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The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising A Vocus eBook

Paid For and Posted by XYZ



Promoted by XYZ

Sponsored by XYZ


The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising A Vocus eBook Native advertising – the purchasing of sponsored content on social networks and online websites – dominated digital marketing conversations the past year. Market research company BIA/Kelsey estimates that U.S. native ad spending on social sites might have reached $2.36 billion in 2013, or 38.9 percent of total U.S. paid social ad expenditures. How can you effectively work native advertising into your marketing mix? This eBook highlights some techniques brands are using to do just that. It will show you the rich native advertising ecosystem of publishers, vendors, social networks and search engines that help companies create, manage and track content. Finally, we’ll show you the ethical issues to avoid with sponsored content. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently held a meeting with brands and publishers to discuss native advertising – and while some issues were highlighted, others were raised. Your brand can use this set of tools, as long as the ads disclose sponsorship so that consumers are better informed.



The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

What is Native Advertising?

In The New York Times example below, the post is clearly labeled as “Paid For and Posted by Dell.”

A survey from Online Publishers Association says native ads include “coniPad

tent integrated into the design of


the publishers site, living in the same domain, as well as content either provided by, produced in conjunction with or created on behalf of our advertisers that runs within the editorial stream.” In native ads, there is a clear delineation, labeling the unit as ad content.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau defines six types of native ad units in its mustread, “Native Advertising Playbook”:


And Buzzfeed integrates their native advertising in the Social media in-feed units (such as Facebook’s ads

with a social context)

OO Paid search OO Recommendation

form of posts written by the brand, which is delineated as a “BuzzFeed Partner.”

widgets (often seen as “From

Around the Web”)

OO Promoted listings OO Standard ads with

native elements (banner or box

with text or placed at beginning of post)

OO Custom campaigns created with the client This graphic shows an “in-feed” example, from Forbes’ homepage. It looks like other articles, but is clearly called out as a “Forbes BrandVoice.” The disclosure indicates sponsored content, in this case by Gyro, a B2B marketing firm.

Edelman Public Relations’ Chief Content Strategist Steve Rubel sums it up succinctly: “I’d define native advertising as taking that which is organic and flipping it around into advertising.1” Native ads aren’t unique to online publications like Forbes or Mashable. Facebook’s ads (and, for now, their “sponsored stories”2) and Twitter’s “Promoted Tweets” are examples of sponsored content appearing in social networks. Unlike the Facebook banner ads, content ads such as photo posts

1 Conversation with Steve Rubel, 1/2/14 2 Sponsored Stories will “sunset” on April 9th of 2014,

The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

are paid promotions of actions that a user’s friends take on

While debate on content marketing vs. advertising

the platform, including check-ins, “likes” or RSVPs. They

can go on all day, the form is considered native

appear directly in the News Feed. Page owners can target

advertising, implying a payoff for the marketer as well as

ads via Facebook’s ad manager.

the consumer.

A brand may have their own account on Twitter, but much of their content is not seen because most people are not on Twitter at any given moment. A Promoted Tweet shows up in the stream for users who follow that account or are targeted based on the user’s expressed interests, geography or device. The Promoted Tweet is noted as “promoted,” but appears natural within the user’s stream, “integrated into the design” of the site. Edelman PR’s Rubel says, “If you look at search content with paid search results, that’s the model. If you look at Tweets and Promoted Tweets, that’s the model. And it’s working.”

Content Marketing vs. Native Advertising Currently, many firms are using “content marketing” to reach customers. Native advertising has a lot in common with content marketing; however, content marketing is typically text, video or other media that is intended to inform the customer, providing something of value. Much of content marketing builds brand over time. This paper itself is an example of content marketing - a neutral point-of-view piece of content that is not selling a specific service or product, but educates marketers as a service from Vocus. Alternately, native advertising is material that is sponsored. While it may offer valuable content, it is still an ad trying to offer a product, service or point of view. Often times, native advertising is used to expand the reach of content marketing – to get more eyes on the content produced by a brand. Forbes Chief Product Officer Lewis DVorkin reminds us that what we consider “content” is often marketing in disguise. The Michelin Guide for travel and accommodations was started to encourage travel (and inevitable tire replacement).

