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Marketing 360® Blog

What is Native Advertising and How Can My Small Business Use It?

Post By Scott Yoder | Local Advertising

“A good advertisement is one that sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”  – David Ogilvy

Advertisers like David Ogilvy have long known that the most effective ads don’t really look like advertisements.  They blend into the environment, appearing to just be another piece of useful information, friendly exchange, or entertaining tidbit.

In the past, advertisers used advertorials that appeared in newspapers and magazines.  These were articles that looked just like any other article in the paper except that had fine print at the top saying “paid advertisement.”  Copywriters wrote with the voice and style of journalists with just the slightest promotional slant.  The informational style was perfect for selling – without drawing attention to the seller.


Native Advertising in Digital Marketing

If there is any generation of consumers that hate blatant advertising, it’s Millenials.  This is the first generation that largely grew up with the ability to turn off ads in their media.  From Tivo to online ad blockers,  Millenials have taken control of advertising content they consume.

The best way to lose a potential customer in digital advertising is to make your ad look like an ad.

The internet is full of ads – but most of them don’t look like ads.

They’re native advertisements, blending in with the format of the content platform they’re on.

For example, these CNN articles are all ads:

native ads on cnn

This is an ad that shows in my Twitter feed:

promoted tweet

This ad appeared in my Facebook News Feed, in the form of a news channel interview:

facebook native ad

All of these ads blend into the platform I’m on and look like they belong there.  The sales message is soft and informational.

But make no mistake:  they are promotional.  Each ad pitches a product and draws attention to a brand.  When I take action and click on any of these, the advertiser pays for the click through advertising platform they’re using.


Develop Your Native Advertising Strategy

At a tactical level, native advertising is becoming dominate.  There are more opportunities to create these types of ads and “become part of the conversation” than ever.  On social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Pinterest, it’s likely that the majority of your ads will be native advertisements.

Likewise, your blog articles, email marketing, and Youtube videos are all promotional material that’s not meant to draw attention to the fact that it’s promotional.  This all falls under the concept of content marketing, where you create online content to make a connection with your target audience.

(In case it didn’t dawn on you, this article itself is a type of content marketing.  We want to inform you about how to use native advertising for your business, and we’d like you to consider hiring us to help you do it.)

There has never been a better time – tactically speaking – to use native advertising.

The difficult part is at the strategy level.  With the style of native advertising you do on social media, you have to speak the native language of the platform.

For instance, on Facebook you have to design visual creatives that have stand-alone interest.  On Twitter, you must be aware of ideas that are trending the very day you plan to tweet your ad.  On Pinterest, you might share something that actually comes from a competitor because you think it will be of value to your audience.

The strategy for your direct-response ads is probably straightforward.  You have your offer, create a call to action, and put it out there.

But the informational/entertainment based content you need for native ads and content marketing can be much harder to develop.  You need a story to tell that doesn’t overtly reveal why you’re actually telling it.

You’re promoting your business – you are a salesperson – yet you need to fit right in with the crowd.  There is a subtle art to this.


Here are some tips to help you develop your native advertising strategy.

Fill Information Gaps

The best place to start is with your target audience.  Specifically, the questions that need answering before they’ll understand the value of your offer and why they should buy.

Make a running list of questions prospects typically have that relate to what you do.  Start writing blog posts, creating videos, and designing infographics that provide answers.

Share this via social ads/posts and article distribution sites.   Optimize your blogs for SEO so you show up when people make search queries.

Be honest, informative, and helpful.  Your main goals are to answer questions people have and to earn their trust.

Be Entertaining

People online – particularly on social media – like to be entertained.  And they’re a lot more likely to share entertaining content.

What is the lighter side of your business?  What aspects of your work are strange, amusing, funny, or surprising?  Do you have the guts to poke fun at yourself?

Stuff that makes people laugh out loud is popular on social and is generally effective at getting attention online.

For example, this Los Angeles chiropractor had the Youtube comic duo Rhett & Link create a video for his practice.  Its quirky use of sexual innuendo (sexy is also an attention grabber) and funny take on how people can be hesitant to try chiropractic has over 12 million views on Youtube.

This is not a typical chiropractic commercial, which is why it works so well as a native advertisement.

Be Provocative

It’s important that a native advertisement be provocative and attention grabbing.   While you’re creating content that fits in naturally with the platform, you don’t want it to fit in so much it doesn’t get noticed.

With article marketing and social media posts, your headline and image will do a lot to attract attention.   Listicles are popular for this:

native advertisements

In a set of paid ads, several will be 10 reasons why titles.   And notice how all of these titles are designed to peak your interest and motivate you to click through to the landing page.

In some cases (like the ad for the beautiful tween) this is click bait.  The entire idea of the ad is to get people onto a monetized page where they’ll click other advertisements.

You don’t want your titles to be misleading, but you can use the idea to capture the attention of fast-moving web surfers.



It’s arguable that native advertising is the direction advertising is heading.  It overlaps with content marketing and is the most effective way to target top of funnel leads.

Quite simply, it plays to the way people consume content on the internet.  Your ads fit naturally into the conversation taking place, making them hard to notice as advertisements.

The challenge is coming up with interesting content to use for these ads.   You need a theme you can use across all your social media and blogging that’s genuine yet slanted towards your offer.

On places like Facebook, you certainly don’t want your ad look like solicitation or you won’t get any engagement.

You still must advertise today.  People must know about the value you offer – it’s the essence of branding.

Your ads are designed to find your target audience, but that audience wants to feel like they found you.  They want to feel there is a connection to their lifestyle and self-image.

Native advertising makes that connection.