Native advertising is the use of paid ads that match the appearance, form, and function of the user experience in which they are placed.

Unlike banner ads, display ads, or pre-roll video ads, native ads don’t really look like ads at first glance.

They’re incognito. Like this:

For this reason, native ads are often displayed in social media feeds or as recommended content on the web pages of online publications.

These ads are subtle, helpful, and non-intrusive.

The aim is to deliver advertisements that match their environment and the expected user experience so well that the viewer barely notices that they’re paid ads – and if they do, they don’t mind seeing them.

The idea of “native ads” began to take root in 2012 as the need for a less disruptive form of advertising evolved.

Native Ads Google Trends

And it’s clear that native ads are the future of online advertising.

According to Business Insider, native advertising will drive 74 percent of all ad revenue by 2021. And spending on native advertising is predicted to hit $85.5 billion a year by 2020.

6 Great Native Advertising Examples

Let’s take a look at six native advertising examples that are commonly used by businesses.

1. Sponsored Social Media Posts

Promoted social media posts are one of the most common types of native advertising used online.

Instagram is particularly well-known for being the focus of sponsored native advertising campaigns.

Here’s an example from National Geographic:

NatGeo Native Advertising

This native ad is paid for by Incredible India – an international tourist campaign managed by the Government of India to promote tourism.

Incredible India is using the ad to promote brand awareness and their hashtag, using the call-to-action, “Plan your adventure of a lifetime now in #UntamedIndia.”

Untamed India Native Advertising

The post features a stunning photograph and a caption presenting the story behind the image – this matches National Geographic’s usual Instagram posts perfectly. For this reason, National Geographic’s followers aren’t likely to mind that the post is actually a native advertisement.

2. Sponsored Influencer Content

Brands also often pay influencers to create original content to promote their products.

Here’s an example from GoPro who partnered with influencer VidProMom to create an “unboxing” video in which Meredith Marsh reviews their new camera.

YouTube Native Advertising

The video fits in perfectly with Marsh’s usual video editing tutorials and camera reviews, and she includes links to buy the camera in the description below the video.

3. Paid Search and Promoted Listings

Another common form of native advertising is paid search, which relates closely to promoted listings.

Below is an example from Google Shopping:

Google Shopping Native Advertising

When searching for snowboarding goggles, Google returns relevant listings, some of which have been paid for by advertisers.

These are native advertisements because the listings are presented in the same way as the organic listings. In other words, the user experience is the same – the only difference is the small “Sponsored” label at the top-right of the page.

4. Sponsored Widgets on Online Publications

Sponsored content widgets run rampant on most online publications.

Here’s how The New York Times does it:

New York Times Native Advertising

It’s in keeping with the overall design, but they include the disclosure “Paid Post: Dior” alongside the logo of the brand, and highlight the listing in grey to differentiate it from regular New York Times content.

The ad links to a dedicated page on the website featuring an advertorial created by Dior.

Dior Native Advertising

And at the bottom of the content, there’s the clear call-to-action, “Learn More.”

Dior Native Advertising

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