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What is native advertising?

Digital advertising is constantly evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of users who are demanding new ways to experience their favorite brands and products. Advertisers are having to get creative as people are becoming more sophisticated in the ways they discover and interact with content. This is where the use of native advertising comes in.

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. Below, we take a closer look at what native advertising is, some examples of native ads, and the benefits of native advertising when it comes to reaching your marketing goals.

Types of native advertisements

As advertisers are pushing towards more content marketing and non-disruptive ad formats, the use of native advertisements is expanding exponentially. Whether they’re run manually or programmatically, native advertisements run across a variety of platforms, including:

  • Social networks. Numerous social networks have popularized native in-feed and carousel ad formats. Users scrolling through their feeds may see an ad that is formatted the same way as any other post on the social platform, only the post may be marked with “paid ad” language.
  • In-feed native ads & in-feed promoted list commerce. These native advertisements can be difficult to spot because they can blend in well with other content on the site. Popular news-based sites have taken to native news feed ads, which can take the form of a paid blog post or a video native ad. However, any publisher looking to promote content on their site could have native ads show up on their site. In-feed promoted lists are oftentimes used on e-commerce websites to increase sales.
  • Search engines. Major search engines place three to four paid ads at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) that look identical to the organic listings below them. The text size and font and even link color look the same, the only difference being a small label entitled “Ad” that allows users to know it’s a paid ad.

However, as privacy-driven changes like the depreciation of third-party cookies and the phase-out of Apple’s identifier for advertisers (IDFA) come into play, advertisers are navigating new ways to deliver their messaging to the right audiences, which include:

  • Finding partners with proprietary, first-party audience data sets. As advertising executives anticipate the decline of third-party data, many are focusing on programmatic native partners that safely allow them to leverage their own first-party data.
  • Using contextual targeting in a cookie-less environment. Advertisers can leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning solutions to understand the interaction of a user with the native ad content, instead of relying on third-party cookies.

Discover more analysis and trends on how native advertising is evolving as the use of third-party cookies comes to an end with Microsoft Advertising’s eBook The Future of Programmatic Native.

Download the Future of Programmatic Native eBook or view the webcast.

Benefits of native advertising

The reason native advertising has become increasingly popular for advertisers is due to its many benefits that help strengthen digital marketing strategy.

  1. It easily aligns with your marketing funnel. You, as the advertiser, have the ability to craft top-of-funnel content that educates your audience about your brand, or you can create bottom-of-funnel content. This type of content drives users to the point of conversion, leading them to landing pages that offer an app install, a purchase of a service or good, or a free consultation. An example of an upper funnel ad is a video-based advertisement, which could be used to educate users about the special features of whatever product you’re selling to then lead them down the conversion path. A lower-funnel advertisement could look like you using native product ads that encourage users to buy your product.
  2. It’s non-disruptive. Native ads are designed to fit into whatever platform or site they’re on, which can encourage users to engage with the content rather than glancing over content they know is a more intrusive advertisement.
  3. Reach the audience segments you want. Use native ads to target the audience you want to help drive brand awareness and increase sales. Build the ideal audience from a range of target facets, including criteria such as demographics, geography, media channels and customer intent. Targeted campaigns allow advertisers to introduce customers to content that fits in with the organic user experience and interests. Essentially, this means reaching the right audience, at the right time, with the right content.

Native advertising holds a great deal of potential benefits for advertisers, publishers, and users. The Microsoft Audience Network can help you reach a unique audience in brand-safe native environments. Powered by Microsoft's audience intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI), the Microsoft Audience Network combines user intent from search, web activity and user profile data to help you achieve strong marketing performance — all while following strict privacy standards.

Get the latest on thought leadership, industry trends and insights by subscribing to the Microsoft Advertising Insider. For more advertising trends and insights, check out all of our Microsoft Advertising Insights.