Native ads have gained a lot of popularity in the last couple of years, even overtaking display ads as the most popular form of advertising. There is a good reason behind this growth in popularity.

According to HubShout, 85% of internet users don’t mind native ads because they don’t interrupt their browsing.

Unless you have been living in a cave for the last decade and are reading this article on a stone tablet, you have probably come across several examples of native ads – even though you might not have realized it.

While native ads are virtually everywhere on the internet, they are becoming harder and harder to spot.


Native advertising can be simply described as paid content that aligns with the look, function and feel of the publication on which they appear.

According to Neil Patel, native advertising is a form advertising that is so interwoven into the site on which it is being promoted that site visitors cannot tell that what they are viewing is native advertising.

The aim of native ads is to sell to your audience without making them feel like you are selling to them.

Native ads are prevalent on social media sites and on website content. They don’t often look like ads, and it might be difficult to point them out as such. They are usually entwined with the editorial content of the site.

Native ads come in the form of article, infographics, videos, and so on. They might appear as:

  • Editorial Content: These appear the same way as the other editorial content on the site, with the only difference being that they are branded or sponsored by the advertiser.
  • In-feed Ads: These appear as news feeds that appear on your social pages (Facebook, twitter).
  • Search And Promoted Listings: These ads appear on your results page (at the top before your results) when you search for content.
  • Content Recommendations: Recommended articles appear below or within the article audiences are currently reading.

The thing about native ads is that they are non-disruptive compared to display ads.

They do not even require the reader to click on the ad as they browse through a website. Advertisers and brands love native advertising.

This is because they increase the click-through rate and engage audiences than display advertorials do. They can also be used on a range of platforms.


Display ads are no longer working for consumers.

There is a funny but popular stat in digital marketing that a person is 475 times more likely to die in a plane crash than they are to click through an ad.

However hyperbolic that statement sounds, it is true that potential customers find click-through ads, banners and pop up ads totally irritating, annoying and disruptive.

As a result, 80% of United States adults have turned into ad-blocking methods. 50% of these individuals have two ad-blocking software on their PCs.

Another 10% are using four or more ad-blockers at the same time and can be termed as adlergic. The heaviest blockers appear to be people between eighteen to thirty-four years.

Reuters also reported that at least 45% of the global population find display ads irritating and have consequently installed one ad-blocker in their PC’s and smartphones.

This aversion to ads calls for an ad format that is more woven with the experience of the user, and that is where native advertising comes in.

According to a report by FIPP, Native advertising accounted for 31% of the gross publishing output in 2017.

That number shot to a staggering 69% for some companies in 2018. Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Cracked and Forbes are some of the companies extensively employing native advertising.

Another study by eMarketer showed that companies used up to 3.5 billion dollars on native ads on the open internet in 2017. There was a forecasted 28% increase in 2018. In 2018, the numbers surpassed the projection by 28%.

The same study revealed that 80% of consumers are more comfortable with native ads compared to banner ads. Native ads create a symbiotic relationship between readers, advertisers and publishers.

They are rapidly becoming a friendly transaction that not only gains money for the sponsors and publishers but also extends respect to the reader.


Despite their popularity, there is a huge controversy surrounding native advertisements.

The fact that consumers are not aware that they are consuming ads – since the ads look like regular content – denies them the chance to decide whether or not they want to view the ad.

This also brings into question the credibility and neutrality of the editor. If Dell has sponsored an article on Forbes, Forbes is unlikely to write anything negative about them.

This has created the need for a way to notify consumers when serving them native ads. In addition to robbing consumers of the chance to decide whether to consume the ad or not and bringing into question the credibility and neutrality of the editor, there is also chance that the consumers might feel cheated or betrayed.

Here they were, thinking that they were consuming an educative or entertaining piece of content, only to realize that it was a piece of advertising. If this happens, it can have a negative impact on the marketer.

There are currently few guidelines and rules that stipulate the way that advertisers should conduct native ads.

Consumer watchdogs like the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Federal Trade Commission are in the process of finding a regulative framework that ensures consumers do not fall prey to advertisers.

Nevertheless, consumers should not panic because there are certain distinguishing features that can help them identify native advertising. These include:

  • The words “promoted stories” or “suggested post”
  • The words “sponsored” or “sponsorship credit”
  • “Suggested” or “recommended” videos
  • The tag “Ads” on the content


For the few years that native advertising has existed, it has grown value for companies that team up with publishers to produce and disseminate content.

Some of the benefits of native ads include:

  • Millennials seem to trust native ads more than they do display ads.
  • Native ads are more engaging.
  • Native ads lead to greater sales. A recent survey showed that a third of millennials have purchased products after seeing a form of native ads.
  • Native ads have been proven to increase the click-through rate by up to eight times.


In this section, we will go through twelve great examples of Native adverts and point out why they worked.

