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12 Examples of Native Ads (And Why They Work)

Despite all the hype, native advertising remains a fuzzy concept for most marketers.

According to our 2014 status report:

 - 49 percent of respondents don’t know what native advertising is
 - 24 percent are hardly familiar with it
 - Another 24 percent are somewhat familiar
 - Only 3 percent are very knowledgeable

So, given the lack of awareness (and people mistaking it for other things, like sponsorship), we thought it would be a good idea to walk you through about a dozen examples of native advertising — and why they work.

And that's exactly what you'll discover in tomorrow's post. Stay tuned. Update: the post is live:

And if you haven't already, get Copyblogger delivered directly to your inbox:
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Oh, I didn't know that Guinness also made a guide to cheese :)
+Demian Farnworth what about ads that a radio host reads? It's meant to not break the flow of the broadcast. Is that native?
Another question - is it good or bad when a content brand becomes so popular that people are surprised that is associated with the company brand. For example, The World Book of Records surprised me when I first learned it was from Guiness
I don't know, +Hashim Warren. It's sort of like when a brand name becomes a household item: "google" it, "Hand me a kleenex." 
+Hashim Warren Few did "native" radio ads better than the late great Paul Harvey. There's also a guy on ESPN Radio who's pretty seamless -- but ultimately they are distinct ads from the rest of the content. Blurred lines for sure.
Shows like  Revenge ran of ads during the show that starred actors from the show, and included a mini storyline that looked like the show. It was called "The Gift of Revenge" and it blended into the show, but happened during the commercial time. Native?
+Hashim Warren They way they do ads on radio is not native. Usually it's prefaced by "Now a word from our sponsor" and then an ad that is clearly out of context.

They do tailor those ads, however. Audible will do ads for Radio Lab and might say "Download Carl Sagan or Issac Asimov." But that's not native.

Native would be if Audible sponsored a story, well  researched, well investigated, possibly told by the host, and you didn't know it was by Audible until the end of the story. Then a clear call to action. That would be native. If you removed the "sponsor" and the content is exactly what the audience would expect, then that is native. Native content matches the editorial standards and meets audience expectations.  
+Hashim Warren That's a great question regarding radio ads. The guys here in Dallas on The Ticket have a great may of making their spots natural ... but like Demian said, they aren't really native because the content itself doesn't match audience expectations. It's still talking about a company or product.
+Demian Farnworth how would you describe the differences between content marketing and native advertising? Isn't a content marketer simply playing all of the roles: media publisher, advertiser, et al? 
Also as a side note: +Copyblogger can you point me to an article that I can share with the public (not on the Authority side of the curtain) that contains +Brian Clark's sales circles (vs. sales funnels)? I was referencing it in a HOA...and so far my searches have come up empty. 
Hey +Lori Sailiata see the end of the article under the heading " Where does content marketing fall in respect to native advertising?" :D
Damn! Caught multi-tasking again! Missed that line: "They are born of the same stock and have the same goal in mind, but the main difference is this: with content marketing the brand becomes the publisher." But at least I was paying enough attention to you guys over the years to get it sorta right. :)
Here's a thing +Demian Farnworth - you could argue that the front covers of many (print) magazines fall under the banner of native advertising.

Say you had a film magazine that slapped the latest superhero blockbuster on its cover in return for an exclusive set visit or review, and that cover was all fancy, with gatefolds or lenticulars or whathaveyou, or there were free posts such as a poster. It won't be the magazine publisher that's paid for that cover treatment or 'free gift'.

So the film studio gets lots of publicity, even if that's just people seeing the pretty magazine cover on the newsstand, but of course it's a two-way street - the magazine knows that having that film on its cover will a/ appeal to existing readers and b/ attract new ones.

This isn't particularly useful to anyone, but thought I'd share anyway. 

P.S. I worked on consumer mags for 10 years.
+Copyblogger you missed a VERY large use case which is mobile native ads in mobile native apps. All your examples are about desktop and in large majority about Sponsored editorial content. You did point to some non editorial content like google search or promoted tweets, but native ads unlike the definition mentionned is NOT JUST about content. An ad can be about a product transaction (eg Buy this for less...) or on mobile an app install (eg Facebook, or what we do at +Appsfire  ) or even an app re engagement....Focusing on the desktop is just an error of analysis
hi +Demian Farnworth , great post! i'd like to highlight an interesting native ads case italian hystory: It's about the MSC cruises company that advertise on an italian popular web magazine. i think that there are not so many other italian example related :(  
+Brian Clark I'm so glad you are a fan of Paul Harvey as well. Not highbrow by any stretch, but a master craftsman.
How do you differentiate between example #2 & #7?  Both feature content provided by the advertiser, labeled as such.
I looked through all the examples of native advertising in your post and I couldn't find one that didn't trigger my gag reflex (with the possible exception of the Guinness ads, which look more like normal advertising to me). Every time I see a native ad, my esteem for the publication it appears in goes one notch lower. As does my opinion about the brand that placed the ad.

Native ads trade on blurring the line between advertising and content. Maybe no one cares about those lines anymore. Maybe the postmodernists are right: if every form of speech is manipulative, then the lines are already blurred. So, why worry?

But I worry. There's a difference between trying to help someone and trying to sell them something. I don't mind it when people do both, but I want them to be transparent about it. I need to be able to tell when they're trying to help me and when they're trying to sell me something. The line between those two modes of interaction should be clear.

And I think Copyblogger should worry, too. As I understand your approach to content marketing, the goal is to attract clients by building authority. Authority is established by being informative, helpful, clear, and transparent.

But native ads are corrosive to clarity and transparency, and therefore corrosive to authority. You can pepper the page with all the disclaimers you want about "sponsored content," but that's not the same as being transparent. Not when your sponsored content is trying to mimic the style of the publication. If you're not trying to trick me, then why are you doing it? It's duplicity. You're talking out of two sides of your mouth. And even the appearance of duplicity destroys whatever credibility you might have earned with me.
In light of recent events, example number 3, internet Explorer, is absolutely hilarious. Maybe it's time to bring back the Uninstaller. 
The future of native advertising lies with non-interruptive advertising on quality environments that provides value in some way to its audience through editorial articles. The ad unit will look like any other editorial content on the site and will also behave in the same way, linking you to an article page on the publishers site.

See this example for Dino Tales (a new app for kids):

Headline unit -

Article page:
I Published a CE magazine for 20 years for the US Military Overseas 60,000 copies twice a year and it was 80% advetorial or Native Advertising (cute guys) and obviously the magazine was successful.  Left hand Page Product adjacent page a educational editorial about the advertised product. Some of the companies were Sony,Panasonic,Kodak, JVC, Canon etc.  they all loved it.
I doubt that the Onion article was a paid product placement. More likely it was specific because specific is funnier than vague. 

It's the difference between saying a hipster looked down over his pretentiously cheap beer at your overly commercialized music cd, or a hipster looked down over his PBR at your Taylor Swift cd. The latter is just funnier.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go cash some totally unrelated checks I happen to have gotten from Taylor Swift and PBR inc.
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