Native Advertising – The Ads that you don’t even realize are there

We can all agree that online ads are just the worst. You open a page to read an article and all of sudden more of your screen is covered in advertisements than the article itself. So it’s no surprise that 735 million people worldwide use ad blockers to browse online. This has forced marketers to find new methods to try and get you to see their ads.

In comes Native Advertising, a non-disruptive digital advertising in which a paid ad matches the look, feel, and function of the media format in which they appear. Unlike display ads or banner ads, native ads don’t appear like advertisements. They look like just a continuation of the page, a natural flow of the editorial. Unless you can keep a keen eye, most consumers usually can’t distinguish native ads from the content they are found, consequently the name “native ads.”

Native ads are the sponsored ads that you see pop up in your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feeds. They are the top listings when you search for anything on Google. The recommended articles after you finish reading an article. All of these are forms of native advertisements and they work well.

You probably have come across a native ad yourself or even clicked on one! According to an AppNexus study, they boast a click-through-rate of .80%. Compare this to a normal display ad’s .09% and you can truly see the effectiveness of native ads.

Despite how effective native ads are, they still have a few telltale signs to separate them from the regular content. As the FTC and IAB are not thrilled if consumers are misled and by sneaky advertisements. Here are some of the ways you can recognize when you’re looking at a native ad.

The words “Suggested Post” or “Recommended For You” or “Promoted Stories”

The words “Sponsored”, or a sponsorship credit

Small icon – if you click it, it denotes that the content block is a paid ad

Recommended or Suggested videos

So some or all of these native ads seem familiar to you or as an obvious advertisement online. Despite that, native ads work and are only going to increase in usage as time goes on. Consumers look at native adds up to 53% more than display ads and increase purchase intent by up to 18%. The visual engagement of the native ads is the same if not even slightly higher than the original content in which the ad can be found.

Native ads are non-disruptive, this means that they will actually fight ad fatigue. Instead of an audience getting bored when they see ads and just tuning them out, native ads increase engagement. This is due to the brand exposure being concealed by editorial content. As long as the content is relevant and can keep the attention of the audience, it will be engaging the consumer.

According to a recent study conducted at Stanford University, consumers do not even care if native ads are a form of advertising. Researchers found that native advertising actually doesn’t fool anybody, as consumers can quickly recognize that these are forms of advertising. But as long as the content is still engaging and relevant, they will still take notice of the ads. Even though consumers are aware that native ads are ads, there is still a significant effect on purchase behavior.

All of this points towards a much larger spend and use of native advertising in the near future. Compared to the $85 billion in native advertising spend in 2020, 2025 is expect to a value of $402 billion, a total 372% increase in just five years.

Some trends in native advertising that we should expect to see is the increase in mobile native ads while a decrease in social native ads. Interactive native ads are expected to see an increase as well. Most specifically the use of search windows in native ads. Consumers would input keywords and then the search will bring them to the search result page of the advertisers’ shopping sites. Removing an entire step from the touch points of a sale and increasing audience engagement.

In Conclusion

The key for success with native advertising is to create valuable content and deliver it to your target audience in the right place and in the right way. If the advertisement itself becomes a piece of content that consumers can find value in other than the product or service being advertised, they are much more likely to end in purchase or increase in brand recognition.

So now that you have a stronger sense of what native ads are, I want to know what you think of them. Are they a good piece of marketing or are they trying to be sneaky and get you to purchase without knowing that you’re consuming an advertisement?


  1. parkerrepko · ·

    This is a fascinating topic and I will now be more aware of native ads. I appreciate the inclusion of statistics and examples in this post. Stunned to see the growth rate of spending on native ads. Personally, I despise websites that bombard you with ads. I wonder how the influencer industry relates to native ads? I recall seeing Instagram posts from celebrities with #sponsored to indicate it’s not personal content. Also, what are some regulations/policies for ads on the internet?

    (An aside – this reminded me of the person who invented spam email, so I went to a website to learn more and was bombarded with ads taking up the whole page.)

  2. barrinja1 · ·

    Interesting article….. It’s funny, actually when i got to the section titled “The words “Suggested Post” or “Recommended For You” or “Promoted Stories”” and saw a few of the native ad screenshots, I went on autopilot and just scrolled past all of them without looking, which maybe means I’m tuning them out a bit more than others (although .8% clickthrough would still tell you I’d eventually stop and read those).
    One of the most natural-feeling native ad experiences I’ve had is on podcasts, where the hosts truly talk about their experience with the product. As a consumer, it makes me much more likely to stay tuned in than a prerecorded, generic ad I can skip over.

