Known to marketers due to its offline formats for decades (such as advertorials in print publications), native advertising – a model that encompasses ad types which integrate with organic content – has known an invigoration in the past years and is still going through a transition process whose purpose is to adapt it to the digital advertising ecosystem.

This newfound vitality is due to a constant pursuit of more relevant, less disruptive, customized and therefore more effective online ad formats on the advertisers’ side, and to the pressure of offering different, high-value ad inventory, on the publishers’ side. The increasing number of mobile users has also played an important role in the uprise of the native model, just like the Social Media-enabled Feed, which created new information consumption habits.

Studies indicate a steady growth of the native advertising model in the following years and support their conclusions with positive forecasts, even though a very small percentage of the ad budgets (only 5%) is currently allocated to native ad campaigns. Despite the estimations, as well as the industry’s efforts to institutionalize native advertising, this new obsession of marketers is still taken with a grain of salt due to its lack of performance evaluation criteria. Moreover, the subject is under fire because of the ethical issues it rises amongst publishers and advertisers alike.

In spite of the controversy surrounding it, native advertising continues to be a growing trend and an option for an increasing number of advertisers around the world, who can now find a safe and effective context for the exposure of their brands. With a declared purpose to add value to the users and to enhance their brand experience, native formats have demonstrated their efficiency in brand awareness and communication campaigns, in which reach and engagement rates define their success.

Beyond the open war of opinions that native advertising has started, it is clearly here to stay. However, in order to become a must-have tool, it must provide solutions to three main issues: performance measuring criteria, ethical standards and creativity – which should be the core of this new model. – Cristi MIHAI, iManager, STRATEGAD.