Do you remember the last advertisement you saw on social media? Chances are the answer is no, and not just because your memory is poor. As soon as you (and most consumers) recognize an ad, you are far more likely to scroll on.
That's why native advertisements are becoming increasingly popular. These “disguised” ads are meant to blend in with their surroundings and give advertisers an extra moment to hook viewers. Native ads are usually found in social media feeds, but they can be used in other places like email newsletters and search engine results pages.
If you are interested in testing this marketing approach at your own business, read on for 8 native advertising examples you can use to start brainstorming.
What is Native Advertising?
Native advertising is a form of online marketing associated with branding that integrates promotions into the content that people are already consuming. Native advertisements are designed to blend in with the surrounding content, making them appear less intrusive and more natural.
Because of their strategic placement, native ads are a powerful way to build brand awareness and connect with a highly targeted audience. Most often found on social media and in long-form written content, these ads have the potential to drive much higher click-through rates and engagement rates when executed well.
Keys to Effective Native Advertising
Native ads are meant to be a non-disruptive way to share your product or service, so it’s important to keep a few principles in mind when creating them. Here are three key elements to consider:
- Relevancy: Native ads need to be relevant to the user’s interests and what they are already browsing. While this is highly platform-dependent, native ads can be used to provide additional context around a topic, highlight a related offering, or feature customer-generated content.
- Creativity: Although they are intended to blend in with their surroundings, native ads still need to be creative and engaging enough to keep people’s attention. Use AI to create new images, visuals, formats, and messaging to see what works best with your audience.
- Authenticity: The modern consumer can see right past an obvious sales pitch, so it is necessary to be genuine and honest in your native ads. Native advertising should not feel overly promotional — instead, focus on providing value and educating your audience.
How Native Advertising can Backfire
Native advertising sometimes gets a bad rap due to the potential for users to be misled or taken advantage of. Native ads can easily blur the line between an organic post and a sponsored one, which can damage the trust and credibility of a brand.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, avoid these pitfalls:
- Overpromising: Native ads should never make unrealistic or exaggerated claims that don’t align with the product or service you’re offering. Even if the ad is more disguised than normal, always be true to your brand and the value you provide.
- Using misleading visuals: Native ads should never use visual elements that are intended to deceive. This includes images that don’t represent the product or service you offer, or presenting facts or data in a way that might not tell the full story.
- Not being upfront: Native ads should be clearly labeled as sponsored content and not made to look like editorial pieces. To maintain your brand's integrity and reputation, be transparent about who is behind the ad and make sure users can distinguish between promoted content and organic material.
8 Native Advertising Examples for Inspiration
Native ads are all about finding clever ways to advertise while still blending in with the surrounding platform. To give you an idea of what this looks like, here are 8 native ad examples to inspire your creativity:
1) Adidas on Spotify
Adidas partnered with Spotify to create a unique experience and promote their new shoe line — the Nite Joggers. Users who opted into the interactive campaign would receive a "Nite Score" based on their evening listening habits as well as a personalized playlist. This soundtrack was a blend of favorite hits, new recommendations, and promotional content for Adidas.
This native advertisement is a great example of nondisruptive yet nondeceptive marketing. Although it was clearly an advertising campaign, Adidas was able to engage a targeted audience without interrupting their listening experience. Plus, the company effectively tapped into a growing marketing opportunity in the music streaming industry.
2) General Mills on The Guardian
General Mills wisely sponsored content on The Guardian to align its brand with regenerative agriculture and small-scale farming. These themes are reinforced with high-quality closeups of their sustainable practices and the families that they work with.
The photos and videos show the human side of food production, which helps viewers establish an emotional connection to the brand. Other than its "Paid content" label, this informative article looks and feels like a regular piece of expository news on The Guardian — making it a powerful example of subtle native advertising.
3) SpongeBob on Instagram
Where are SpongeBob's original fans hanging out? On Instagram, of course. Nickelodeon's hit show recently partnered with Instagram to create an interactive filter called "What SpongeBob character are you?"
This collaboration is one of the most engaging native advertising examples on this list because it tapped into the nostalgia of an older generation and made it easy for anyone to participate. The SpongeBob fan base didn't care whether it was a marketing ploy or not. This filter was genuinely fun, it fit in with other content on the platform, and it allowed people to reconnect with the characters they love.
4) Purina with BuzzFeed
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJPJUaZZOss&t=12s (to embed)
Purina teamed up with BuzzFeed to create a clever marketing video from the perspective of a cat. The cute and comical two-minute production explains how cats view their responsibility to take care of humans.
Although it highlights Tidy Cats, Purina's cat litter product, the video is not purely promotional. In fact, it offers real entertainment value to its targeted audience and anyone who can appreciate cats' quirks. Even almost 10 years after its creation, this content marketing example still sets the standard for how to both reinforce brand identity and drive sales.
5) Taco Bell on Snapchat
Taco Bell created a Snapchat filter that turned users' faces into a taco. Released just in time for Cinco de Mayo, the filter was an instant viral hit with more than 224 million global views.
This campaign was a success because Taco Bell nailed both the timing and the culture of Snapchat with its native ad placement. Plus, the company was able to boost brand awareness by prominently including its logo on every snap.
6) Netflix on WSJ
To promote its upcoming show Narcos, Netflix worked with the Wall Street Journal to create an interactive webpage on "Cocainenomics", the business of the Medellin cartel's drug trafficking operation. This detailed profile of a $4 billion underground empire is the perfect fit for the business and finance-minded readers of the WSJ.
Netflix put together one of the most compelling native advertising examples on this list by elevating a standard piece of content from the daily newspaper. The article reads like a piece of investigative journalism but is paired with clickable maps and timelines, and a timed quiz.
For most WSJ consumers, the portal likely serves as one of the most interesting stories they read that day. And if readers are hooked by the topic, watching Narcos is a natural next step for even more detail.
7) Allbirds on The New York Times
Allbirds partnered with The New York Times to create an incredible full-page experience for readers, complete with sound, vivid imagery, and responsive video. This native advertisement ran as an article in the paper, but rather than promoting its signature footwear directly, the brand instead focused on sustainability.
The Allbirds article dives into the importance of birds to our environment, and what eco-conscious readers can do to help birds. At the conclusion of the post, the brand offers a single call to action — visit the Allbirds website to learn more about conscious commerce.
8) Samsung on TikTok
To raise awareness for the Galaxy Z Fold3, Samsung launched a Branded Hashtag Challenge on TikTok. Boosted by TopView ads, Brand Takeover ads, and Reach & Frequency ads, the phone maker was able to eclipse more than 1 billion video views.
Samsung's "I'Mpossible Generation" campaign slogan was a nod to the innovative foldable smartphone. And the challenge's catchy tune and promise of prizes engaged creators from all over Vietnam. The native ad strategy not only caught fire boosting Samsung's brand awareness, but it also proved social commerce is alive and well with a 14% uplift in sales.
Native ads have the potential to hook viewers in a more subtle way than traditional advertising methods. With relevant and engaging content, brands can communicate their values, foster an emotional connection, and fill their marketing funnels.
The most successful native advertising examples leverage creative content and fit in seamlessly with the surrounding user experience. By matching the appropriate look, feel, and voice of the adjacent content, brands can break through the noise to capture attention and form authentic relationships with potential customers.
Daniel Anderson is a guest contributor to Marin Software.