By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.
One marketing trend gaining popularity in recent years — and expected to keep growing — is the native advertising sector, which some experts are predicting will increase by 21% this year for a total spend of $57 billion in the United States.
What is this native advertising, and why the interest, you might ask?
Native ads take the form and look of a platform’s content and try to blend seamlessly within that content — without blatantly looking like yet another display ad. They’re sometimes used in the print business: A travel magazine, for example, may contain a story and photo layout of “Top Things to Do in Timbuktu,” but the piece is actually written by a company’s public relations rep who only recommends places affiliated with that company.
Print people call such ads “advertorial” and usually are quick to apply a “sponsored” tag at the bottom of the story-photo spread that the PR person wrote.
In today’s digital world, meanwhile, native ads most often are accompanied by a “promoted” or “sponsored” tag when you come across them in your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social feeds. They usually are accompanied — or should be, anyway — by an entertaining piece of video or flashy art. The advertiser hopes to catch your attention before you realize this is an ad.
(Admit it: You do sometimes take a closer look at these ads while you skim through Instagram or Twitter on your mobile device, mainly because some video or flashy meme caught your attention.)
Priscille Bouchez, a senior product marketing manager for Microsoft, explains native advertising in this more technical, yet simple, way:
“Native ads are a form of advertisements that are more contextual than the traditional display and banner ads used in the space. In fact, native ads are information-rich sponsored content that blends into the form and function of the platform on which it appears.
“Essentially, native advertising allows brands to get their content in front of their target audience with a sophisticated flair.”
Adds Molly Pittman, CEO of Smart Marketer:
“Because native ads don’t ‘feel’ like traditional ads, consumers are more likely to consume them — in fact, consumers view native ads over 50% more than banner ads.
“Examples of native advertising can be found on social media, through search engine results, content recommendation platforms (those links to various other content you can click at the bottom of the page to read more on or related to the topic), or in campaigns.”
Instagram Becomes a Popular Native Ad Platform
Zarnaz Arlia, chief marketing officer of Emplifi, a customer-experience platform, says one place to flex your brand’s muscle — in a native advertising sort of way — is with a newer Instagram feature known as “Reels.” Instagram first introduced that video content for users in August 2020 and made ads available for the feature this past summer. Reels gives advertisers a chance to share full-screen video ads that can be up to 30 seconds long, blending them with user videos that can be up to 60 seconds long.
Arlia notes that just like users’ Reels posts, followers can comment on, like, view and share the Reels ads they see.
“To maximize engagement and win more conversions, brands should first familiarize themselves with the format,” Arlia recently wrote in a post for the Forbes Communications Council. “I’ve found that the key is to create Reels that blend seamlessly with native content.
“Reels ads tend to be more effective when they include audio, like a trending audio clip or audio your brand has produced, along with captions that grab users’ attention as quickly as possible.”
Arlia also likes Instagram’s “Shop” feature for native ads.
“Like other products, Instagram Shop ads are displayed as tiles on the Instagram Shop home page,” she says. “A Shop ad tile links to the product details page, where shoppers can learn more about the specific item and browse other products from the brand.”