How Native Advertising Impacts Marketing Strategy

By Scott Levine, VP, Strategy—August 27, 2013

Native advertising. It’s one of the hot new buzzwords being used to describe a new digital channel. However, it is actually tied to a tried-and-true method of engaging potential customers through educational and informational communications. Taking on the look of an “editorial” wrapper, native advertising is a marketing strategy that has been around since the first paid advertisements were written.

What is native advertising?
Advertorials, edu-tainment, infomercials, sponsored ads and paid-advertisement disclaimers are all forms of native advertising. There are many definitions, although this particular one from Lewis DVorkin, of Forbes, is on point: “A paid-for placement on a digital screen or within a content stream that promotes a brand’s content marketing, much the same way editorial content is promoted.”1 The roots of native advertising can be found in the earliest long-form print advertising executions, especially in the pre-advertising-regulation “Mad Men” era. Here’s an example from May 1962 issue of Mechanix Illustrated. It appears to be an article, but is really an advertorial: “Fastest Way To Grow Hair,” by Robert Brindley.2

The modern form of native advertising can be seen on websites such as BuzzFeed, where “sponsored” examples of native advertising can be seen every day within the queue of featured articles. Such articles include “10 People Who Are Too Ready For Summer,”3 sponsored by Corona, and “13 Travel Tips That Will Make You Feel Smart,”4 by Holiday Inn Express.

In the modern digital world, native advertising is gaining in use against banner advertising. In a recent study by IPG Media Lab and Sharethrough5 (a native advertising media placement provider), the following insights were published:

Consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than display ads.
25% more consumers were measured to look at in-feed native ad placements (the most common editorial native ad format) than display ad units.
Native ads registered 18% higher lift in purchase intent and 9% lift for brand affinity responses than banner ads.
32% of respondents said the native ad “is an ad I would share with a friend of family member” versus just 19% for display ads.
For marketers, these numbers are impressive and compelling enough to gain serious consideration by marketing strategists against or in addition to traditional banner ads. What seems to be at issue for strategic marketers is how and where to plan for native advertising within their content strategies.

What separates native advertising from pure content marketing? What strategies need to be considered when planning to use some form of native advertising? The key to understanding the subtle differences between content marketing and native advertising is a focus on the definitions of paid, earned and owned media.

Content marketing is the building of a library of content assets to engage prospective and current customers as they travel through the modern buyer’s journey. It is also classified as earned media when the content is mentioned or referenced outside of the company-owned digital properties and, therefore, is also considered owned media.

Native advertising differs in that it is paid media. Unlike content marketing, native advertising can be placed within media just like digital banner ads. This allows marketers to pinpoint their target audience in exactly the same process.

Thus, the conundrum of “where to park” native advertising occurs. Is it really part of content strategy or does it sit better with the advertising department? Does the content strategy team plan for the native ads or is it the function of the traditional creative department that creates advertising for all other channels? How do the traditional media planners create strategy for native advertisements? Do they use the same strategies and tactics used to place banner ads? Or, should social media marketing strategists give input on the content and placement of these native ads? These questions will be answered as the adoption of native advertising moves from the early-adopters stage6 to the early-majority stage, and as the availability to purchase native ads at scale increases from its current state of limited availability.

As the proliferation of native advertising evolves, marketing strategists must be prepared and informed to help their companies or clients navigate the early and latter stages of this interesting and upcoming digital channel. For keen strategists who make it a point to consider all screens, as well as multi screen and omni channel messaging, further study and testing of native advertising needs to be part of our current and near-future planning.


Forbes Magazine:
Blog: Modern Mechanix, Article: Mechanix Illustrated, May 1962: “Fastest Way To Grow Hair, by Robert Brindley”
“10 People Who Are Too Ready For Summer” sponsored by Corona (
“13 Travel Tips That Will Make You Feel Smart” by Holiday Inn Express
Native Advertising Effectiveness Study by IPG Media Lab and Sharethrough:
Wikipedia: The diffusion of innovations according to Rogers.


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