1. Laurel and Yanny Debate

The Laurel vs. Yanny debate was one of the biggest viral debates on the internet in 2018, and VentureBeat decided to take advantage of the viral debate to promote an Artificial Intelligence conference that was coming up.

The debate was about a viral video clip that mentioned a word that some people heard as Laurel while others heard it as Yanny.

The clip was posted on Reddit asking readers what they heard. Even celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres contributed to the argument with most of her studio audience saying they heard Laurel. JJ Watt also brought it up on his show and his team surprisingly heard Yanny.

The dispute went on for a while and ranged on the internet for the next few days. Even researchers went to work and different professionals giving their insights on the same.

Venture Beat – a technology news website – rode on this hype to promote their artificial intelligence conference. They ran an article on their website explaining how artificial intelligence had been used to solve the Laurel-Yanny debate.

The article explained how the language detection algorithms of various digital assistants worked to determine what was being said in the clip, and explained some of the challenges experienced in settling the debate.

The article brought up some of the challenges and limitations of algorithms, which would of course be discussed in greater detail at the Transform Conference that VentureBeat was promoting.

This is a great example of native advertising because VentureBeat took a viral piece of content, created engaging content around it, and then used it as an opportunity to promote their conference on artificial intelligence. You can read VentureBeat’s article here.

2. Woman Takes Bathroom Break After Filling Out Tax Forms

This article was written for H&R Block by The Onion and published on The Onion. It was framed as a short article highlighting how the woman took a break after filling the Tax forms to unwind. You can check out the article here.

The article might appear to be useless to a reader because of the aimless story but it reminds them about filling taxes.

When the article came out in 2012, it was surrounded by H&R banner ads and even though consumers were unlikely to click through them, it resulted in massive brand awareness.

This ad worked because the story engaged audiences in an entertaining way and also reminded them of filing their task returns even though there was no clear call to action. It addressed a boring task in a fun and relatable way to the audience.

Even if the article did not specifically mention H&R Block, the fact that it addressed a subject that H&R Block deals with, coupled with the surrounding H&R Block banners helped increase awareness for the company.

3. How to Transform to a Total Nerd Babe – Gawker

This is another great example of native advertising. The article, which was posted on Gawker and was meant to publicize the TBS show King of the Nerds, is the kind of article you would expect to find on Gawker and matches the design and editorial style of other articles on Gawker.

The story points out the mindset shift on how girls who war specs can transform themselves from nerdy to sexy, and but has a clear call to action near the top of the article asking the reader to watch the show.

On the article, just below the headline, one can see the word “Sponsored” which shows that it is an ad, even though the “sponsored” tag is not conspicuous from the other items on the page.

4. Altran Engineering in the Financial Times

This is one of the best examples of native advertisement, combining a human interest story, video advertising, and cutting edge tech, with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk thrown in for good measure.

What distinguishes this as a piece of native advertising is the fact that the video – which was published in the Financial Times’ Industrial Tech section – was created by the Altran Engineering company and shows the same kind of content you would expect to find in the Industrial Tech section of the Financial Times.

Rather than coming off across as an ad, it comes across as a news story that tells about the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, the team of students from the Technical University in Valencia who are taking part in the competition, as well as the staff from Altran Engineering who are giving these students support in the competition.

It is an entertaining video that is unlikely to be viewed as a piece of advertising, yet in actual sense it is promoting both the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition and Altran Engineering.

5. Mercedes in the Washington Post

Mercedes also pulled off a smooth attempt at native advertising with their “The rise of the superhuman” campaign, which was published on the Washington Post. You can view the article here.

The content, which is highly engaging and designed to pique the reader’s curiosity, talks about the various technological advancements that are eradicating human error and turning us into superhumans.

The article goes on to discuss these technologies, which include robotic exoskeletons, virtual and augmented reality, computer vision, and facial recognition technology.

Inside the article, Mercedes manages to slip in their new Intelligent Drive System, which comes with their new Mercedes Benz E-Class series as one of these technologies that will help eradicate human error and turn us into super humans.

The article is the kind of content that you would expect to find on the Washington Post, and were it not for mentioning their new Intelligent Drive System, it wouldn’t have been classified as an ad.

Actually, most people reading through the article do not realize that it is an advertisement.

To make it even more engaging and interactive, the article has quizzes and sections that the reader can click on to access more information on the subject.

It’s also amazing how Mercedes manages to create a connection between the E-Class series and cutting edge, superhuman technology.

6. Colored Corn on Business Insider

The best pieces of native advertising look like stories rather than advertisements, and this is what Glass Gem Corn did with this article on the Business Insider.

The story talks about a multi-colored variety of corn that took the internet by storm a couple of years ago.

In a bid to find his Native American roots, the founder of Glass Gem Corn embarked on a journey to develop the colored corn.

In the article, Business Insider tells his story in the same fashion it would with any other story they would publish on their website, the only difference being that this story is also an advertisement.