How Does Native Advertising Fit Into the Marketing Mix? Many brands struggle with how native ads should fit within their larger marketing strategy. Native ads straddle several tactics, including social engagement, owned media, and of course, paid advertising. But how does it help a brand achieve its objectives? “When we think about the distribution, amplification and ultimately, the engagement with content – that’s where we think about our client’s goals,” says Edelman Digital’s Executive VP of Emerging Media and Technology Adam Hirsch. Hirsch notes ways in which native advertising can assist a marketer at the top of their funnel with acquisition and brand awareness, as well as ways to generate leads and conversions. Brand building and awareness are at the top of the traditional sales funnel. Creating articles that run in relevant publications can help make customers aware of your products, services and offerings. Publishing content in a Forbes, The New York Times, or BuzzFeed environment delivers lots of attention and possibly perception change or consideration regarding products or offerings. Sponsored content can generate conversions and create leads. For example, social media in-stream ads can have similar targeting ability to email and marketing automation, according to Hirsch. “Facebook amplification has been pretty great for us because you can optimize for engagement or conversions that you can track,” says Hirsch. “[Facebook offers] content that you’re able to amplify in a segmented and personalized

The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

way. Through first-party targeting with their ‘custom audi-

“In ‘old school lead’ generation, depending on industry and

ences’ product, through third party use of pixels or retar-

company, the cost of leads can range from a few dollars

geting, Facebook is providing the ability to target users on

to thousands of dollars,” says Hirsch. “With hyper-targeted

exclusive social segmentation sets based on what they’re

networks, psychographic targeting and retargeting, you can

talking about or what their interests are.”

bring your cost-per-lead down significantly.” Measuring


results and seeing what types of content resonate on which Native ads can also help your brand with bottom of the funnel

networks and platforms is an absolute must in native adver-

activity by converting existing and new customers. For

tising, as “best practices” are not yet established.

example, a brand can create sponsored content ads directed specifically at Facebook users who are already customers. You can also target via “look-alike” audiences who share characteristics with your existing fans and customers. The level of targeting is so sophisticated that, in Hirsch’s words, “You have an opportunity to share an article about your brand only to journalists who work at The New York Times and Wall Street Journal or whatever stakeholder audience you’re targeting.”

The Ecosystem of Native Advertising Providers The native ad ecosystem includes content creators, such as companies, brands and agencies, who create the content either alone or in conjunction with the publishers, as well as the search and social networks and vendors offering advertising space. This diagram shows how they work together.

Facebook also allows retargeting via its Exchange product. If someone has come to your website to view a prod-

Content Platforms

uct or service, you can retarget them so that when they return to Facebook they receive an offer or message in the native News Feed stream. Many Facebook targeting functions are offered in the updated advertising manager inter-

Publishers Forbes, Mashable, BuzzFeed etc. Native ads "In-Feed"

face, but some require working with third party Facebook

Content RecommenContent Distribution dation, Outbrain, Sharethrough, Taboola, AddThis and Nativo, others many others Articles, Videos, placed in-feed on publishers' sites

Exchange partners. Twitter has similar offerings. The company announced targeting based on interests in 2012 and recently launched the ability to retarget users, and is expected to offer a custom audience product similar to Facebook’s. For example, Twitter empowers restaurants to automatically suggest themselves to someone who is searching for dining recommendations.