  3. Very interesting topic! I wasn’t aware of the differences between ads before reading your blog. The most common place I see native ads are on Pinterest. Specifically, recipe links. It’s the worst! It takes several scrolls to reach the actual recipe and often times it’s sandwiched between native ads. With that said, I am victim of looking at the ads, which in and of itself is good marketing.

  4. shanpopzaruba · ·

    This gets me on Instagram or Twitter sometimes, where I will click on something that looks like a fully normal post. However, it is much easier to determine what is an ad or sponsored content on TikTok, which does make it easier to scroll past.

    When it comes to the higher ed version of this, college advertising is huge – the more of a natural, integrated presence in someone’s internet we can have, the more they can consider themselves at the university! Maybe not quite as sensational as the “coolest shoes to buy now” but still wildly helpful!

  5. I’m curious to know if anyone else has this issue with native ads, but often times on my iPhone I feel a lag in the ability to scroll past the ads when they start playing. I however, can believe the click through rate as I OFTEN fall victim to liking the post, or clicking through to shop. Not a surprise that the major players are mostly young, modern companies who understand the changing marketplace. Take a look at some cool ads here:

  6. Nice post. It is certainly interesting to see the ad tech space evolve in multiple ways as attention spans and technology usage changes.

  7. lexgetdigital · ·

    Like Karl, I constantly am clicking on native ads. In fact, I actually really like them. I feel as though Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and Lulu are personally curating new items for me and I enjoy browsing. I have even saved and later purchased the items (sorry, insta, I know they’re trying to get you to buy directly but I FORTUNATELY do not have my credit card saved on my iPhone). So, the statistics I guess made me feel better, but really impressed me that marketers were able to figure out how to institute more effective ads. I also enjoyed your mention of the FTC regulations — seems like with things like “accept all cookies” that these protections are really just benefitting the companies who have sharp enough legal departments / outside lawyers to get that set up quickly. Really excellent post, Connor. This was such an interesting read!!

  8. DropItLikeItHox · ·

    I’m definitely part of that 735M that use an ad blocker, and its interesting to see the cat and mouse game between advertisers and ad blockers. It feels like every few months, there’s some new type of way to display ads that ad blockers were not prepared for, so for a few months I’ll start seeing ads again before the ad blockers realize how to block them. It does seem like they’ve come to an agreement to let these native ads pass through as I see them on a daily basis, but given that they are so non-intrusive, as a consumer, I’ve never bothered to try and block them manually. We may have finally hit that sweet spot where advertisers get what they want, and consumers have a better experience on a site.

  9. Christina S · ·

    Such a great post! This was eye-opening and I have actually been wondering for some time now about the statistics behind these types of ads’ effectiveness. The term ‘clickthrough’ brought me back to DA1, where I think I first learned that those rates are shockingly small when we were working on a sample problem. I remember wondering why companies hadn’t improved their targeting efforts or tactics to actually influence buying behavior, and your post perfectly outlines just that and how much these native ads are changing the game. Will be so curious to see how this continues to evolve. Like Lexie, I don’t mind an ad if it’s completely relevant and even something that I didn’t know I needed (& from a reputable source). And like Bianca, I also get so frustrated when you have to navigate through a million pages of ads or so many native ads peppered throughout a site just to to read a recipe or find a product. I think the next iteration for companies is to really make everything hyper personalized/relevant, and exceedingly easy to access.

  10. DownEastDigital · ·

    I’ve never considered the different types of ads out there, a very interesting read. The click-through rate is what surprised me the most, crazy how much more effective these types of ads are. As expected, the cost of these types of ads seems to be reflective of their effectiveness, I was reading that on average it is 2.80 per CPM for a display ad in general…but nearly 7.00 for a native ad on Instagram! The article I read also mentioned that Instagram has a non-profit rate of 4.17/ CPM, how kind of them! I’m certainly guilty myself of clicking on these types of ads, especially for things like sneakers on Instagram, they have such spot-on suggestions for me thanks to my search history. If I had to pick a platform that does a terrible job with native advertising I would go with Snapchat. Especially on their general content page, the ads are so disruptive and oftentimes lead to me closing the app completely out of frustration.

  11. Thank you for bringing this topic to our attention. I like others, I get frustrated at times when being bombarded with sponsored ads online. The first thing that comes to mind when I notice a sponsored ad is that I don’t trust it, and so it caught me by surprise to read that 53% of consumers look at native ads. When I first saw those images in your blog, I immediately thought, if someone clicks on those ads then a bunch of pop ups and virus warnings are going to pop up on the screen. I wonder if other consumers find native ads trustworthy or effective. Great post!

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