The Surprising Pros And Cons Of Native Advertising

What are the pros and cons of native advertising? Some of them, you probably haven´t heard before. These are guaranteed to surprise you. No advertising strategy is perfect. Native has many benefits but also some considerable drawbacks.
pros and cons of native advertising

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What are the pro and cons of native advertising? What are the benefits?

These are key questions you´ve probably asked yourself or someone has asked you before. If you´re reading this, you probably also haven’t found the answer.

In this article, we´ll try to give you just that.

Like with anything in life, advertising on native comes with advantages and disadvantages. No traffic source is perfect.
For some advertisers, the pros outweigh the cons.

Let´s find out if this is the case for you as well.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Native Advertising?

Native advertising isn´t the perfect traffic source. No one is. But it´s pretty close to it, in the hands of the right marketer.

Furthermore, what might be a pro to you, might scare off someone else and vice-versa. So, as you go through the pros and cons, always keep in mind what you´re trying to accomplish.

With that in mind, you´ll be able to make smart, informed decisions on your marketing mix.

“75% of consumers trust content and recommendations seen on an editorial environment vs 54% who trust content and recommendations on the user-generated content of social media.” – Outbrain


More Trusted

The beautiful thing about native is that it “borrows” credibility from the content it is surrounded by.

In other words, a native ad on CNN, for example, is more trusted than an ad on Facebook. You don´t need to trust me, just look at the stats.

Results of a trust-level research study from Sharethrough

Just because people use social media, doesn´t mean they fully trust it. As you can see from this research study, most actually don´t.

Earning trust is one of the most difficult things to achieve in business, especially online.

With only 41% of American consumers trusting Facebook, you´ll have to work extra hard to earn that crucial element on the platform.

On the flip side, native ads that show on premium publishers, such as CNN, Time, or Wall Street Journal (WSJ), naturally inherit their credibility, making it easier for you to secure trust and create more effective ads.

Engaged Audiences

Why do people go to sites like CNN, USA Today, InStyle, or Men´s Health?

The short answer: discovery.
People want to discover interesting content that speaks to their needs and adds value to their lives.

native premium publishers
A short list of premium publishers where native ads show, curated by Advertongue

Discovery fuels engagement. Engagement drives better ad experiences and higher click-through rates.

In fact, native ads get between 20 to 60% higher engagement rates compared to display. Also, studies show that click-through rates on native ads are 8.8X higher than banner ads.

Native advertisements meet the user where he or she is already at – in discovery mode.

This is a total contrast to social media ads, for example, where you´re “forcing” the user to pay attention to your content.
That comes at a price. You have to work harder to get their attention.

With social media ads, you have to work extra hard not only to get people´s attention but also to earn their trust.

Brand Safe

“Where are my ads being shown?”

It´s certainly a valid question in the minds of many marketing executives who care about protecting their brand´s reputation.

On most native ad networks, if not all, you know exactly what publishers and even sections your ads show up on.

Most importantly, you can control what type of content your native ads will appear on.

This is possible through what we call brand safety controls. Taboola, a top native ad platform is a great example.

Taboola pre-bid brand safety feature powered by DoubleVerify and IAS

This feature allows you to block specific content types, such as Alcohol, Gambling, Drugs, Celebrity Gossip or Violence.

Here´s a description of this Brand Safety Pre-Bid feature, straight from Taboola:

“These third parties scan Taboola’s network of publisher sites and apps, assigning brand safety risk tiers across a variety of topics. By applying brand safety pre-bid targeting, Taboola will prevent your ad from serving on all sites and apps which fail to meet the brand safety and suitability criteria you selected.”

Having the ability to control where their ads are shown is one of the main reasons marketing executives and top brands invest in native and programmatic advertising.

Effective For Branding

These days, native is becoming more of a performance-based channel.

But for many years, it was considered a branding traffic source for advertisers. It used to be mainly utilized to drive traffic to editorial or branded content.

That strategy is still very effective today.

In one study, 97% of mobile advertisers said native ads were very effective in achieving branding goals.

As you probably already know, video is one of the most powerful mediums for brand awareness objectives.

A more recent study was performed by Kantar in partnership with Taboola. It was a branding video ad campaign simulation that ran across different platforms, including social.

pros and cons of native advertising taboola kantar
Results from Kantar´s experiment and the impact of video exposure on Taboola with other platforms

It was found that brand awareness improved by 26% when adding native video ads to the mix.

Top brand advertisers often use many platforms to “start conversations” with their audience.

When added to the marketing mix, native is proven to be a very effective channel to further improve your branding efforts.

More Scale

I started my media buying career on paid search and social.

One of the biggest frustrations was being limited by either search term volume or capped by the number of active users on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

In accounts with bigger budgets, it was hard to get the scale we needed to hit the desired goals.

You might relate to this.

