DEFINITION of 'Native Advertising'

Native advertising is promotional messaging that is crafted to blend in with the regular content on a platform. Native advertisements mimic the style and/or media on a platform in order to get around the audiences aversion to explicit advertisements. The concept of native advertising predates the Internet, but it has risen to prominence in the form of sponsored content, promoted content, partner content and other titles meant to separate it from core content. Native advertising may not have an explicit call to action or reference to the company paying for it, but rather could aim to raise overall awareness or demand for a product or service. The extent to which native advertising is identified as a paid placement is decided by the editorial policies of the platform.

BREAKING DOWN 'Native Advertising'

Even though we are becoming more and more voracious in our consumption of content online, the effectiveness of the banner and boxed ads continues to suffer. The click through rates are incredibly low and the vastness of the internet means that the payoff, even using impressions rather than clicks, is questionable for advertisers. So instead of focusing on how to get audiences to click on the boxed ads, the old print media practice of advertorials was repurposed for the digital age. The idea being that you don’t need to worry as much about the box when the whole page is an advertising message.

Three Models of Native Advertising

The American Press Institute (API) classified native advertising into three different models. In the underwriting model, the publisher matches independently created content with the advertisers marketing materials. For example, if a publisher is doing a video on what it takes to be an ultra endurance athlete, it may offer sponsorship and pre-roll or ad space to battery companies with complementary marketing messages. In this model, the publisher has full editorial control over the content being created. Similarly, old articles can be recycled and repurposed for an advertiser's message.

In the agency model, the publisher provides the advertiser with a team to help hone the message into content that will fit the publisher’s platform. This content primarily serves the brand but must still feel and look like the content around it. In the agency model, the custom content team is usually kept separate from the main editorial team.
In the platform model, the company/brand is free to use the publisher’s platform to put out its message under its own name like other content contributors. In this case, the publisher’s main responsibility is to ensure that the content is identified as coming from the company.  
Other types of classifications have been proposed to cover how native advertising is displayed, be it in a promoted listing, a recommended widget or paid search, but the API classification best captures the relationship between the platform and the client. Native advertising will continue to spread as ad blindness grows among internet users and more companies struggle to get their brand messaging across by any means necessary.
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