Search Google, Bing, Yahoo, others Sponsored Search results next to organic results

Social Networks Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. Content showing inside the user's main feed (FB Sponsored stories Twitter Promoted Tweets)

Boxes under/near content.Titles like "Content From around the Web"

Content Creators Brands themselves Agencies Publisher studios (like Huff Post Partner Studio)

How much should you be spending on native advertising? According to Edelman Digital’s Hirsch, it’s important to allocate a reasonable budget to test out and get the most


impact out of native advertising. Publishers are considered the media sites that create online “When it comes to content amplification, start with a

content, with regular publication schedules and sizeable

$5,000-per-month budget minimum, no matter what size

audiences. Web properties such as The New York Times,

company you are,” says Hirsch. “You need enough money

Forbes, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Mashable all

in the budget to start testing what’s working. So every

have different ways of presenting and promoting native ad

month, optimize between networks, test on the networks

content to their audiences. The New York Times states that

themselves, and see what’s working to figure out your

native ads will have a color bar and the words “Paid Post”

optimal media mix.

prominently displayed.

3 See Vocus FB Guide for how to create custom audiences.

The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

Forbes shows native ads under the branding “BrandVoice”

can get a lot of value. Some of them even have “studios” that

and the units can be seen on the lower portion of its home-

will help you create content without the six-figure budget.

page. Forbes BrandVoice partners use the masthead’s tools to publish content. Their headlines and their posts – the native ad content – flow though the content management system onto

Content Platforms Vendors are developing products to help brands place their content adjacent to high quality editorials. An Altimeter

In anticipation of December 2013’s FTC hearing on

Group report on the native advertising landscape lists more

native advertising, Forbes published specific statistics on

than 40 vendors, including Outbrain, Taboola, AddThis,

its BrandVoice platform. DVorkin states, “1,100 total Brand-

and Sharethrough.

Voice posts generated 821,000 social shares. Those actions resulted in 565,000 social referrals to content [on the Forbes

There are two main types of content platforms – content

site]. Search referrals generated an additional 1.1 million

distribution and recommendation, and native feed insertion.

visits.” Partners had as many as 13,500 views per post, with up to 120,000 monthly unique visitors to the content

Content distribution and recommendation platforms tend

published on Forbes’ site.

to show their content next to or below the main page content. They typically serve a widget that offers related con-

How much does a native ad campaign cost? According to

tent from within the site, as well as “From Around the Web.”

a Digiday report from June 2013, campaigns can

Users are targeted via cookies and other mechanisms, and

range from as little as $5,000 for a post on

the content is personalized based on previous clicks and the

Business Insider to as much as $100,000

context of the current page. Marketers bid on a cost-per-

for five posts on BuzzFeed. For example,

click basis and can analyze their traffic to optimize results.

The Huffington Post charges $40,000 for an article, but promotes it on their site for four days. Such a promotion would yield approximately 20 million

Vendor Outbrain

impressions. However, it is not known how many audience members click


Business Model

“Additional Recom-

Websites are paid

mended Content”

for referring traffic

widgets on sites like


CNN, Time, and

through and read the content, nor what

Rolling Stone.

actions they take.

Marketers pay on a cost-per-click basis,

If publishing prices for top websites alarm you, there are alternatives. “Consider working with ‘mid-shelf sites,’ with

Personalized via

with a $10 mini-

individual’s brows-

mum daily budget.

ing habits.

publishers who are experimenting,” says Edelman PR’s Steve Rubel. “There are sites in the ‘mid-tail,’ below the ComScore

Real-time analytics.

1000, and you can experiment in everything from newsletters to event co-branding. Taboola

“Content You May

Websites generate

“Webinars have a similar business model,” says Rubel. “If

Like” widgets on

revenue by hosting

you’re looking to experiment on big sites with a lower bud-

USA Today, TMZ

sponsored content.

get, pick your spots with publishers that will drive some sort

and more. Video

of meaningful brand-building within that platform. If you

and text.

