Native Advertising and Sponsored Content: Pros and Cons

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Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed. Unlike traditional ads, which can be intrusive and starkly stand out from the surrounding content, native ads blend in, looking and feeling like part of the editorial flow of the page. This subtlety is what differentiates native advertising from other forms of advertising and makes it a unique tool for marketers.

Understanding Native Advertising

Native advertising can take various forms, including sponsored content, branded content, and advertorials. What these types typically share is an integration into the content experience, providing value through a seamless aesthetic and thematic match with the surrounding content. For example, a native ad might appear as an article on a news website, written in the same style as other articles on the site, but sponsored by a brand with relevant interests.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content is a popular form of native advertising where brands pay to create content that aligns with the medium’s editorial standards while subtly promoting their own products or services. This type of content is designed to blend seamlessly with the platform’s regular offerings, appearing as if it is part of the editorial flow rather than an overt advertisement. The goal is to provide valuable information or entertainment that resonates with the audience, thereby enhancing the user experience rather than disrupting it.

Sponsored content can take various forms, such as articles, videos, and infographics, often marked with a disclaimer like “sponsored by” to maintain transparency. By integrating commercial messages into the format and voice of the hosting platform, sponsored content aims to engage the audience in a more organic and less intrusive way, potentially leading to higher engagement and trust than traditional advertisements.

Branded Content

Branded content is a sophisticated form of native advertising where content is produced by or in close collaboration with a brand, aiming to entertain, educate, or inspire while simultaneously promoting the brand. Unlike traditional advertisements that directly sell a product or service, branded content is designed to forge a deeper connection with the audience through storytelling that aligns with the brand’s values or identity.

This content is often distributed through channels like social media, television, and online platforms, and is crafted to feel like a natural part of the viewer’s or reader’s content consumption experience. The key to successful branded content is its ability to resonate emotionally with the audience, offering them a rich narrative experience that indirectly elevates the brand’s perception, rather than focusing on overt promotion. This strategy not only enhances engagement but also builds brand loyalty and recognition in a way that feels authentic and unforced.


Advertorials are a type of native advertising that closely resembles editorial content but is actually paid for by an advertiser. These are typically designed to look like genuine articles and are often found in magazines, newspapers, and online publications, allowing them to blend in seamlessly with the editorial content that surrounds them. The primary aim of an advertorial is to educate or inform the reader about a product, service, or company in a more detailed and persuasive manner than a traditional advertisement.

Advertorials are clearly labeled as “sponsored” or “advertisement” to maintain transparency and uphold ethical standards, but they are crafted in a way that holds the reader’s interest through compelling narrative and relevant information. This method capitalizes on the credibility and format of journalistic writing, thereby increasing the likelihood of engaging potential customers who might otherwise skip over more obvious advertising formats.

Pros of Native Advertising

Pros for Advertisers and Brands: Advertisers use native advertising because it can lead to higher engagement rates than traditional ads. Since native ads don’t disrupt the user experience, they are more likely to be viewed and engaged with.

Pros for Publishers: For publishers, native ads provide a way to monetize content while maintaining a clean and engaging user experience. This form of advertising can be particularly valuable in an era where many users employ ad blockers.

Consumer Engagement: Native ads tend to generate better consumer response due to their non-intrusive nature. They offer information or entertainment before revealing their commercial intent, which can lead to a more positive reception from the audience.

Higher Engagement Rates: Since they blend in with the content, native ads often achieve higher engagement rates than traditional banner ads.

Enhanced User Experience: By matching the look and feel of the editorial content, these ads feel less intrusive.

Trust and Credibility: When publishers work closely with advertisers to create content that is both useful and informative, it can enhance the credibility of the brand and the publisher.

Social Sharing: Well-crafted native ads are more likely to be shared, extending their reach organically.

Cons of Native Advertising

Risk of Misleading the Audience: If not clearly labeled, consumers might not realize they are reading sponsored content, which can lead to mistrust.

Editorial Integrity: There is a risk that native advertising can blur the lines between editorial content and advertising, potentially undermining editorial integrity.

Ad Fatigue: Overuse of native advertising might lead to ad fatigue, where users start to ignore these ads as they would any other type of overly frequent advertising.

Examples of Native Advertising

The New York Times and Netflix: One of the most notable examples of sponsored content is the collaboration between The New York Times and Netflix for the show “Orange Is the New Black.” The Times produced a piece titled “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work,” which explored issues faced by women in prison. This piece not only engaged readers in a serious topic relevant to the show’s theme but also subtly promoted the series. The content was informative and aligned well with the editorial standards of The New York Times, making it a prime example of native advertising.

BuzzFeed and Purina: BuzzFeed has mastered the art of native advertising, and one of its standout campaigns was created for Purina. The post titled “9 Signs Your Cat Truly Loves You,” accompanied by adorable gifs and heartwarming points, not only went viral but also effectively promoted Purina’s pet products. This campaign leveraged BuzzFeed’s playful and engaging style to create content that resonated with pet owners, enhancing brand recall and affinity for Purina.

Forbes BrandVoice and SAP: Forbes BrandVoice allows companies to publish articles directly on the Forbes platform, which look similar to the content written by Forbes’ editorial staff but are branded with a small disclaimer. SAP has been using this platform for years to publish articles that address topics ranging from data analytics to digital transformation. This strategy positions SAP as a thought leader in the tech industry while subtly integrating their products and services into the narrative, which is tailored to Forbes’ business-savvy readership.

Native advertising represents a pivotal shift in the advertising world, balancing the need for effective marketing with consumer preferences for non-intrusive content. While it presents numerous advantages, it also carries challenges, particularly regarding transparency and ethical implications. As the industry evolves, finding a balance between effectiveness and ethical considerations will be crucial for the continued success and acceptance of native advertising strategies.

Advertising is an art and a science, but the New Target team is here to help you. Whether  it’s the world of native advertising or programmatic advertising, or Facebook advertising, or whatever advertising, we have the experience and expertise to bring eyes and ears upon your products and services.

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

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