What’s native advertising? It’s a question that confounds even the most seasoned marketers, even though the Federal Trade Commission has issued extensive guidelines on native advertising’s proper usage. That’s not surprising. Native advertising covers a fast-growing swath of the digital advertising ecosystem, one that includes many variations: from highly customized, interactive sponsored content on publisher sites such as The New York Times and Quartz, to ad units that appear in the content feed of publisher sites and social feed of social media sites.

Members of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an industry association, have also devoted considerable time to examining permeations of native advertising and their impact on the consumer’s experience. (See Native Advertising Playbook and its IAB Deep Dive on In-Feed Ad Units.)

Recent developments highlight the growing supply and demand for native advertising:

  • LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, launched a native advertising network that lets advertisers place sponsored content on third-party publishers working with the B2B social network.
  • Google’s AdSense Native ad formats include in-feed ads and in-article ads. “It’s … a big moment for native advertising, full stop,” wrote Lisa Lacy, journalist for The Drum.
  • Facebook, in its Q2 earnings report, said total revenue increased by 47% during the first half of 2017 compared to the same time last year. It attributed the change to growing revenue from News Feed advertising – a sign that marketers are investing in native advertising in a big way.

Marketing leaders may not know which way to turn first, relying on their agencies and ad tech providers for guidance. “The multiplicity of native formats makes it difficult for marketers to identify the right format and content. It also poses new challenges for design and content creation skills,” explains Haixia Wang, Gartner research director, in her report, “Best Practices for Using Native Advertising” (subscription required).

Marketing leaders can also take steps to reduce silos between marketers responsible for paid media and those responsible for earned media. By identifying ways that content assets can be reused and tested in native ad programs, marketing leaders can increase the return on their content marketing investments. (Clients can check out my research report, “How Native Advertising and Content Marketing Can Work Together.”)

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