Native advertising is more popular than ever before, and for good reason. 85 percent of Internet users don’t see native advertising as an interruption to their browsing behavior, and two-thirds are more likely to click on sponsored content than banner ads.
In an interview with AdWeek, Quality Formations founder Graeme Donnelly said, “Native advertising has been so well accepted by internet users because it feels natural to the readers. Compared with traditional banners and pop-up ads, native ads are much less disruptive and they don’t give the feeling that the page is cluttered.”
For publishers and their advertisers, it’s become evident over time that there is a perfect middle-ground that needs to be met when producing online advertisements that are fair, clear, and engaging for consumers. That’s where well-done native advertising comes in.
In this 2019 guide, we walk through native advertising guidelines and best practices, as well as specific examples of native ads that work.
Native Advertising in Action: Guidelines & Best Practices
We know that audiences don’t like to be bombarded or interrupted by advertising. Ad types like pop-ups and autoplay video ads, for example, have never been popular among consumers, and are often considered “annoying” and “disruptive.”
With the rise of native advertising, however, we now know that advertising can actually be too discreet, as well. Google loves native advertising, but audiences don’t want to be duped by native ads into believing an advertisement is anything other than what it actually is.
To regulate this middle-ground, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released Native Advertising: A Guide for Business.
The release of this guide was right on time, too, as the use of native advertising increased dramatically in 2016 and over the past few years, according to MediaRadar’s In-Depth Look into the Current State of Native Advertising.
When considering native advertising, both brands and publications should take the time to read through this guide from the Federal Trade Commission to ensure they are meeting standards.
According to the FTC, their job is to, “ensure that long-standing consumer protection principles apply in the digital marketplace, including native advertising.” In their native advertising guide, the FTC defines what they consider to be deception in advertising:
“Under the FTC Act, an act or practice is deceptive if there is a material misrepresentation or omission of information that is likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances. A misrepresentation is material if it is likely to affect consumers’ choices or conduct regarding an advertised product or the advertising for the product.”
“A basic truth-in-advertising principle is that it’s deceptive to mislead consumers about the commercial nature of content. Advertisements or promotional messages are deceptive if they convey to consumers expressly or by implication that they’re independent, impartial, or from a source other than the sponsoring advertiser – in other words, that they’re something other than ads.”
Even though “Sponsored,” “Presented,” and “Promoted by” all technically mean the same thing, a big point in the FTC’s guide is for publishers to use consistent language across all of their native advertisements. The disclosure should be clear, consistent and front-and-center.
In other words, if a publisher uses the phrase “Sponsored by” in one ad spot, they should use the same disclosure elsewhere, as well.
To battle ad deception, in their Guide for Business, the FTC runs through the language and layout of how publishers should be disclosing native ads. Within their rundown, there are ten different ways for consumers to identify native advertising.
MediaRadar’s analysis of native advertising in Q3 of 2017 showed that only six of those ten FTC identifiers were consistently being adopted.
Below is a list of those six identifiers, with successful native advertising examples for each, so you can have an easier time spotting native ads and formulating your own plan for sponsored content.
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25 Unique Native Advertising Examples
A. “Ad” or “Advertisement” Tag
There’s no guessing with this one. Many native ads simply contain the word “Advertisement” or “Ad” to let consumers know immediately what they’re looking at.
Something that the FTC states within their Guide is that, “Disclosures must be understood.” Meaning that, aside from the ad itself, the label on the ad cannot be ambiguous whatsoever either.
1. A Native Advertising Example from Walmart for Fresh Produce
The good news with the below native advertising example from Walmart is that “Advertisement” is as understandable as it gets.
The terminology is formatted in a way that can be read clearly and is even highlighted boldly in yellow. As the FTC Guide says it should be, it is written in, “plain language that is as straightforward as possible.” For more information, check out Walmart’s brand profile page.
2. A Native Advertising Example from the Duck Adventure App on Dog News
In the Duck Adventure App’s native advertising example, the term, “Ad,” is also highlighted in yellow. It doesn’t interrupt user experience, but it is still clearly visible to them in the top left corner.
B. “Paid Advertisement”
If something is disclosed as “Paid,” that’s always a clear signal of it being an advertisement.
