A Marketer’s Complete Guide to Branded Native Ads

Unlock the power of branded native ads


This year, native advertising spend in the U.S. is expected to top $97 billion and account for 6 out of every 10 dollars spent on display campaigns. There’s good reason these investments continue to grow year over year. 

Native advertising is a form of digital advertising that matches the form and function of the content in which it appears. These types of ads are designed to blend in seamlessly with their surroundings, rather than standing out like traditional display ads. In addition, they typically feature and promote educational and entertaining content, versus serving as mere sales promotions, thereby delivering value to users instead of just sales pitches. 

Overall, native ads are becoming an increasingly popular way to advertise because they can more effectively reach and engage consumers than traditional forms of advertising. This is especially the case as we enter a privacy-first era where legacy means of tracking users and following them around the internet go by the wayside. Native ads play a unique role within the mid-funnel of advertising, helping brands turn awareness into true consideration by giving audiences the resources they need to shape their decisions at the moments they’re most eager to engage with such information. 

Because native advertising represents a blend of content marketing and advertising, the language surrounding it can be a little murky. Native ads and sponsored content are often used interchangeably, even though sponsored content can also exist outside of a native ad experiences. Meanwhile, the phrase “branded native ads” is somewhat redundant because all native advertising is usually branded in some fashion. For the purposes of this guide, we will use the terms “branded native ads” and “native ads” interchangeably. In addition, let’s dig into a few other nuances around native ads and branded content. 

What Is Branded vs. Native Content?

Branded content is a type of marketing content that is created by a brand to promote its products or services, but it is not directly promotional. Instead, it is designed to be informative, entertaining, or inspiring, and to build relationships with consumers. Branded content can be created in a variety of formats, including blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, and social media posts.

Examples of branded content include:

  • A blog post by a clothing company about the latest fashion trends
  • A video by a car company about the best road trips to take in the U.S.
  • An infographic by a software company about the benefits of using its product
  • A social media post by a food company about a new recipe that uses its product

On the other hand, native content—pretty much another synonym for native advertising, but referring to the content itself rather than the format—is branded content in advertising form. It is sponsored by a brand, but it is presented in a way that makes it look like it is part of the publisher's regular content. Just like branded content, native content can be created and presented in a variety of formats, including articles, videos, and sponsored social media posts. While branded content is typically created by the brand itself, native content might sometimes be created by a publisher on behalf of a brand.

Examples of native content include:

  • A sponsored article on a news website about the latest research on a health condition treated by the sponsoring company
  • A promoted video on a social media platform about a brand’s new product
  • A sponsored social media post from an airline touting a new travel destination 

What Is an Example of a Native Ad?

Since native ads are designed to be non-intrusive, informative, and to blend in with the surrounding content, ​​they can be found on a variety of platforms, including websites, social media, and search engines. Some common examples of native ad formats include:

  • In-feed ads: These ads appear in the same feed as organic content, in such places as social media platforms or news websites. They are typically labeled as "sponsored" or "promoted" to indicate that they are not regular content. For example, a social media user might see a sponsored post from a clothing company that aligns with their personal style in their feed.
  • Content recommendation ads: These ads are displayed at the bottom of articles or other pieces of content. They are typically based on the user's browsing history or interests. For example, a website visitor might see a content recommendation ad for an article about fly fishing equipment after they finish reading an article about top destinations for seasonal fly fishing.
  • Search engine ads: These ads appear at the top of the search results page, but they are designed to look like regular search results. They typically include a title, description, and link to the advertiser's website. For example, a user who searches for "best running shoes" might see a search engine ad for a running shoe company at the top of the results page.

The above are common examples of how native advertising is infused into online media, but there’s really no limit to the industries that can make use of native advertising, nor the creative ways in which it can be used to get compelling content in front of targeted audiences. Here are just a few more examples of how branded native ads could be leveraged in less-traditional spaces: 

  • An attorney could use native advertising to promote their practice to potential clients. For example, the attorney might decide to create a sponsored article about a recent change in the law and promote it via integrated native ads on a legal website.
  • A real estate agent could use native advertising to promote their listings to potential buyers. For example, the real estate agent might consider running a promoted post on social media featuring photos of a new listing.
  • A software company could use native advertising to promote video tutorials of their products to potential customers. For example, the company might create a video series on YouTube that demonstrates how their software can be used to solve a common problem for users.

Overall, native ads are a versatile and effective way to reach consumers with relevant and engaging content. By carefully designing and targeting these ad experiences, businesses can increase brand awareness, generate leads, and drive sales—all through the power of strong content. 

What Is an Example of a Branded Content Ad? 

“Branded content ads,” as mentioned earlier, is yet another one of many ways of referring to native advertising. What’s nice about this term is that it emphasizes the true superpower of native advertising: content. The bridge between creating brand awareness and driving conversion is paved with content, and that’s why native advertising is such a powerful means of helping advertisers get a handle on their mid-funnel marketing strategies. 

Content is beautiful in its diversity, and the ways in which brands can create high-value native advertising experiences are endless. When deciding how to approach the creation of branded content ads, it can help to start with an understanding of your target audience. What is the type of content that’s most likely to resonate with them? And in what platforms are they most likely to consume that content? With these questions answered, brands can move forward on executing a strong native advertising campaign. 

