Ben Young
Ben Young
January 18, 2016

What is the definition of native content?

Definition: A piece of content that has been commissioned or paid to be placed on an external website with the view that the content fits and the form and function of where it exists.

Sponsored content is a term often used for native content

How does it relate to native advertising? Native content is a type of native advertising.

The criteria making it native is that:

  • It is designed to fit in with the publisher
  • Created or curated for the audience
  • On an external website

To save yourself from becoming confused, it’s also worth noting that there are many other terms used for this particular use case, such as:

Branded Content, Sponsored Content, Ad Partnership, True Native, Premium Native, Sponsored Content, Custom Content, Paid content.

The reason for this is that each publisher has used a term that best suits their sales proposition.

Explore how Nudge can improve your content ROI 20-80%.

Common Formats + Great Examples

Article: This is the most common form of native content. Generally speaking, this format follows the article layout of the sites editorial content.

Rolls Royce slowly released hype videos on National Geographic in the build up to their SUV launch. To establish SUV credibility, the vehicle was still in pre-launch wrapping, so that you focus on its merits. Smart. A partnership with Nat Geo is perhaps not one you’d expect from Rolls Royce, but it helps communicate the adventure and opportunities that comes with owning one of their SUV’s.

Video: This is when a brand’s video is featured on a publishers site. This would normally include a paragraph of text from the publisher.

busch for fathers day

A brilliant campaign by Busch beer puts on a Father’s Day Surprise. The key message: give your dad what he wants, a beer, with you.

List: This is a content format which follows a numbered list. It can include images and text.

Hilton + BuzzFeed. The gif + list format used here is something BuzzFeed do very well. A simple, light-hearted and funny campaign with the brand itself sitting front and center.

Video & Article: A video featured on a publishers site, which includes an article write up.

A Pepsi-funded movie based on a soda commercial character

Pepsi funded Dr Drew pulls in $15.5m in its opening weekend. Surely the pinnacle of content in 2018!

Custom Feature: Content that typically stands out, being a little different from the layout of the rest of the site. Normally includes parallax, video and an interactive element.

Emirates + UrbanDaddy. This is a piece which invites the reader to click a button to give them an excuse to upgrade their seat. It arms the reader with all the excuses necessary to elevate a flight. Fun, interactive and with a clear call to action.

Recipe: An article laid out in a recipe format.

Olive Oil from Spain + Epicurious. A simple, straightforward recipe format with a high quality image, which has you craving seafood after reading it.

For more inspiring content examples, check out these articles, covering the best native ads over the past few years:


Thinking of going native? Here are a few reasons why it’s a good idea

A common subject over the past few years has been the consumer adoption of ad-blocking technology. In Pagefair’s 2017 ad-blocking report, it was revealed that there had been a massive 30 percent growth spurt of consumers downloading ad-blocking software, in 2016 alone – since then, adoption hasn’t slowed.

At the same time, banner ads and interstitial ads (full-screen ads that cover the interface of their host app) have seen a decreasing appeal from advertisers and consumers alike, as they are increasingly perceived to make the user’s browsing experience worse.

Native content is a great opportunity for brands and publishers to create something genuinely engaging for their respective audiences and it’s clear that more and more marketers are seeing it as an attractive proposition…

Supporting stats

The industry is growing:

  • 2,705 brands are running native ads monthly, and 188 new brands are buying content each month in 2018. – MediaPost (July 23, 2018)
  • 76% of marketing execs aim to increase branded content in 2018. – Digital Journal (February 13, 2018)
  • “Premium Branded Content will be a $20 Billion Market by 2021” – Polar (January 19, 2017)

It’s effective:

  • MediaCom’s recent ‘Effectiveness of Partnerships’ study highlighted the benefits of striking strategic partnerships between advertiser, agency, and media owner. The report concluded that partnerships “can be up to twice as effective pound for pound at driving brand health metrics than standard advertising”. – ExchangeWire (May 30, 2018)

Publishers are pivoting towards it:

  • B2B publishers reported content marketing as the most important source of ad revenue after banner ads. – MediaPost (July 23, 2018)
  • Time Inc’s branded content studio The Foundry has produced over 1000 campaigns over the past two years. – Digiday (November 16, 2017)
  • Branded Content 100 publishers globally will collectively generate $3 billion in branded content digital revenue in 2017. – MediaPost (April 19, 2017)

Consumers like it:

  • CNN found that nearly 80% of consumers are familiar with branded content, and (lucky for us) across generations, they like it. – Inc. (December 7, 2017)
  • [On a survey of agencies, what one thing should brands do this Christmas] 42.9% of respondents named branded content as the preferred technique, followed with 28.6% saying Influencer campaigns. – The Drum (August 11, 2017)
  • Time Inc study reveals 2/3 consumers trust branded content more than traditional advertising. – MediaPost (June 30, 2017)
    • ^The same study concluded that 92% believe brands have expertise on topics and add value to content.

For more stats like these, read The State of Content, (psst… it’s updated weekly!).

Research by Nudge

For research for each industry vertical, see our industry research reports, where we examine, key metrics & benchmarks, distribution insights, content formats, engagement on social, overall best practices, and share some great examples.

For industry specific benchmarks, click here.

For weekly industry updates, sign up to This Week in Native Ads.

You can read more on native content in our guide, where we share more examples, best practices, different formats, how to optimize your campaigns and how to measure success.