Native advertising in practice

Written on 10 September, 2015 by Lisa Shannahan
Categories: Marketing | Tags: online business, online marketing

Native advertising is changing the way brands connect with customers, but do you understand how it works (or doesn’t work) in practice?

Getting to grips with native advertising

If you’re unsure what native advertising entails, you’re not alone. Copyblogger’s 2014 State of Native Advertising Report found that 49% of respondents didn’t know what native advertising was, with a further 24% characterising themselves as being “hardly familiar with it”.

The term can refer to many different kinds of online advertising, from promoted tweets on Twitter to sponsored Facebook ads, but is also used to describe the way brands work with online publications, creating highly tailored ads to fit the style, expectation and demands of a publication’s readers.

Native advertising in action

A good example of this is the Captain Morgan rum campaign that ran on BuzzFeed. Captain Morgan created content that was aligned to the BuzzFeed style by using their familiar list format, including striking images and writing in a witty, tongue-in-cheek style. The website carried a banner to show the content was sponsored by Captain Morgan, and each article also provided readers with the option of clicking on a YouTube video to find out more about the brand.

However, native advertising isn’t limited to social content sites like BuzzFeed or Cracked. It can also be extremely successful when used on online news and information sites like Forbes, The Age or

Getting it wrong

While native advertising can work fantastically when done well, it can create PR nightmares when done wrong. Consumers don’t like to feel as though they’re being hoodwinked, and they can be sensitive to the idea of a brand trying to sell their product, service or message to them without their knowledge or consent.

For example, Gawker published a native ad titled How to Transform into a Total Nerd Babe, but the only indication of it being a different type of article was a very small ‘sponsored’ tag under the headline. The piece was generic and largely unrelated to the item it was advertising, a show called King of the Nerds for TBS. Gawker came under so much scrutiny for publishing ads such as this that it changed its policy and increased transparency.

To use native advertising successfully, you need to be able to match the mood and tone of the publication you’re appearing in while also ensuring that readers feel respected and sufficiently inspired by the content.

Don’t put off your potential customers with awkward ads and hard-to-spot disclaimers – do native advertising right by being inventive and transparent.