Pinpointing the start of native advertising is next to impossible because native advertising is so integrated and subtle. A form of advertising disguised in varying degrees by looking like regular content, native advertising uses subliminal persuasion to captures consumers’ attention.
The goal of most native advertising is to reach consumers without them recognizing it is happening. In the modern age of native advertising, this often results in consumers comfortable making a purchase or browsing a brand website before asking “wait, how did I get here?”
How Native Advertising First Began
Determining when advertising began in history the first place is difficult. In Colonial America, pamphlets and fliers were already beginning to be circulated to notify consumers of events, sales, news, and products. As consumerism grew wildly in the “market revolution” of the mid-1800s, advertising did too.
It’s safe to assume that native advertising has already made its entrance into the field by the mid to late 1800s. An important question comes to the mind that what is native adverting and how it is different from other forms of adverting. Native advertising was a natural tactic for advertisers as markets began to grow in the early days of newspaper and magazines. Publications like these were purchased by consumers as a prime form of entertainment and learning about news and events. Incorporating ads into such content made sense given the desires of the public.
Early examples of native advertising include these old ads by Guinness that look like editorial content. Featuring helpful guides for consumers about cheese or oysters, the ads look informative and helpful for everyday use. They subtly include a call to action or implication that Guinness beer pairs well with these ingredients the native advertising form has taken here draws consumers in with relevant information only to plant the thought in the consumers’ mind that Guinness is also relevant.
Moving Up From Ink
When regular consumers began to use the internet the way people of old used newspapers or magazines, native advertising began to morph. Moving from ink to digital format, native advertising now relies on copying the look of online content and websites so as to blend right in. Native marketing is also typically something paid for by a company, not by the one publishing the material. This takes many forms.
Native advertising online might:
Turn Up In Search Engines
Many people use search engines daily. Since consumers are frequently using search engines, advertisers must too. Besides improving SEO to rank higher in search engines, your brand can also pay to have sponsored ads on search engines.
Rather than having blatant ads lining the side of web search page, many search engines make sponsored brands ads look just like the other results the search engine provides. These paid listings are placed first but are almost indistinguishable from the actual search results. This form of native advertising is helpful for click conversions and drawing new consumers in when they search for results related to your brand.
Show Up On Social Media
The lines of intentional and unintentional native advertising are easily blurred on social media. Even private consumers tend to develop “personal brands” for themselves on their social channels. The nature of a large portion of information shared on social media is native advertising in that it is informative or entertaining but also links back or subtly promotes a specific brand.
Some social media platforms even have native advertising options built right in. For example, on Facebook, a business with a Facebook page may post information from their blog, or a helpful video they’ve made, or about a product they love. The information will be informative and/or entertaining, enticing consumer interaction. Facebook offers the option to “sponsor” posts that are popular with users, allowing the business in this example to pay for their post to be dropped into specific target consumer markets’ newsfeeds. There, consumers may click, follow links, and interact with the media without even realizing it’s sponsored if they don’t check.
Blend in On Informative or Entertainment Sites
Creativity marks the use of native advertising on informative and entertainment sites. Everything from online newspapers to satirical sites to web pages offering entertaining videos and images incorporates native advertising. Popular forms include sites:
- Integrating sponsored content ads to match existing and relevant content
- Sharing videos or articles that mention brands but are not specifically about the brand
- Using brands in case studies or examples throughout content
- Featuring brands in “top 10” lists
- Including links to a brand in how-to guides
- Crafting informational or entertaining guides and news pieces that end with a call to action for a brand
Tactics like these take a variety of shapes. Some are so integrated into typical site layouts and content that consumers fully expect and even look for native advertising to gain information and recommendations about brands.
Surround Content with Relevant Ads
Sometimes obvious ads are blended in with native ads. For example, a news site may publish a piece on a specific topic and offer a brand the opportunity to have their ads on the same topic surround the piece. This combines two emerging subtypes of native advertising: “lite native ads” which are almost obvious tactics and “premium” native advertising, which relies on subtle attraction.
The Benefits of Native Advertising
Armed with the knowledge of what native advertising is, the next thing you need to know is why it works. There are several reasons, and many are specific to the type of native advertising employed.
The primary benefits of these tactics are that native advertising:
- Reaches consumers where they already are putting their attention
- Subtly plant ideas about brands in consumers’ minds, raising brand awareness
- Makes brands seem credible or relevant
- Increases customer conversion
- Improves click rates
- Ties branding to relevant content or searches online
- Creates the idea of brands being personable, interactive, and friendly
- Makes getting to know a brand more convenient for consumers
- Can be done affordably in a variety of venues
Of course, as native advertising continues to evolve, more subtypes and benefits are likely to emerge. The practice has long been in use because it comes naturally for marketers and for consumers, making it a win-win. It’s for marketers to stay on top of the latest trends and avenues for native advertising to remain relevant and attractive to consumers.