What Are Native Display Ads?

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From scannable brilliance to choosing the perfect partner, dive into a world where your native display ads seamlessly blend with content.

Scannable, blendable and non-intrusive.

Each of these words best describes what native advertising encompasses. 

Native ads don’t resemble typical display banner ads or look “ad-esque.” They’re considered a less disruptive form of advertising, being not so “in your face” and blending in seamlessly with the content of each publisher site they appear on. 

At first glance, native ads appear to be organic, editorial content, especially if it weren’t for incorporating messaging above the unit denoting it’s an ad. There’s rarely any copy present on the actual image itself or even a CTA button included. Instead, native ads, regardless of the advertising partner you use, all commonly feature the following elements:

Common Elements of Native Display Ads

Lifestyle Imagery

Lifestyle imagery showcases a product or service in a way that resembles its function in everyday life. It is a high-resolution image of a product or service for which a brand tries to generate buzz and awareness. The imagery can also be for a person or group of people featuring the product/service you are selling. 

For example, if you’re a luxury cosmetics company trying to spread awareness of your recent product launch for a new liquid lipstick, a recommended lifestyle image would be a model or influencer applying the product. If you’re targeting restaurant industry professionals and want to inform them of a new marketing solution you’re offering, having a more editorial-focused image of food at a restaurant or a group of people eating at a restaurant would be most appropriate.

Headline Text

“Restaurant Operations Made Easy”

Headline text appears as the larger, bolded text above or below the image, depending on the ad slot. This text is intended to grab the user’s attention and be highly relevant to the landing page to which the user will be redirected. It should call out the main message the advertiser wants to communicate to the audience in approximately 60 characters or less.

Description Text

“Restaurants all over the country are thriving thanks to BentoBox products. Story by story, see how BentoBox comes to life.”

Description Text will appear directly underneath the Headline Text in a much smaller font and essentially provides more of an in-depth explanation of the message the advertiser is trying to deliver in typically 150 characters or less.

Sponsored By Text

“Sponsored by BentoBox”

This is included either above or below the native unit and is the only aspect allowing users to know it’s an ad. It will simply feature the advertiser’s name.

Why Should I Invest in Native Display Advertising?

According to native advertising firm AdYouLike, the global native ad market will reach a valuation above $400 billion by 2025. More and more advertisers are introducing native as part of their overall marketing strategy because user behavior is more favorable towards this medium. Studies estimate the budget for native advertising will increase by approximately 372% between 2020 and 2025, making native a top ad format of the 2020s.

Comparing Native Display Ads vs. Traditional Display Banner Ads

Native Display AdsDisplay Banner Ads
Blend in seamlessly with site’s contentClearly identifiable as ads
Deliver CTRs averaging above 0.25%Deliver CTRs averaging 0.03%-0.05%
Recommend for Upper Funnel campaignsIdeal for Lower Funnel campaigns

Targeting Options for Native Display Ads

Native has several different targeting capabilities, varying depending on the partner you decide to work with.

Contextual Targeting:

Contextual targeting is one of the most common tactics in native advertising, and it’s described as a grouping of specific themes that resonate most with your consumer or audience base. For example, a luxury cosmetics brand might include some contextual categories that target luxury, beauty, lifestyle, self-care and wellness. It wouldn’t make the most sense to target sports or gaming categories. 

Contextual targeting is very granular, and rather than just looking at a publisher’s site as a whole, the technology used can take it a step further and hone in on the most relevant audience by ensuring your ads are placed in specific sections of specific articles, which highly reflect the contextual targeting you want.

Behavioral Targeting:

Another popular targeting tactic for Native advertising is Behavioral targeting, also known as third-party audience targeting. This form of targeting can also be granular to ensure you reach the right audience by layering multiple audience segments. 

For example, if you want to target professionals in the restaurant industry, some behavioral targeting segments we would recommend would be “restaurants and bars,” “b2b professional”, “chefs,” “business owners,” and “restaurant and hospitality services.”

B2B/ABM List Targeting:

ABM (Account Based Marketing) list targeting is also commonly available as a tactic and is recommended for companies focused on B2B initiatives where they want to target specific businesses and/or industries. The advertiser would provide a company list, and the partner would then be able to ingest it and target accordingly, reporting on industry-level performance.