In the article, Business Insider added links to a website where people could buy the seeds for the colored corn, effectively making the article a sales page hidden inside an amazing story.

7. Hennessy on Vanity Fair

In this ad, Vanity Fair, which is known for its trendy lifestyle journalism, teams up with Hennessy to retell the story of Malcolm Campbell, “The Fastest Man on Earth.” Campbell, who in 1935 broke the 300mph land speed record has always been a symbol of ambition, making his story a perfect opportunity to promote a top-shelf liquor.

Hennessy collaborated with creative agency Droga5 to create the ad, which was then published in perfect timing with Hennessy’s “Never Stop, Never Settle” Campaign.

This ad worked for a number of reasons. First, it was engaging to the audience because it was in line with Vanity’s outlook and the regular features published on the site. Second, the story itself was compelling and throbbing.

In addition, the comparison between Hennessy and Campbell’s spirit of adventure is subtle yet striking, driving home the message that Hennessy unlocks your adventurous spirit. You can check out the ad here.

8. Fidelity Ad on Forbes

Forbes putting Fidelity on their cover magazine tested the limits of native advertising. It also introduced us to another concept of native ads on Print, which is still alive and kicking.

Forbes put up an ad on their actual cover which highlighted two pages of branded content and infographic in the magazine.

The ad was a teaser to an infographic talking about retirement, which was the editorial theme for that month. Fidelity had paid for the infographic to appear on the two-page space they had been given which as a part of the larger agreement between the two parties.

Though the ad was posted on the cover, it was in line with other teasers appearing on the cover, and Forbes asserted that the content went hand in hand with their theme and provided more information about the contents of the magazine.

Funny enough, Fidelity had not paid for the cover treatment. Instead, Forbes said it was added value for the client.

9. Sexually Deviant Us Presidents – Cracked & Virgin Mobile

Cracked is a fun-style humor magazine who have been doing native adverts since 2008. Cracked success is attributed to their approach to native advertising – rather than leaving content creation to the advertiser, their editorial team works together with brands to create sponsored content that will resonate with their readers.

One of their greatest pieces of native advertising on Cracked Magazine is as amazing as it is crazy.

The article dubbed “The 4 Most Impressively Weird Sex Lives of US Presidents” goes on to talk about the weird sexual behaviors of some former American presidents. Now, who wouldn’t want to know about the sexually deviant US presidents?

Weirdly enough, the article was sponsored by Virgin Mobile, and its aim was to encourage voters to use the Virgin Mobile network to find voting stations near them.

However, this information doesn’t come till the very last part of the article. This ad was a massive success, generating over 1.1 million views, 2600 likes and 710 comments.

10. Washington College on BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is well known for its native advertising antics. One of their best examples of native marketing on BuzzFeed came as a collaboration between them and Washington College.

Hoping to attract high school students considering which colleges to apply to, Washington College had a series of native posts published on BuzzFeed, a media site that is quite popular with the youth.

The theme of these posts was “You’ll love this place.” The articles discussed various things that might interest a high school student looking for college options, while at the same time showcasing Washington College as a favorable option.

Following the campaign, views on Washington College’s Facebook page increased by 77%, page views on their website grew by 94%, and over 373 applications were directly attributed to the campaign.

Following the campaign, the college won the 2018 Content Marketing Award for native advertising.

11. VMware on the Atlantic

VMware – A software company – teamed up with The Atlantic to produce editorial content on using smart technology to help factory workers. It makes sense for such content to be produced by VMware owing to their expertise on the subject.

The editorial content maintains an informed voice throughout referring to credible sources and data from actual research.

It was part of an ongoing discussion they had about emerging technologies, and there are no advertisements by VMware anywhere within the article.

However, the header clearly shows that the content was paid for by VMware, and the footer is distinctively marked with the VMware logo. The Atlantic goes further to assert the article does not necessarily reflect their views.

The aim of the article was to create brand awareness for VMware. You can check out the article here.

12. Promoted/Sponsored Social Media Posts

A promoted tweet. Image courtesy of author

If you are active on social media, especially Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you have definitely come across the promoted/sponsored posts.

These posts have the same format as regular posts by your friends/followers, and they appear on your timeline the same way regular posts do.

The only difference between them and regular posts is that they are usually tagged as promoted or sponsored. Without these tags, you wouldn’t tell that the posts are sponsored.

Such ads have been hugely successful, and it is no wonder that every social media platform today implements some form of sponsored/promoted posts.


With internet users becoming blind to display ads, and others using ad-blockers to filter out ads, the most effective way to get your products, services, or brand in front of customers is through native ads.

These are ads that match the content of the site on which they are promoted and therefore do not interrupt the consumer’s browsing.

If you haven’t been using native ads, it might be time for you to start, and to help you with that, we have shared with you 12 great examples of native ads and why they work.

Now all you need to do is to go out there and replicate the same on your business.

12 Examples of Native Ads (and Why They Work)

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