Cost-per-click model, plus more

know that a BuzzFeed or Mashable is not going to cover you at length, you could use budget to create a one-time boost

Targets users with

premium platform

within that particular site.”

content, uses A/B

with dedicated sales

testing to improve


B2B and trade magazine sites are experimenting and you


The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

Native-feed insertion companies like Nativo and Share-

on the Web for the bottom half of the funnel, but there aren’t

through let marketers place content right in the organic

great mechanisms for the top of the funnel, both in terms of

areas of the website, in the feed or on the main page of

creative that has impact and that’s scalable, and also is mea-

a site.

surable.” Nativo offers the ability to drop a retargeting pixel,


Self-service ads

No minimum for

show “in-feed” on

self-service, CPM

mobile. Full service


model guarantees impressions, on

Full service is a

desktop and mobile.

minimum $20,000 spend.

Targeting via DMA

anisms. Both vendors note that direct response can work if the content shared has a specific response call-to-action.

Search and Social In addition to the platforms that help brands put their messages adjacent to or within the context of a publishing site, search engines and social networking sites provide a way

and Zip Geographic,

to put brand content in the main context of the user expe-


rience. Most web users are already familiar with the spon-

and contextual in

sored search results that appear on the top and right sides

verticals like busi-

of Google, Bing and Yahoo! search results pages. This is

ness or entertain-

probably one of the earliest and most ubiquitous examples



so companies can use their existing bottom-funnel mech-

of native ads, as it appears “integrated into the design of the

Self-service model.

Works with limited

Targeting includes

number of premium

geography and

brands, primarily

device, control over

through agencies.

placement, real time monitoring of time


spent with content.

buying, with a minimum spend around

Placement into

$20K. Includes en-

many major pubs,

gagement analytics.

on desktop, mobile

publishers site.” Social networks have followed suit. From Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to LinkedIn, most of the major social networks have figured out a way to offer content from advertisers where users previously expected content from friends.

Platform and Content Unit

How It Works


• Page owner

Self-service via ad manager.

and within mobile

Text, images, slide-

ads with

promotes a fan’s


shows and video

a social

actions taken on a



page to amplify with


the action-taker’s




• Works with likes,

These networks put content right into partners’ site feeds. Sharethrough’s Tom Channick, senior communications manager, claims this is the most effective way to reach people, especially on mobile. He suggests testing targeting with different pieces of content, and monitoring results to see what content works. The Sharethrough team has to approve all content, since Channick says the company doesn’t want their distribution platform to be sharing “belly fat” and “lower mortgage” ads. Nativo President Justin Choi says, “Native [ads] typically focus on the top of the funnel. There are great mechanisms

Cost Model

check-ins, use of a game, RSVP’ing to an event, or posting on page. • Extensive targeting.

The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

Platform and Content Unit Instagram

How It Works

Cost Model

on Twitter and start promoting your Tweets if you have no followers. Sponsored stories can help grow a brand’s likes and followers, but only when the content resonates with users.

• Shows as a spon-

Initially working

sored picture within

only with brands

the native stream.

that have exten-

A sponsored story promoting a post that has little organic

sive followings.

traction will probably do poorly. Promoting content that

See Burberry and

is already being shared to a wider audience is a recipe

Michael Kors as

for success.4


Content is Still King Twitter Promoted Tweets

• Regular tweets,

Self-service via boosted to the top of ad management interface. stream, marked as

Native advertising requires quality content.


tent delivers context, people gladly

• Recommended

embrace it as something worth-


while and useful. Furthermore,

• Targeted via inter-


est, gender, geog-

content to strict editorial stan-

raphy, by device,

dards. Not every message can

and via audience

be a textual article featured on

similarity to existing

Forbes or Mashable, and creat-


ing content for both properties

Studies show that if sponsored con-





can cost a significant amount. LinkedIn Sponsored Updates and content ads

• Promotes content

Via ad manager.

