Native advertising is the current holder of the communications spotlight. Although it’s a fairly mysterious link in the chain of promotion for content marketers and public relations professionals, they do know this: native ads offer a way to guarantee reach to new audiences without disruptive display ads.

This is especially crucial for content marketing and promotion. As content continues to be produced at alarmingly rapid rates, having your content seen by your target audience will rely – at least in some small part – on native opportunities.

Although quickly growing to become a major facet in strategic plans everywhere, many discussions are still revolving around one very basic question: What does native advertising mean?

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) put their heads together and developed the Native Advertising Playbook, which provides great detail about the various categories of native paid opportunities. The Playbook lists “The Core Six” native ad types as:

  • In-Feed Units
  • Paid Search Units
  • Recommendation Widgets
  • Promoted Listings
  • In-Ad with Native Element Units
  • Custom/”Can’t Be Contained”

It’s important that the people with whom you’re working –executives and decision makers within your organization, client contacts, internal team members, etc. – know and understand how you plan to use native paid advertising to meet and support goals and KPIs. Not every native ad type will be relevant to you and your strategies either, so it’s key to recognize the ones you can use and how to employ them.

To help guide that conversation, here are three easily explained, overarching categories of native paid opportunities that are especially beneficial for gaining new exposure for content.

What it is: Sponsored articles are custom content or user experiences negotiated with a publisher and sold with guaranteed placement. These articles show up on the site in a similar format to all other content from the publisher and are typically written either by the publisher or in conjunction with the sponsoring brand.

How to spot it: Look for brand logos where the byline usually is, as well as words and phrases such as “Presented by” or “Sponsored by”. There may also be a link to the sponsoring brand’s larger channel on the site, where you can see all of the content sponsored by that organization.
Demystifying Native Ads

What it is: Sponsored social updates are similar to the regular content available through a social channel, but offer guaranteed metrics like reach or click-throughs. These paid updates appear in the users’ normal feed and can help gain new followers or fans on the brand’s channel. Familiar social channels offering this type of native paid media include: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Tumblr.

How to spot it: Usually the sponsorship is designated by a visual clue, like a small icon in a corner of the post.

Demystifying Native Ads

What it is: Sponsored recommendations are paid content discovery links that typically appear at the bottom of another piece of similar content on a publisher’s site. Also commonly referred to as “content amplification networks”, these services aim to amplify your content by having it recommended on sites with similar or like-minded audiences. Popular services that provide sponsored recommendations include Outbrain and Taboola, but the “Paid Discovery” option on StumbleUpon is considered a sponsored recommendation as well.

How to spot it: Typically found at the very bottom of an article page on a media site, sponsored recommendations can be designated by a variety of phrases like, “You might also like”, “Elsewhere from around the web” or “Recommended for you.”

Demystifying Native Ads

Mass adoption of semantics around native advertising opportunities is a slow process, but it’s important in the meantime that you, your team and your clients have an agreed upon language to reference. As native advertising grows and changes, so will the chaos. Be sure you and your stakeholders are at least referencing the same lexicon.