Growing Up is Hard and Native Advertising is Only Halfway There

In Content Distribution by Eddie Metzger

Remember when an organic post on social media actually reached your audience? Or when paid search ads weren’t such a saturated market? Believe it or not, there was a time when these channels were the new kids on the block, and everyone wanted to be their friend. These channels eventually matured and now everyone knows who they are. Native advertising is already starting to grow up, and just like a teenager, it’s in a bit of an awkward stage.

Consumers value content and context is king

Through the creation of valuable content, backed by trusted brands that is presented in contextually beneficial situations, native advertisements perform well.

Contextly surveyed 509 men and women of all ages (18+) to see how ordinary readers interpret native advertising across different brands and publisher sites. A Whole Foods article, “5 reasons why it’s great to work at Whole Foods,” on Fortune’s website, provided succinct content that was interesting to read (especially for the channel’s audience). After reading the article, 27 percent of people said they trusted Whole Foods more. The same goes for “14 Hacks to Really Up Your Gardening Game This Spring,” from Miracle-Gro on Buzzfeed. The listicle was valuable for a Buzzfeed audience. Why? Because the articles really weren’t trying to blatantly sell a product.


Why did these native ads work so well? The content aligned with what the audience wanted! BuzzFeed created something that it’s known for: and easy-to-read, short, quirky article. Fortune took a similar approach, but the decision to focus on the advantages of working at Whole Foods (instead of the product they sell) was the key decision.

Be valuable

According to the survey, 21 percent of respondents reported the Mercedes native ad in the Wall Street Journal as a “very poor quality ad.” In response, 20% of respondents respected the brand less. Ouch. The Whole Foods ad in Fortune was rated as a “very high-quality ad” by 29% of respondents. Now, 27% of those surveyed trust the brand more.


Source: Contently

What’s the Future Of Native Advertising?

Native ad budgets are expected to increase substantially. By 2021, they should see a 74% share of total display advertising, up from 56% in 2016. But just like adolescents, native ads still have a long way to go, and much to learn. We don’t want native ads to turn out like organic reach and paid search, but as with many other digital channels, they become more noisy and cluttered with age. Soon, everyone will be using native ads, but only a few will use it well. Follow these steps to be a part of the few.

  • Context is king. Create content that is valuable to the brand hosting it. If you sell sports equipment, creating a piece of content for a technology publication probably isn’t the smartest idea.
  • Content is also king. If your content is intrinsically valuable, the designation of sponsored or organic becomes moot.
  • Be valuable. That’s the theme here. Create content that helps the consumer first. If done with class, it will help the brand too.

With hard work and dedication, we as the parents of native advertising can make sure that it grows up to be successful. Say no to drugs (direct, salesy content) and your native ad campaigns will mature through their teenage angst.