There´s a reason why native advertising and the term “open web” often show up in the same sentence. Conversely, Google and Facebook, for example, are described as “walled gardens.”

pros and cons of native advertising
The field analogy I typically use to illustrate the differences between native and other channels

Native as a marketing channel is pretty much like an open field of untapped opportunities, that most advertisers are too afraid to explore.

There´s no shortage of traffic either.

For instance, just through Taboola, advertisers reach over 500 million active daily users on publishers´ sites. On Outbrain, over 344 billion native content recommendations are served every month.

These are just two examples. There are dozens of native ad networks where you can buy traffic.

Native as a marketing channel is pretty much like an open field of untapped opportunities, that most advertisers are too afraid to explore.

Nightmares of post-iOS ad performance crashes were way too common until recently.

Even though platforms like TikTok or Facebook have adopted measures to “fight” data losses and tracking issues, it´s far from being called accurate measurement.

It might sound a bit self-serving but this is one of the reasons we believe native is one of the best alternatives to Facebook ads.

Native ad networks don´t rely as heavily on cookie technology as some of the other popular platforms.

outbrain google analytics
Outbrain´s 1st-party bidding optimization solutions

In fact, Outbrain, for example, has been at the forefront of pushing 1st-party data solutions, giving back power to advertisers.

This new technology is called Engagement Bid Strategy or EBS, for short. EBS is powered by your Google Analytics data and enhanced by Outbrain´s powerful machine learning algorithms.

Another common concern is tracking.

pros and cons of native advertising taboola server side
Taboola server-side tracking option which can be set up in Google Tag Manager

Most of the top native ad networks you´ll find allow you to use server-side tracking or postback URLs easily, the complete opposite of unreliable browser tracking systems, such as pixels.

Ad Network Diversity

One of my other frustrations as an advertiser was the fact that I was limited by the targeting options on Google, Microsoft, or Facebook.

Similar to the scaling problem, you might also relate to this.

It´s easy to just rely on one or a few platforms that are working well for you. But recent changes have taught us that platform reliance is dangerous.
A single shift in data privacy can easily wipe out 60 or 70% of a business’s revenue – I´ve heard those stories.

For instance, if you want to buy traffic on Facebook, where can you get it? Right… on Facebook.

You might be wondering: “where can I buy native ads?”

native ad networks
A short list of networks where you can buy native ad placements, curated by Advertongue

Looks overwhelming, doesn´t it? This doesn´t even include platforms that allow you to buy native ads programmatically.
No wonder most advertisers stick to already “discovered territories”, despite obvious vulnerability issues.

One hidden benefit of diversity is low competition.

If figuring out all these native platforms illustrated above feels like “conquering Mars” to you, it probably feels the same way for most.

By diversifying your “native portfolio”, you can expect less competition, which can help you get premium ad placements with high-quality traffic at much lower costs.

Higher Purchase Intent

Instead of being pushy and intrusive, native ads blend in with the content that surrounds them.

For this very same reason, they provide a more positive experience to the user, which translates into higher purchase intent.

Here are the facts.

pros and cons of native advertising
A study on ad effectiveness by IPG and Sharethrough comparing native and banner ads

This study also shows a higher lift in brand favorability, for native advertisements.

The main takeaway here is that positive ad experiences almost always lead to a likely positive impact on the financial statement.
Native ads are often the vehicle for those experiences.

Native advertising on the open web that uses a softer trust-based approach to content marketing got 5-10X higher average CTRs than a more aggressive push marketing approach. – Outbrain


Needs New Strategy

If you´ve never advertised on native, you´ll probably need a new approach.

The “copy-paste” strategy that many social media marketers do is one of the biggest mistakes with native advertising.

While you can repurpose your social campaigns, you surely don´t want to copy everything.

Here are the key differences to advertising on native:

  • stay away from images with text overlay
  • avoid bundling multiple GEOs and devices in the same campaign
  • should promote only one content piece per campaign
  • interest targeting will almost always not perform well
  • landing pages work best with an “editorial feel”
  • taking cold traffic straight to a product page can be a disaster

Let´s take the ads as an example, for comparison purposes.

pros and cons of native advertising
Social ad (left) and native ad (right) from Babbel, a famous language learning app

You can see the native ad feels… well, native!
Similar to content is it surrounded by. The ad on the right showed up on CNBC, a premium publisher.

Here are some key Taboola native best practices, if you plan on testing it as your ad network of choice.

You might also want to check out other crucial native creative best practices guaranteed to get more clicks and killer tips for writing native ad headlines.

Takes Longer To Work

Speaking of testing, beware that native can take a lot longer to figure out than some of the other platforms.

The reason is simple: native is a placement channel.

Paid search (Bing, Google), considered a feed channel is often where most advertisers start. They can get results quickly.
There´s already intent from the user to purchase or consider a product.

Because of this, with paid search, your sales cycle is typically shorter. Hence, you don´t need a lot of budget and time to make it work.

pros and cons of native advertising
Traffic prioritization chart brought to you by Advertongue

On the other side of the spectrum, native is by far the most difficult paid channel to master.

