The Native Ad Opportunity: Defining Native Growth

Posted by WhatRunsWhere on March 11, 2015
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It’s a common argument that standing out is key to advertising success. The longstanding practice is to have banners that pop and draw the eye directly to them, distracting viewers from the page content. Now however, the key to advertising success might be the complete opposite – blending in.

One of the fastest growing trends and newest frontier in the online ad landscape is native advertising. The main premise of native advertising is ensuring that creatives blend in with on-site content.

Increasingly, advertisers are incorporating native ads into their strategy to combat the millions of display and text ads already fighting for consumer attention. With banner blindness reaching 86%, as reported in a study conducted by Infolinks, native advertising could be the solution to winning back this lost attention and limiting wasted ad spend.

What is Native Advertising?

Native advertising promotes the brand within the editorial layout of the publisher on which it appears. They are paid ads that are so congruent with their surroundings and content, and seamlessly incorporated into the very design, that “the viewer simply feels it belongs”.

To successfully implement native advertising, advertisers must consider the core reasons why a viewer visits any given page on a publisher. By understanding how viewers engage with the content, advertisers can serve native ad content that takes the interest and experience of the audience into account.

Native ads can be placed in a variety of ways, including the three common ways below:

In-Feed Units

These can include sponsored content that shares the exact form of other content available in a site’s feed. See how Pillsbury mimics the advice-list style regularly seen on Huffington Post Living to promote their packaged baked goods (see more on Huffington Post below):


 Promoted Listings

This ad unit appears on shopping or listings sites. They are listings generally shown at the top of a page, or designated to their own section, away from other site content. This form of native advertising explicitly tells the audience that what they’re seeing is an ad, but doesn’t disrupt the audience’s experience because the ad is so relevant. See how publisher Etsy bumps their promoted listings to the top of the page:



These are native ads that are completely customized to the site on which they appear. They’re the forms of native ads that you are likely to only find on one specific site. For example, in the ad below Coca Cola reinforces brand values with a promoted playlist on music site Spotify.


 Why Use Native Advertising?

Showing ad content that is tailored specifically to pre-existing user interest is an effective method to engage with a target audience. It starts a dialogue between the brand and consumer, and offers the consumer more value for their time. It offers entertainment or new knowledge, rather than just pushing a sale. The appeal of native advertising to consumers is evident, since native ads are reportedly looked at 52% more frequently. Not to mention they lead to a 22% higher purchase intent than traditional display, as reported by Sharethrough & IPG Media Labs. Clearly native advertising not only improves brand recognition and engagement, but can also increase overall ROI if more consumers are inclined to make a purchase after viewing a native ad.

By complementing site content instead of trying to fight it for viewer attention, native ads are viewed for the same amount of time as editorial content. This means they’re about 15% more likely to be shared than a banner ad (Sharethrough & IPG Media Labs). With native, brands get more engagement, not ignored.


Huffington Post – a pioneer in Native Advertising

Top editorial publisher Huffington Post has been a frontrunner in the move to native ads. It’s provided countless options for novel advertisers in this ad landscape – it’s reported by Huffington that 50% of its clients are first timers when it comes to native. With their native advertising revenue growing 347% from 2013-2014 alone, and a front page native placement boasting 4 million page views in a day, it’s clear Huffington offers significant native ad opportunity.


36% of’s ad placements are through native ad netowrks – providing plenty of publishing room for advertisers with native strategies

Using competitive intelligence from WhatRunsWhere we can see how various advertisers (, The Food Network, and Lululemon) have placed ads to capitalize on the opportunity Huffington Post presents:


Food Network




With such a high volume of entertainment/lifestyle-based content on this publisher, advertisers opt for complementary content such as lists, quizzes, interviews, and viral videos.

The Native Advertising Opportunity is Still Growing

Huffington Post is only one of many publishers widening their reach in native advertising. With so many advertisers adding it to their strategy, publishers are seeking to profit by increasing native ad space on their sites. From editorial, to social, to dynamic content, new native opportunities exist every day – and it’s not slowing down any time soon.

The next logical question for the industry: how will publishers keep up with native ad growth, and what can advertisers do to take advantage?

To get a leg up on how publishers are adapting to native growth and what this means for advertisers, join us in our next installment of The Native Ad Opportunity.


Topics: Native Advertising, Case Studies, Strategy


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