3. A Native Advertising Example from Chase for the New Chicago Theatre Lounge
As you can see below, this native ad from Chase includes the disclosure, “Paid Content From Chase.” This disclosure is specific, pointing directly to one of the innovative trends in native advertising and Chase as the one who is paying, thus eliminating any ambiguity surrounding the advertisement and Eater’s content.
It’s easily understood that Chase is paying to have that image appear on Eater’s website. Here’s Chase’s brand profile page for your general advertising questions.
The same goes for this great native advertising example from Dell.
4. A native advertising example from Dell on The New York Times
The native ad includes the disclosure, “Paid For And Posted By Dell.” Therefore, it’s known that the computer technology company is the one paying for its content to show up on The New York Times website. Here’s Dell’s brand profile page.
C. “Sponsored Advertising Content”
While perhaps not as on-the-nose as “Advertising” or “Paid Content,” seeing that something is “Sponsored Content” points to the fact that the brand at-hand, in this case, Microsoft, has nothing to do with the creation of the Popular Science content in which the ad sits.
5. A Native Advertising Example from Microsoft on Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture
In acknowledging that it is a sponsor, it is acknowledging the fact that it is simply allowed to sit alongside Popular Science‘s content, as someone who has paid to be there, without any inference of contributing otherwise.
Check out Microsoft’s brand profile page right here!
6. A Native Advertising Example from HootSuite on Facebook
By saying “Sponsored,” the native advertising example here shows that HootSuite paid to feature its content, which is HootSuite Pro in this scenario, on Facebook.
You can see Facebook’s brand profile page now!
7. A Native Advertising Example from Hennessy on Vanity Fair
In this great native advertising example, Hennessy partnered with the creative agency, Droga5, to produce a video to sell its top-shelf liquor. The video fit seamlessly into the site, but, by using “Sponsor Content,” Hennessy made users aware of the fact that what they were reading and watching was an advertisement, rather than original content.
8. A Native Advertising Example from The Atlantic on Scientology’s Milestones
While readers may feel duped at first because this example feels so much like a normal article from The Atlantic, the term, “Sponsor Content,” is all readers really need to recognize that this is, indeed, an ad, according to the FTC.
9. A Native Advertising Example from Blue Yonder Airlines about Family Travel Deals on the Associated Press
Though smaller and without color, the word, “Sponsored,” is also included in this native advertising example where Blue Yonder Airlines highlights its favorite layover destinations for the Associated Press. This way, readers understand that what they are looking at is an advertisement.
10. A Native Advertising Example from Gawker on Becoming a Nerd-Babe
If you read this Gawker article, you’ll find out that it is actually a native advertisement by the second paragraph. Not only does the article say “Sponsored” at the top, but the writing also includes a certain call-to-action that urges readers to watch a new reality show entitled King of the Nerds.
11. A Native Advertising Example from Coursera on Learning Data Analysis
This “Sponsored” native advertising example showed up in some users’ Facebook stream. Yes, Coursera wants readers to learn data analysis in part. But, more importantly, it wants them to sign up for the platform.
D. “Presented by”
Another phrase to look out for is “Presented by.”
This is the first of the “by” terms. At first blush, “presented by,” is synonymous with “promoted by” and “sponsored by” (see below). However, it often carries a different connotation. These pieces will often have a focus more tangentially related to the brand, giving them more room for storytelling.
12. A Native Advertising Example from Dove on The Telegraph
For example, Dove ‘presented’ a story in The Telegraph’s Lifestyle section on professional golfer Lee Westwood’s parenting.
13. A Native Advertising Example from Siemens on Politico
The native ad below is from Politico, and is “Presented by Siemens.” The ad was hosted on Politico. Content that is “presented by” an advertising brand simply refers to that brand attaching their name to content created by the publisher.
14. A Native Advertising Example from Nike on SB Nation
This SB Nation native advertising example is “Presented By” Nike. The video aims to follow six NFL stars as they return to their high schools for football summer training.
For more information about this corporation, see Nike’s brand profile page.
15. A Native Advertising Example from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Trending Hashtags
The content below is “Presented By” The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon because the show wishes to attach its name to funny and trending hashtags, especially #HowIGotDumped.
