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More transparent than print, more potential to go viral than banners and non-disruptive to users, "native advertising" is a term every marketers knows. But do they all understand? them?

Broadly speaking, native advertising is a form of online advertising. More specifically, it’s advertising that seeks to provide content in the context of the user’s experience. For example, a sponsored Tweet on Twitter, a suggested post on Facebook or one of those full-page ads between Flipboard pages.

Native advertising as a technique is great because the quality and scalability of it means that it’s filling the gap between brand publishing and banner adverts. We now live and operate in a content-heavy world, so native advertising offers advertisers a degree of flexibility.

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According to research, native ads are viewed for the same amount of time as editorial content. Crucially, a native ad is much more likely to be shared than a banner ad, thus increasing your chances of going viral. Display advertising could never go viral, and it's unlikely for banner advertising.

Weirdly, there’s a lack of awareness surrounding the subject of native advertising; it seems that the majority of people don’t really understand the concept. That’s strange in itself since native ads have been around for a while. Advertorials have been around for years, creating a balance between magazine content and the advert itself.

Advertorials are not meant to trick the reader; instead they're supposed to add conformity to a publication, making sure that adverts conform to the appropriate house style. One problem with advertorials, though, is that they’re often so good that it’s hard to know it’s an advert (a practice best avoided, obviously).

There are differences between advertorials and native advertising, though. The focus of native advertising lies in creating adverts that should definitely be more transparent than magazine advertorials. However, the experience shouldn’t be intrusive. So you can appreciate the dilemma: native advertisers want that all-important click, but they don’t want to annoy. It’s a delicate balancing act, one that requires skill.

Some experts consider native advertising to be the communication between brands and followers on a social media site, but this is missing the point. If that were the case, then that wouldn’t be advertising. Actually, native advertising is something that merely takes advantage of the platform that the consumers in question are on.

Note: This article was originally published on ClickZ.com, May 20th, 2015.

Topics: Online Advertising, Banner Ads, Native Advertising, Clickz

Tim Nichols

Written by Tim Nichols

Tim Nichols is a founding partner at ExactDrive, a digital media buying agency with white label, reseller and managed service options available. ExactDrive plans, manages, and optimizes online advertising campaigns with the objective of delivering measurable value and empowering clients to find precisely targeted audiences. ExactDrive has offices in Minneapolis, MN, Milwaukee, WI and SouthWest Florida.

Tim Nichols is also a contributing author on Forbes.com.

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