CRM List Targeting:

Native partners can also integrate an advertiser’s CRM (1st party data) audience lists via a vendor like LiveRamp, to target those users and build similar audiences off of them. Rather than running this alone, we recommend launching this with a mix of contextual and behavioral targeting to spread reach and awareness further.

Search and Mail Domain Targeting:

Yahoo is one of the top native advertising partners, which has this unique offering due to owning its own inventory and search engine. Advertisers can tap into Yahoo’s first-party data and show their ads to relevant target audiences when users read their email or engage with Yahoo’s search engine.

How to Choose the Right Native Display Advertising Partner?

There are numerous native advertising partners in the digital ecosystem, and we can assume there will be more to come, but I’d like to call out a few of the most popular ones and highlight best-use cases for each.


Bidtellect has its own DSP (demand side platform), where it can access website inventory from over 30 exchanges, including Outbrain, Taboola, and Yahoo. Their bread and butter has to do with driving strong engagement in the form of high CTRs, and we also see strong efficiency in terms of their CPMs in the range of $4-$6 on average. If you want to focus on generating buzz or driving awareness for your brand with an upper funnel/prospecting campaign at high reach, Bidtellect would be the recommended partner to leverage. 

We see substantial volumes of qualified site traffic and above-average performance when looking at brand lift metrics. We recently ran a six-figure campaign over two months to drive sufficient brand awareness, and we saw a 15 percent lift specifically in that metric.


Outbrain owns its website inventory and partners with Fox News, CNN, The New York Post and MSN. An advantage to working with this partner is that they offer CPC bidding, which is typically more efficient than a CPM model. We’ve seen great success with Outbrain regarding running more consideration/lower funnel campaigns. 

Last holiday season, we ran a native campaign with Outbrain, focused on driving app downloads for one of our e-commerce retail clients, and it performed well. Their platform allows you to optimize towards a cost per download/cost per app install model, which is ideal for advertisers who want to focus on mobile app/chrome extension downloads as a goal.


Like Outbrain, Taboola also owns its source of inventory, partnering with top sites like Insider, Bloomberg, NBC and The Weather Channel. We also recommend working with them to drive lower funnel/conversion-focused goals like Outbrain. 

Since both Outbrain and Taboola own their inventory, we recommend running campaigns with both partners simultaneously to maximize reach/exposure without worrying about competing. Taboola was also a part of the same holiday app download-focused campaign as Outbrain and delivered efficient cost-per-download results.


Yahoo functions partially like Bidtellect and partially like Outbrain and Taboola by having access to their owned and operated inventory and their own DSP, tapping into other publishers’ inventory. This partner can successfully target campaigns with both upper and lower funnel goals, from driving qualified site traffic and engagement (CTR) to site conversions (i.e, lead generations, button clicks and sales).

What matters most is ensuring the targeting tactics and creative you leverage correspond with the overall campaign goal. If your goal is sales, you’re not going to want to run a Native ad unit that promotes a lot of engagement (animation, video, etc.). You want to convey the ad message and encourage the user to go on-site and convert. Leveraging their 1P audiences and site retargeting tactics is perfect for this. We recommend Yahoo, especially for clients who want a presence there and are in business/finance.

Measuring Success for Native Display Ads

It’s important to know what your overall goal is at the get-go, as each native partner has the best use cases and, as a result, will drive different levels of performance. 

For campaigns focused on driving upper-funnel goals like awareness, measuring positive CTRs is key. Anything delivering above 0.25% is indicative of positive performance. It’s also important to leverage any potential brand lift studies your partner will offer, as these show, over time, the campaign’s direct impacts on brand awareness, favorability, purchase intent, and brand consideration. Please note that these studies are only available once certain budget thresholds have been met, and you can expect to see higher lifts in metrics based on the more budget you have. 

For campaigns focused on driving lower funnel-focused goals, such as looking at return on ad spend, sales, leads, cost per lead or cost per download — it’s best to take a test-and-learn approach, especially if it’s a new tactic. There’s typically a 30-day ramp-up period where the platform builds up learnings. Hence, month two is where performance starts to deliver, and month 3 is where the evaluation and finalized goal metric setting can occur. 

It’s essential to think about Native as a long-term advertising strategy. It can be used sporadically, but its best use case is always on. It’s a great tool to educate users on what’s most vital for them to know about your product/service/company. Still, it can always be used to encourage engagement and conversion activity.

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