At the same time, creating singular

shared via a

Cadillac pieces also exposes companies

company page to

to risk of must-succeed situations.

a wider audience, extensive targeting

“Instead of creating one gigantic piece of content, try several;


use a PR post, link an article, post a Vine video, run them through the platform and see what works,” says Share-

Rubel states, “For the social networks and search, this is their

through’s Channick.

entire business model. It’s no longer display. Their model is effectively to integrate – to take the organic structure and

The media type also greatly affects how it is presented.

flip it around to an ad.”

“[Producers] put a can of Diet Coke on ‘American Idol’ and no one complains,” says Rubel. “Or a radio DJ gives away tickets

“LinkedIn is a huge opportunity, especially for specific types

to a concert and plugs it, no one complains. The closer you

of companies or specific types of messages from those com-

are to entertainment-based or lifestyle content, the more

panies, whether it’s for a B2B or B2C audience,” says Hirsch.

the lines get blurry and the deeper the topic can be inte-

“There are a lot of key audiences you can target directly from

grated, provided it’s not a product review type of post.”

LinkedIn for content amplification from company pages. Its usage is dramatically increasing across Edelman, with the

“I think that’s giving BuzzFeed the ability to really do that in

product out only for the last three months or so. It’s a new

earnest because a lot of the ways they integrate brands is

‘owned’ media channel for content amplification.”

through lifestyle content,” says Rubel. “Native ads get most disruptive the closer they are to being straight up advertorial

Anyone can create ads on social networks, but smart brands

in nature, and interruptive as opposed to additive. The

leverage their existing presence. For example, don’t jump

efficacy of that remains to be seen.”


The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

Creating great amounts of content often isn’t “native” to

challenging to know how much they need to disclose, and

midsized companies or smaller brands. They may be used

for consumers to understand how much an advertiser has

to creating brochures, posting blog posts or even sharing

played a role in presenting content to them.”

content on networks. But some of these new formats, along with the corresponding content types and targeting, will

Some publications clearly denote content is sponsored.

be unfamiliar.

Other sites are less forthcoming. Another challenge, claims Chernaik, is that people use different words to describe

Rebecca Lieb notes in the Altimeter Group report that

the ad units, such as “sponsored” or “promoted” when they

education and training will be required. Marketers need to

really mean “advertisement.” “The industry needs to step up,

apply skillsets like strategy, content, media buying and a

or a regulator needs to say ‘This is what we expect,’ and it’s

social component. For companies that don’t have the staff

often better if the industry steps up,” adds Chernaik.


to handle content creation or who wish to outsource it, publishers like The Huffington Post provide “studios” to

Consider Forbes’ “BrandVoice,” which

create content on behalf of advertisers. The company has

is marked at the top of articles and

staff separate from the journalists and video creators who

has a disclosure link that states,

work with brands and agencies.




marketers to connect directly “The native advertising space relies on catchy headlines, and

with the Forbes audience by

it’s important [to] write content that people really want to

enabling them to create con-

access,” says Tom Chernaik, CEO of CMP.LY, a monitoring,

tent – and participate in the

measurement and insight tool company. Chernaik is also

conversation – on the Forbes

co-chair of the Member’s Ethics Advisory Panel at the Word

digital publishing platform.”

of Mouth Marketing Association. “What’s driving all of this

Will the FTC accept the phrasing

is that content gets shared by people. You want to make

“Connecting marketers to the

sure that it’s clear where the content comes from.”

Forbes audience” instead of “sponsored content?” It remains to be seen.

Adding a social dimension of amplification to the content that’s being shared natively is another point made by Lieb,

The previously mentioned “IAB Native Advertising Play-

Rubel and Hirsch. Having content seen once is a benefit.

book” takes some of the first steps towards industry self-reg-

Having it shared many times can reduce your overall cost

ulation by publishing disclosure principles, which state that

of customer acquisition.

“The disclosure must use language that conveys that the advertising has been paid for.” The FTC also states advertise-

Disclosure and Challenges

ments “must be large and visible enough for the consumer to

“Consumers, overall, are responding very well to native

device the ad is being viewed on.”

notice it in the context of a given page and/or relative to the

ads, and that’s why it’s such an appealing area for advertisers,” says Chernaik. However, the FTC is asking questions to protect consumers.