Much like video (YouTube), being a placement channel, native comes with many other variables that impact performance. These variables can give you more “problems” than Facebook, for example.

In other words, placement channels are more dynamic.

On native, instead of a single feed, you suddenly have hundreds if not thousands of places (publishers and sections) where your ads can show up.

Add to it the fact that 9 out of 10 campaigns are likely to fail and you have a new traffic source apparently giving you more anxiety than joy.

However, it´s worth it… if you have a long term plan.

Long-term native campaigns are more cost-effective. Native campaigns running more than six months have a 36.4% lower average CPC than campaigns running six months or less.” – Outbrain

Bigger Budgets

You´ve probably already guessed it with the previous chart. Yes, double pain!

Native advertising not only takes longer to work but it also takes more money.

If you´re thinking about “testing the waters” or “getting your feet wet” on native networks with 5 or 10 bucks a day, you´re going to be very disappointed.

Anything below $100 a day per campaign will not produce enough data quickly enough for algorithms to give you the best possible performance.

Bucket and pool analogy to compare paid search and native advertising

We´ve already mentioned the fact that native is a placement channel with more variables. Think of it as an empty pool to fill with water.

More variables mean a pool (publishers, devices, browsers, operating systems) that needs more water (budget) to get filled.

The good news is that the more you fill the pool with water (more data), the better your next campaigns will be…

… as long as you carry the learnings from failing and successful campaigns with you.

Requires More Assets

As we´ve discussed, native requires a different strategy than search and social, for example.

Within that strategy, content is on top of the list in terms of importance.
By assets, I mean mainly dedicated landing pages and writing and/or video content, which can be very time-consuming.

This isn´t one of the most recent studies, but I believe it still holds true today.

Research from Statista uncovering the top native advertising challenges

One of the top reasons keeping people from investing in native advertising is the lack of resources to produce quality content.

These days, there are services such as the Content Marketplace from Semrush. This one gives you access to top-quality writers who can create engaging content for your brand.

Lack of resources is a valid reason, though it shouldn´t stop you from possibly reaping the amazing benefits of native advertising.

Sometimes Difficult To Measure ROI

Piggybacking on the chart presented before, this can also be a downside of native advertising, especially for brand awareness efforts.

A common strategy on native ad networks is to simply use it to drive traffic to content and retarget folks on the same or other platforms.

Similar to pure brand awareness, with this approach, it can get a bit tricky to measure ROI.
Let´s face it, you probably have the same issue on other paid channels.

Sometimes, the “return on investment” could simply be a better result from social retargeting campaigns after starting a native traffic campaign.

5% increase in average revenue per user after a native traffic campaign

But still, in this case, it´s hard to completely attribute an improvement in one traffic source to another.

Fortunately, native ad networks are becoming more focused on performance.

Outbrain´s performance-focused bidding options for conversion campaigns

For instance, Outbrain offers a number of optimization modes for conversion campaigns.

By running both brand awareness and traffic together with conversion campaigns on the same network, things become less blurry and easier to measure.

“47% of marketers worldwide are confident in the effectiveness of native advertising.” – Neilsen/eMarketer

Harder To Justify To Executives

Proving to your CEO, CMO, or Head of Marketing that native is a great investment is still one of the top challenges today.

This is especially true if it´s a never-tested traffic source by your company.

Marketing executives asking for a return on investment (Giphy)

It´s a tough one!
Not a lot you can do, if you´re trying to test it out, other than show results from similar companies with native advertising.

Lucky you. Because most of the top native ad networks provide case studies. You can find some examples below:

Another idea to convince stakeholders is to show them native advertising stats. Statistics can be very powerful persuaders, even better if they come from credible sources.

My recommendation to you would be to show them both native case studies and stats. The more ammo the better.
And by the way, if you found this valuable, share this article with them too!

Native Advertising Pros And Cons: A Caveat

Set aside the pros and cons for a moment. I want to clarify something…

Native advertising is tough.

Don´t be seduced by its amazing benefits. To reap those, you´ll need a considerable financial investment, a great deal of patience, above-average marketing skills, and lots of testing.

And there are no guarantees you´ll succeed, by the way.
Native is part of the big leagues of advertising. This is where the big boys play… no kidding.

Think Samsung, Geox, Sky, Nestlé, L´Oréal, Michelin, Honda, Domino´s, Repsol, Nissan, HSBC and the list go on.

Take the time to really weigh the pros and cons of native advertising. Think of how it might fit into your overall marketing strategy. From there, you´ll be able to make a smart, educated decision.

If you´re ready to play in the big leagues of advertising, dive into it and go all in. It won´t be easy, I assure you. Although it can get easier if you play to win.

Need expert guidance through the “treacherous roads” of native?
Reach out, and let us know about your goals so we can help you stay ahead of the curve.


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