Let’s take a look at examples of highly effective native advertising campaigns across verticals. 

A Leading Beauty Retailer Amplifies LGBTQ+ Voices with Native Advertising

A leading beauty retailer recently partnered with Nativo to tackle the challenge of creating and leveraging LGBTQ+ content that not only engaged customers during Pride month with meaningful messaging and action but also carried that momentum beyond June. The beauty retailer leaned on Nativo's in-house creative specialists to craft custom content dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, with the goals of: 

  • Raising awareness by shedding light on their strong alliance with Pride and the LGBTQ+ community, aiming to make a more profound impact
  • Enhancing public perception by using inclusive messaging to educate readers on purposeful ways to support the LGBTQ+ community
  • Featuring and encouraging purchases of products from LGBTQ+ founded and owned businesses

‍By extending their commitment beyond Pride Month, the beauty retailer saw a significant uptick in engagement with its Custom Native Article content, highlighting their year-round dedication to inclusivity. Amplifying LGBTQ+ voices and brands not only drove over 102 percent higher time spent on their content but also achieved a remarkable 33 percent higher call-to-action rate compared to industry benchmarks, underscoring the concrete results of their efforts.

A Luxury Resort Skyrockets Site Traffic by 124% with Branded Content

A luxury travel resort was looking for opportunities to drive awareness and increase bookings for its exclusive rooms and luxury suites. The resort worked with Nativo to build a content strategy around driving awareness and consideration for the luxury resort’s offerings and experiences on Maui, using Nativo’s proprietary Native Article format to influence conversions. Leveraging Native Articles engaged consumers interested in traveling by educating them first through vibrant images and videos, and easy-to-follow information about the hotel and travel destination.

Each article had a specific objective:

  • Awareness: Establish the hotel as thought leader in the luxury travel space and elevate the brand by educating prospective travelers on reasons to travel to location
  • Consideration: Focus on specific offerings at the hotel, including details on accommodations and amenities, and exclusive activities at the hotel

With the help of native ad placements, the content strongly resonated with luxury travelers, and continued to elevate the brand and educate consumers on why the hotel is right for them. Through engaging long-form content, the brand drove a 2:1 increase in revenue and exceeded the engagement benchmark. Specifically, the resort saw: 

  • A 10 percent lift in CTR: Headlines that mentioned the hotel name drove a 10 percent lift in CTR from the native in-feed unit to the Native Article page.
  • A 124 percent increase in site traffic: Headlines that mentioned the hotel name drove a 124 percent lift in CTA from the Native Article page to the brand’s site.

This campaign revealed that readers are actively seeking out information on luxury travel and want to be educated in making informed decisions about where to stay and what to do. Eye-catching visuals, aspirational subject matter and multiple click-outs drove readers to click through to the brand page 22.4 percent above the benchmark.

Auto Brand Taps Native Advertising to Reach Adventurous, Influential Audience

Team One and Lexus approached Nativo to help them reach a new audience: the adventurous, influential and competitive audience of the IS 500 vehicle. Lexus wanted to figure out how to provoke this audience’s desire to influence and how to provide these adventurous risk takers with entertainment that enabled them to flex their competitive spirit. Team One and Lexus were already creating a License to Thrill (LTT) competition video and saw an opportunity for their video content to work harder and smarter.

Nativo worked with Lexus to amplify its video by building out a narrative that organically weaved in IS 500 features and benefits. Nativo took the video content and repurposed it into visually engaging experiences to drive additional scale across its premium publisher network. Ultimately, the campaign achieved 10.2 million total viewable impressions, an average time spent on content that was 90 above the benchmark, and a CTR that was 37 percent above the benchmark.

The above examples demonstrate that the best way to create effective branded content ads is to understand your target audience and what kind of content they naturally seek. By starting with your audience’s needs and then finding the right content format and platforms on which to reach them, you can ensure your branded content ads will hit their mark. 

How Can Advertisers Get Started with Branded Native Ads?

To create a successful branded native ad campaign, you need to start by setting clear goals and choosing the right platforms. You also need to ensure you’re creating high-quality content that is informative, engaging, and relevant to your target audience. Also, be sure to be transparent about the fact that your content is sponsored (if your advertising platform partners don’t do this on your behalf already), and track your results so that you can optimize your campaigns over time.

  • Set clear and specific goals. What do you want to achieve with your branded native ad campaign? Do you want to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, generate leads, or make sales? Once you know your goals, you can tailor your campaign accordingly.
  • Choose the right platforms. There are a variety of platforms where you can place branded native ads, including social media platforms, search engines, and publisher websites. Choose the platforms that are most relevant to your target audience and where they are most likely to see your ads.
  • Create high-quality content. Your branded native ads should be informative, engaging, and relevant to your target audience. When leveraging visual native ad formats, use high-quality images and videos to capture attention and make your ads stand out. Write compelling headlines and body copy. Your headlines and body copy should be clear, concise, and persuasive, as well as relevant to the content that users are already consuming.
  • Be transparent. Let users know that your content is sponsored. This will help to build trust and credibility.
  • Track your results and optimize your campaigns over time. It's important to track the results of your branded native ad campaigns so that you can see what's working and what's not. This will help you to optimize your campaigns over time and improve your results. Try different ad formats, placements, and targeting options to see what works best for your business.

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