As Vice President of Sales at MyFinance, the leading native advertising platform for financial services, I came to know well the native space.


Na-tiv-e Ad-ver-tis-ing: "material in an online publication which resembles the publication's editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser and intended to promote the advertiser's product." Ex: "native advertising is blurring the lines between advertising and content"

New Definition: "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."

Difference? On the surface, not much. Native ads fit in with the form and function of the page, making them more effective. Facebook Ads are native ads. Google Search results are kind of native ads. And in-line content ads such as those on major publishers that, but for the small "Sponsored" text, look exactly like another article, are definitely native ads.

The new definition means that native advertising now encompasses an increasingly large share of all ad spend. In fact, Ads that follow the form and function of the user experience - for instance, the experience of seeking out interesting content while scrolling through one's social feed - now represent 60% of all Ad spend. So much for Native being a niche. So why are so many still hocking banner and making it sound sophisticated by saying it's programmatic? And why are so many large companies putting budget into it?

Being at the front lines of the growth, and therefore agency and brand relationships, of the fastest growing Native AdTech company at the time, MyFinance, I was accustomed to widespread confusion about the definition of native: Most major publishers still think native is a sponsored content article or something requiring the use of their "studio" (starting at just $50,000;)! ). Definitions are important in business because they remove the need for unnecessary pause and explanation.

Why most major publishers have no clue is beyond the scope of this blog, but let's focus on those who do think it's important and know what it is - 80%+ of them think native is too risky. Just last week, a major publication condemned native as "still on trial" because integrated ads leave consumers "not impressed". More thorough research, however, has indicated consumers enjoy native units far more than distracting forms of advertising (banners). Indeed, the single fastest-growing ad type last year, seeing 46% year-over-year growth, is a form that the IAB has termed "Native-Style Display".

The "old" definition of native excludes this engaging ad format, merely describing sponsored editorials. Sponsored editorials are a branding exercise in a world where the majority of advertising dollars go towards direct response, and where the majority of those dollars go to Facebook and Google. Native-style display matches the form and function of the user's experience and, ideally, is intelligent such that it pushes them further down a funnel or path that they opened their computer to accomplish in the first place. That's what we did at MyFinance and that's what consumers seek out in ads - that's what they respond to.

The native "boom" is long overdue. With the rise of mobile, the effectiveness of display ads on much smaller screens plummeted (any ad large enough to be seen must necessarily consume the entire screen, becoming even more distracting and upsetting). Native, or in-feed, became what it is today in response to this (The CTR on Native ads on mobile is nearly 700% what it is on desktop).

Logically, however, native ad buys occur far less frequently through programmatic channels. Unless, of course, one challenges the definition of programmatic as well, expanding it to mean campaigns where data determines whether an ad serves or not and where optimziations occur at scale to meet client KPIs. In that case, every native platform that performs well is programmatic as well. But in the traditional sense, programmatic loses when native gains. And native is gaining. Fast.

So to answer the title, no. But the answer is yes but changing a few words.