E. “Promoted by”
The inclusion of the word “by” is a way for native advertisements to be a bit more specific and separate the advertising brand (like Geico) from the publisher (like Buzzfeed).
The FTC states that disclosing an ad as just “Promoted” or as “Promoted Stories” can imply to consumers that the content is endorsed by the publisher site. Hypothetically, if the example ad here were to only say “Promoted,” one might think that Buzzfeed is endorsing content from Geico.
16. A Native Advertising Example from Geico on Buzzfeed
17. A Native Advertising Example from Twitter Small Biz for Promoting Tweets on Twitter
In this case, Twitter Small Biz’s tweet says “Promoted by,” indicating that Twitter doesn’t necessarily have to endorse the content, despite the fact that both Twitter Small Biz and Twitter are divisions of the same company. It’s somewhat confusing, but that’s what “promoted by” means.
Find more advertising data on the social platform through Twitter’s brand profile page.
18. A Native Advertising Example from Google AdWords on Twitter
In a similar fashion, this native advertising example on Twitter, surrounding the best SEM practices, is “Promoted by” Google AdWords. Twitter, the platform in which the content is displayed, isn’t obligated to endorse the post, however.
The search engine has more has more advertising insights on its Google’s brand profile page.
19. A Native Advertising Example from Honda Fit on Buzzfeed
Another native advertising example featured on Buzzfeed (but not endorsed by the publisher) was “Promoted By” Honda. The brand enticed readers with a list of cool vintage items, but more discreetly advertised the roomy nature of its Honda Fit.
Learn even more about this car through Honda’s brand profile page.
Here is our final example of a “Promoted by” native ad:
20. A Native Advertising Example from Volkswagen Canada on Twitter
Once again, another brand (Volkswagen) uses the social media platform, Twitter, to drive users to its content hub.
There is more information surrounding the “North American Car of the Year” on Volkswagen’s brand profile page.
F. “Sponsored by”
Content that is “Sponsored by” a brand is another way to identify a native advertisement. And as previously mentioned, this is synonymous with content that is “presented by” and “promoted by.” It’s simply a choice of language.
21. A Native Advertising Example from Intel on CIO Mag
In this native advertising example below, an article on CIO Mag about adopting artificial intelligence (AI) is “Sponsored by” Intel. With B2B native advertising, these articles are often presented as think pieces.
Find more advertising insights on this technology company through Intel’s brand profile page.
22. A Native Advertising Example from Capital Health on NJ.com
Sponsored content can also be targeted with regional publications. For example, Capital Health (a major health provider in New Jersey) has a feature in NJ.com, an online collection of local news, sports and lifestyle articles.
23. Native Advertising Example from Oracle Data Cloud on The Drum
In the B2B space, big brands will typically make a big effort for credibility. For example, this sponsored content on The Drum lists Mark Ashworth as the author — he’s VP of International at Oracle Data Cloud.
24. A Native Advertising Example from The Botanist on Eater
When a sponsored post is created in collaboration with a publication’s creative team, the distinction between paid and unpaid content is blurred even further. The piece on gin and tonics at Eater makes perfect sense for the publication. Without the disclaimer underneath (and clearly branded imagery), it wouldn’t even be classified as a native ad.
25. Native Advertising Example from EcoWorld on National Geographic
Finally, taking this tack with native ads can make for a more elegant means of messaging. National Geographic, for example, chooses to call this native ad article ‘partner content’ from developer EcoWorld.
The positioning makes it clear that the publication and brand have shared values, creating a natural fit for native advertising.
Native Advertisements: More Than the Tag
The business guidelines from the top of this guide are a good starting point for how to tag native ads.
But successful native advertising isn’t only about following those guidelines. As the examples highlighted here show, native ads are about positioning brands where and when it makes sense with the publication.
From The Telegraph including a lifestyle article to Google positioning their article as naturally as possible on Twitter, the native advertising examples show it’s all about fit.
At the same time, the lines between paid ads and original content are blurring — Google, for example, announced a change to its result page that will make ads blend in more.
Brands will do well to remember that successful native ads both blend in and add value. The combination is what makes a good fit.