6 Native Advertising Formats: When to Use Each

Why all the fuss about native advertising? Well, it’s a hot topic because its entirely changing consumers’ online experiences.

Native advertising is paid content that follows the natural form and function of the user experience. Native is not absolute, it is relative – dependent upon external conditions. And because native ads are less intrusive, it’s become a fast growing form of advertising.

Native ads will account for 53% of display spending this year in the U.S., and native ad spend will reach more than $28 billion by 2018, according to recent projections from eMarketer.

In this post, we will dive into each of the six types of native ads that The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has identified – and when marketers should use each.


In-Feed Units


In-feed ads are placed within a publisher’s feed to match the surrounding content. There are four types of in-feed ads: story, video, app install, and product ads. These ads are often found on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; news publications like Forbes, BuzzFeed, and L.A. Times; and web search engines like Yahoo and AOL.

When to use in-feed units

Use in-feed units when you have video content. Video has taken the digital world by storm, projected to account for more than 80% of all web traffic by 2019. It’s one of the fastest-growing and most in-demand forms of marketing.

In-feed video ads showed 27% greater brand favorability than pre-roll video, with people looking back on it an average of four times, according to a recent study. And research from Twitter and Omnicom found that, when viewed in-feed, videos were 7% more personally relevant and stimulated 14% more memory encoding that when watched full screen. ‘Higher memory response for in-feed videos is due to users being in a feed mindset,’ says Twitter.

Recommendation Widgets


Recommendation widgets are integrated into the page but don’t match the appearance of the content. The ad will show you suggestions for content or products based on browsing and purchase behavior and will say something like “You might also like” or “Recommended for you.”

When to use recommendation widgets

Use recommendation widgets when you have better artificial intelligence (AI) in place. Recommendations can be very profitable if used properly. Netflix recently estimated that its recommendation engine is worth $1 billion yearly for the company. Also, 35% of what consumers purchase on Amazon comes from recommendations.

But, sometimes the algorithm can be off. Sometimes the algorithm will recommend items almost identical to what you just bought. For example, say you bought hiking shoes on a sports apparel site for a camping trip, and then a week later you get hit with recommendations for trail running shoes which are fairly similar to hiking shoes. If you’re not an avid hiker, chances are you’re not going to make the purchase.

Investing in better AI, specifically deep learning technology, will make your recommendation engines learn and scale more efficiently. And ultimately deliver increased sales and customer loyalty.

Promoted Listings


Promoted listings are not found on traditional editorial content sites. Instead, they are found next to search results, like Google, and sites like eBay, Etsy, AutoTrader, and Amazon. Promoted listings allow sellers to put their products in front of more buyers when they’re actively searching and shopping. And in competitive categories, like women’s clothing, promoted listings are very beneficial.

When to use promoted listings

Use promoted listings when you have bestselling items. Promoted listings are all about conversion rates. To get a better return on your investment, focus on high-performing listings. Your most popular listings will get you noticed more and your shoppers to visit your site and see more offerings. If you promote items that do not have good conversion rates, or do not sell frequently, then you will lose money.

Paid Search Units


Search ads qualify as native because even though they’re found above organic search results, they look exactly like the surrounding results with the exception of disclosure language like “Ad”. Paid search ads are found on search engine sites like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com.

When to use paid search units

Use paid search ads when you want to generate a lot of traffic – and fast. Whether it’s for a new product or content or you just want to generate more brand awareness – paid search is one of the most powerful traffic generating approaches. Examples of times when you need immediate results include, time-sensitive offers, product launches, seasonal promotions and event promotions.

In-Ad (With Native Elements) Units


In-Ad native ads are standard IAB display ads (e.g. 300×250 or 300×600 ) that incorporate contextually-relevant content within the ad. For example, the food recipe site allrecipes.com (shown below) displays an ad featuring Cracker Barrel’s sharp cheddar. It’s contextually-relevant to the surrounding food recipes.

When to use In-Ad Units

Use In-Ad units when you’ve identified your niche audiences and the sites they visit. Niche audiences are really passionate about particular topics, and are often the first to engage with highly-targeted advert. Targeting a niche audience on a niche site can result in repeat purchases and ongoing customer loyalty.

Custom / “Can’t Be Contained”


Custom units are anything that is obviously a native ad, but does not fit into the other five categories. Tinder, Snapchat, Pandora and Spotify are some well-known sites that offer custom native units. Pandora’s Promoted Stations offer themed playlists used to promote a particular brand or product. In the example shown below, the three featured stations were created by Malibu, Toshiba, and Taco Bell.

When to use custom units

Use custom units when you want to build brand recognition. Taco Bell is not looking to directly sell through their Feed the Beat Pandora Station, instead they’re cultivating a distinct voice so they can be remembered. It’s important to build brand recognition because the more your customers are aware of your brand’s presence and values the more they trust you and the more they’ll buy from you.

There are other ways to execute native – in messaging, maps, podcasts, games, etc. And with new ad formats, notably in video (360 degree, vertical, VR) the possibilities are endless. Do you have any tips for using native ad formats? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.


Published on 2018-05-04

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