB's guidelines and recommendations.

How To Measure the ROI of Native Ads?

The metrics that are specific to native advertising are not very different from other traditional metrics, although they may stop at different levels based on the type of format used.

▶ For a sponsored trending topic, look more at the amplification of a message instead of the immediate sales ROI.
▶ For mobile where the content is consumed via native apps, look at App Install Rate and Life Time Value.
▶ For brand-created content that is automatically distributed in native formats, the important metrics are similar to normal ad networks: CPM (cost per thousand impressions), CPC (cost per click), and if it's a video, CPE (cost per engagement).

▶ Other engagement metrics include time on site, number of pages visited, percentage of visitors that are new, where people click, scroll their mouse, etc., and measurements of consumer reaction — recall and favorability.
▶ For publisher-created content that lives on the publisher's website, the most important metric is the number of reads or video watches of the piece of content. Stemming down from that would be page traffic, social shares, percent increase in branded search during the campaign (if the campaign is large enough and controlled for), click throughs / CTR, number of comments, comment sentiment, and if there are any, response rate for a call to action.


Native Advertising Examples to Get Your Brain Buzzing

Marie Claire released its first native cover for April 2015, sponsored by Stuart Weitzman shoes and bags company, which was sent to 877,000 subscribers, roughly 87% of its print magazine readership, with the tagline, “Presented by Stuart Weitzman,” on the cover. The issue began a month long “Shoes First” program that included a Twitter chat with creative director Nina Garcia and Michael Kors, another shoes and bags company, a shopping event at Lord & Taylor hosted by Garcia on April 9, a shoe-centric guide with Simon Property Group, which owns shopping malls, as well as, a campaign with Nordstrom featuring a calendar of the most-sought after shoe styles and chance to win a $250 gift card.

One native ad became quite controversial in its use of Tinder to promote the sci-fi movie Ex Machina. Men attending SXSW in Austin found themselves "matched" with an attractive 25-year-old woman named Ava, who was in fact the lead actress acting as a bot on both Tinder and in the movie. The men had a brief conversation with her via text message, before being directed to an Instagram page with a photo and video promoting Ex Machina. Many people felt that it crossed the line into creepiness and taking advantage of people's emotions.

A nearly 1,500-word native ad for Netflix's original series, "Orange is the New Black," entitled "Women Inmates: Why The Male Model Doesn't Work" appeared on The New York Times website in June 2014. It used video, charts and audio to supplement text about female incarceration in the U.S.

  • Orange_Is_New_Black_native_ad.jpg


Another Netflix native ad appeared on Wired in May 2014 called "TV Got Better," which featured discussion on how streaming video is fueling TV's current golden age, and included text, a video interview with "Arrested Development" co-creator Mitch Hurwitz (whose show got a new life on Netflix), a timeline of TV's milestones, an audio recording of the author, Grant McCracken, an anthropologist known for his books about convergence culture, a reader poll, a multimedia element shows how many hours of TV people have watched since opening the story, and more. Netflix had worked with Mr. McCracken on a study previously that sought to understood the habits of TV watchers, and tapped him for the piece.


Captian Morgan Rum posted 15 Things You Didn’t Know About 15 Captains, Commanders And Conquerors on Buzzfeed in the same style as the site's normal content, and provides a link to their Captain Morgan YouTube page "to keep up with the adventures of Captain Morgan, who was an actual guy."

Levi's posts images of people on Instagram wearing their products in beautiful outdoor spaces. They are meant to look like levis-shorts.pnga photo you'd "heart" from a friend.


Universal Studios promoted Despicable Me 2 on Tumblr using an animated GIF of one of the minions with just a link to download the image. In its first 24 hours, it was the most liked and reblogged Tumblr ad of 2013.


Have you seen any other spectacular native ads that you would like to share? Please tell us in the comments below!


Our Search Engine Marketing Expert has developed native ads in partnership with BuzzFeed, WebMD, BabyCenter, IGN, and many more. Contact us for more information.


Blog Categories

How-To Hive

‘How to’ digital marketing tips and techniques 

Video Hive

Videos from our expert digital marketing team and outside experts

Buzz Tools

Tools to help you get your ‘marketing buzz’ on

Expert Buzz

Advice from our expert digital marketing team and outside experts

 What's new in digital marketing research

Get a quote. View a HubSpot demo.