Consumers should be able to distinguish between paid advertising and editorial content. The problems can extend to content when it leaves the publisher’s site.

The commission held a meeting in Washington, D.C. last December to

Chernaik noted that if something is showing on a page,

explore these issues. “How clear do you

there may be disclosures, but in a feed or on someone’s

need to make it, and when do you need

timeline, it may not be clear to consumers, which is where

to make it clear that something is actu-

the FTC may step in. He warns, “People are focusing on it as

ally sponsored content?” asks Chernaik.

an ad medium, and you get tripped up when you look at it

“Since there’s no standard way to disclose

as ads. The component that makes it so compelling isn’t the

it, or to present the information, it becomes

ad component, it’s the word-of-mouth component. That

5 Chart on Page 11,

The Comprehensive Guide to Native Advertising

wasn’t addressed in the FTC workshop. It’s the buzz that

Services like Outbrain, AddThis and others offer self-service

builds around the content that drives native advertising, not

ways to promote content in the context of large publisher’s

the content presentation.”

sites without having to directly deal with the publishers and their budget minimums. Bid-based marketplaces encour-

The FTC has not taken formal action yet, but since

age experimentation and give marketers a chance to hone

they’ve previously issued guidance on making

their messages and content types while controlling spend.

blog and celebrity endorsements more clear,

These services can help make an already popular post more

it is reasonable to think they will monitor the

widely shareable. Nativo, Sharethrough and others put

native ad ecosystem with similar vigilance.

brand content right into the feed on multiple publishers’ sites, with targeting and analytics to measure the results.

“The real question,” says Edelman’s Rubel, “is ‘What does the reader want?’ I know what the technology vendors, publishers, and advertisers

Using analytics and setting key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you evaluate all the offerings discussed.

want from native advertising. I don’t necessarily know what the audience wants from this yet.”

As a marketer, it will be more important than ever to test multiple content formats. Will native advertising result in

Research shows the efficacy of native ads. According to

the promised payoff of higher engagement and interaction

a study by Interpublic Group’s IPG Media Lab and Share-

– as much as 39 percent higher in some cases? Only your

through, consumers looked at sponsored content 52 per-

own tests, metrics and KPIs will answer that question.

cent more frequently than banner ads. Native ads generated 9 percent higher brand affinity lift and 18 percent higher

One thing is for sure – 2014 is definitely the year to try

purchase intent response than banners.

native advertising.

Conclusion Consider how you can apply native ads to your larger marketing stream. Ask the right questions: Will they help convert sales? Or will you use them to amplify and build social brand and content marketing activities? Once you decide, consider your options from the increasingly rich world of native advertising providers. Search and social networks may be the easiest entry points into sponsored content for brands. Many of these choices, from Facebook’s ads and Twitter’s Promoted Tweets to LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates are self-service offerings. These social networks offer guides and case studies that explain best practices and walk marketers through the steps needed to execute a campaign. Native units are most helpful to brands that already have a presence on the networks and who know how their users respond to content. Working with publishers can be a potentially expensive endeavor unless you find a site that’s willing to work with a smaller brand. Look for more midrange sites to offer sponsored content opportunities to attract first-time buyers. Most publications have or are planning an offering on their digital site.

About Vocus Marketing can be hard. To help you succeed and generate more revenue, Vocus offers an integrated suite of the most powerful tools you need. We help you attract and engage prospects on social media, search engines and in the news. We get your message in front of the right prospects at the right time with tools, customized landing pages and targeted emails. Our suite includes a social CRM to manage the activity of your prospects and customers, and integrated analytics to discover what drives likes, shares, opens, click-throughs and conversions. With our marketing consulting and services team ready to help, Vocus delivers marketing success. Find out more at Connect with us:

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