Search Wikipedia for “Native Advertising,” and an alert-banner suggests the page artificially popularizes a slang term. Clearly, the term is still novel to mainstream media.

Yet the concept is ancient. Print media and radio orators, such as the great Paul Harvey, long ago popularized native ad’s predecessor, the advertorial. And, over the past year, digital formats (e.g. Yahoo, Vine, Twitter, BuzzFeed, Refinery29, OutBrain) have quietly delivered varying forms of native ads. These varying formats and fractured platforms (i.e. mobile, desktop) contribute to the confusion.

Cue the “Training Montage”

This is the part where the hero (IAB) assembles a 100+ task force to battle the villain (banner blindness) for the prize: Consumer Attention. The FTC (validator and referee) is also in prep mode, hosting a Native Advertising Workshop exploring the rules of engagement:

  • The original purpose of the content/ad wall and the challenges posed by digital media
  • Methods of integrating paid ads into various digital media, content forms
  • Business models participating in all aspects of native advertising
  • Differentiation of paid/non-paid content in original formats and aggregated formats (e.g. social mentions)
  • Research showing how consumers recognize paid ads integrated into searched content.

The Battlefield

The IAB, thus far, has mapped out a living “prospectus” defining the following landscapes:

Search Units: Familiar to most as PPC.

Promoted Listings: “You might also like…” “Those buying _________ also bought…”

Recommended Content Units: “You might also enjoy…” “Recommended stories.”

In-Feed Ads: Very integrated in non-branded content


In-Ad Units: Visual, engaging

Custom: Also includes, thematic stories, video curation, mobile flipbook

Measurement of Success

Partnerships between publishers (e.g. Facebook) and Big Data (e.g. datalogix) drastically change how native ads are measured. In some cases, such as Facebook’s measurement of CPG advertising effectiveness, brands can directly measure ROI (and sometimes sales) over a 90-180 day period.

But, resist the urge to rely on revenue generation as your only indicator; it’s a lagging indicator of how well your brand engages your core audience. Focus should be on more accurate indicators, such time spent on page, initial shares, 2nd degree shares/amplification, and traffic.

What Does it All Mean?

In short, the battle will be fought over how well you integrate your brand story into whatever “stream” your target audience is consuming. Tune in next post to learn why you must start planning your brand’s native advertising strategy.