How to Leverage Native Advertising in a Content Driven Ecosystem

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Sidebar, header and footer have long been the placements for many digital advertising campaigns. Unfortunately, consumers have naturally started to lose interest in the aforementioned mediums and have begun to notice native advertising. Mobile and tablet based applications like Flipboard, Pulse Newsreader (Acquired by LinkedIn, read more here) and Instapaper have eliminated the sidebar, header and footer altogether by aggregating content and creating an immersive user experience, which doesn’t include advertising. Anecdotally, the core objective was to eliminate clutter and focus on the core content provided by publishers. These controversial aggregator apps, have created a disruptive environment and publishers are having difficulty adjusting their monetization strategies. The question is how do brands adapt to the transition, without breaking the bank and being risk averse? The answer is by creating compelling content, whether it is video, copy, advergaming, audio, mobile applications or images, it is the brands responsibility to create content that consumers want to interact with.

Step One – Native Advertising in a Content Driven Ecosystem

Take a look at media allocation and determine where your inefficiencies are (cough,cough traditional media…well…depending on your target), eliminate those inefficient mediums and allocate the dollars toward an agency, a freelancer or hire an expert that is focused on creating content that matters to your target audience.

Step Two – Native Advertising in a Content Driven Ecosystem

Set-up a self hosted blog via a sub domain or if the campaign is large enough via its own domain. Start creating content and sharing that content via social media channels, therefore if a consumer comes across your brand via social media, they have content to view. It is important to have a foundation prior to implementing a native advertising experience because when the campaign is implemented the bounce rate will be much lower and time on site will be higher, leading to increased brand exposure. IMPORTANT: If you are going to set up a self hosted blog and your long term goal is to drive large amounts of traffic to that blog, make sure you do not “cheap out” on hosting by using a shared hosting service. Spend the extra money and purchase a dedicated hosting service which offers speedy load times, it will help SEO and keep your readers happy, especially when viewing via mobile devices. Fly my friend Ray Rajan from Cloud I.T. Canada an email if you need dedicated hosting and use the promo code REVERB.

Note: Even though native advertising is embedded into content, the ultimate goal should be to drive traffic to your blog, social media pages etc, hence the name of the article. Leveraging Native Advertising for Lead Generation is a whole new article.

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Step Three – Native Advertising in a Content Driven Ecosystem

Pick your mediums. Their are 6 different types of native advertising mediums, maybe they are all suitable if your thinking about using a macro approach or you may want to hone in on a specific native advertising medium if your strategy is more micro based.

In-Feed Units


Zuckerberg and his team has realized the potential of native advertising and capitalized heavily by offering in-stream “suggested posts” that are mobile friendly, this allows marketers to offer targeted messaging to Facebook users, in a discreet and efficient manner. Alexei Oreskovic stated in a recent Reuters article that “The world’s largest social networking company said that revenue from mobile ads represented 53 percent of its total advertising revenue in the last three months of the year, or $1.24 billion, versus the 49 percent proportion that mobile ads represented in the third quarter” .These suggested posts range from video to pictures to app downloads, therefore if your content is on strategy and you properly target your audience than your ideal customer should interact with your content. It is very important to have a brand Facebook page populated with relevant content, because people will inevitably visit your brand page. Do an A/B split to see what where you should point your url’s. Use all of the same content, but allocate half of your A/B split budget towards directing to your blog and half directly to your brand page.


Twitter is more of a micro-blogging experience, so things move quickly. Rather than using Twitter paid advertising to promote content, use their paid solutions to build a following, which will allow users to find your content in the future. Promoted accounts, promoted tweets and promoted trends  are an excellent way to build a loyal audience that will offer a short-term as well as a long term return on investment. Especially if they believe your brand has compelling content and is willing to follow your Twitter handle. Promoted Trends is an excellent option for marketers that are looking to build traffic and engagement quickly.


The image driven social network has been experimenting with in-feed ad units, but have yet to roll out a full service solution. Pinterest released an article on their blog, on September 19th, 2013 that stated “We wanted to let you know that we are starting our first test with promoting pins today, so you may spot a few in your search results or category feeds on the web or in mobile apps”. This could be an interesting opportunity, when rolled out full scale, think branded images and memes that are related to the back linked content. 


Marissa Mayer and her team has also taken on a mobile focused, native advertising experience. Recently, they released Yahoo Gemini, a combination of mobile based search units and native advertising. Their website states that “With Yahoo Gemini, advertisers get the performance and ease of search, combined with the scale and creativity of native advertising”. This is a fairly new product but definitely mimics the recent success of Facebook’s mobile optimized native ads. They also have a more traditional native advertising offering, which provides personalized stream ads and image ads.

Other In-Feed Units

Their are multiple options for other in feed units, the above are probably the most well known, but do your research and you may find a “diamond in the rough”, which is cost efficient.

Paid Search Units

In a content driven strategy, paid search units on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines may not be your best option. In certain situations it may work nicely, for example, if you feel like you have an article,video, or content that is a highly searched topic , do some keyword research and test some paid search units, but only allocate a large chunk of your budget to a paid search unit if the key performance indicators show that your content driven strategy is producing results.

Recommendation Widgets

Recommendation widgets are a great way to distribute the content you have worked hard to create, rather than focusing on promoting media rich content via this channel, focus on “copy heavy” content that your team has created. Sure, it can have media within the content, but make sure the content is good, has a catchy headline, and a very eye grabbing thumbnail. Their are a bunch of different providers here a few Outbrain, Taboola, Disqus, Gravity. Personally, I highly recommend this, if you have great article that are not getting much traffic and you want to leverage the content.

In-Ad or In-Game with Native Elements

This is an interesting opportunity for advertisers, and offers a tremendous amount of potential, especially in the mobile and social gaming space. See my post on 4 Game Advertising Growth Trends to Watch in 2014. In regards to content, in-ad with native elements is suited to video and it is best to use an “unlocking exclusive content in exchange for brand marketing or incentives such as digital coupons, digital currency, chance to win etc.” strategy. Another option for in-ad with native elements would be a widget type implementation that provides social feeds, related video and contests, that run within the advertisement, which is out of stream, narrowly targeted and meant to increase brand engagement via content and promotions. These may or may not be expandable, depending on the vendor. Let me know if your interested in learning more about this. Fly me an email their are some great companies in Toronto that specialize in game, social and native elements.

Promoted Listings

Promoted listings is something that is used more for an e-commerce strategy, rather than a content strategy. I would stay away from spending on promoted listings, unless your are promoting a specific product or service in an e-commerce type environment. If you disagree, I encourage everyone to comment below.


The sky is the limit with custom implementation, if the publishers is willing to work with an agency or marketing department, custom native implementations offer an incredible amount of potential. Any type of custom implementation will have a high price point, but it has the potential to generate excellent traffic and brand awareness if executed properly. Check out this excellent example by Gawker of a custom implementation. ….your welcome Gawker! lol


Native advertising is a hot trend at the moment, but it is important to look at what is best suited to your needs and objectives. Certain types of native advertising are better for lead gen and research, while others are content driven. If you are unaware of what best suits your strategy we are more than happy to chat with you. Keep in mind that if you create excellent content and pick the proper mediums to promote that content, brand awareness, social sharing, engagement and viral content will occur organically and you will have a high return on investment.


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