You’ve probably heard the term native advertising before. It’s a form of advertising that’s gaining significant traction in Canada and the U.S., and many industry experts think native advertising is the future of marketing.

But before we jump into why that might be, let’s start with a clear definition.

What is Native Advertising, Exactly?

Native advertising is similar to content marketing, but not quite the same thing.

While content marketing is the use of educational and promotional content to generate traffic, leads, and ultimately sales, native advertising is the use of storytelling and educational content on an existing platform to increase brand awareness. In other words, native advertisers ‘ditch the pitch’ in favor of content that uses storytelling to build awareness around an issue and establish brands as thought leaders.

Native advertising is for brands that are looking to engage consumers with a story rather than sell a particular product.

One of the earliest adopters of native advertising was Forbes with their BrandVoice platform. All content on the platform is clearly labeled with a byline or corporate branding so readers understand exactly who wrote the piece. Other popular native advertising platforms exist within the New York Times (T Brand Studio), the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Slate, and many other popular websites. Similarly, mobile and social media apps use native, in-feed advertisements to engage with consumers in a more natural and less promotional way.

Sometimes native advertising is referred to as disguised digital advertising. This is because native ads take on the design and function of the platform on which they appear. Native ads must be relevant to the surrounding content, so that they – as much as possible – add to the user experience rather than distract from it. Otherwise they are indistinguishable from regular digital advertisements.

Native Advertising Market Context

Native advertising stems from the practice of product placement, or embedded marketing, where ads are placed within educational content. Product placements have been around for decades, but native advertising is a relatively new idea. The distinction is this: with native advertising, the advertisement and the content are complementary, providing a single message, whereas product placements are used to promote specific products in relevant content – they don’t add to the content, but rather provide a convenient segue to a product purchase.

Globally, spending on native advertising reached $7.9B in 2015 and is poised to hit $21 billion by 2018. The majority of this growth will come from social native ads, but also from paid editorials. The growing interest in them isn’t surprising given that native advertisements tend to perform better than display ads, with average CTRs of 0.15% on desktop and more than 1% on mobile. Another study showed that native ads receive two-times more visual focus than banner ads.

In Canada, adoption has been delayed, but we’re starting to see big growth. And Canadians are receptive to these ads: in fact, 74% of Canadians trust educational content from businesses related to topics on which they are viewed as experts.

The growth of mobile device adoption and social media use in Canada will continue to drive the native advertising industry forward.


It’s becoming increasingly difficult to capture attention with mobile ads, but native ads command complete focus from the reader. Marketers will continue to turn to native advertising in the fight over consumer attention.

Is Native Advertising Right for Your Brand?

If you’re already using content marketing and want to augment your efforts, or you’re thinking about starting a new content marketing initiative, you should consider native advertising.

Here’s why: Canadians spend 1,669 minutes online every week (that’s 4 hours per day). You have to compete with the latest YouTube videos, viral content websites like Buzzfeed, and established news sites and blogs. To succeed at content marketing you need to spend time and money to create compelling content, but even that’s not enough: you need to spend at least as many resources promoting your content.

Or, you could invest in a native advertising campaign on a platform that already has an established reputation and a consistent flow of web traffic.

It’s a far less expensive and labor intensive process than full-blown content marketing, that’s for sure.

Our Top Tips for Your Next Native Advertising Campaign

No matter which platform you choose for native advertising, there are some important things to consider:

  • Don’t treat native ads like a press release or a product showcase. Instead, write about real-world experience or results that contribute to a conversation.
  • Learn from the success of other brands. Seek out the advice of an expert to help you refine your message and choose the right platform for it.
  • Think about how it will be received – will it be helpful and informative, or misleading and just plain annoying?
  • Be transparent – your native ads should be labeled appropriately so as not to deceive. Deception can lead to distrust.


As you know, a good native ad tells a story and never attempts to promote a product or service. So of course, we won’t close with a call to action like “contact us to learn how we could help you kick-off your next native advertising campaign” or “contact us to learn more about our array of native advertising media partners”.

We’ll just leave this link right here and you can do what you please:

Contact us (if you want).