The Guide to Native Ads

Native ads are expected to hit $85.5 billion by 2020, double the current level in 2018, and reaching 30% share of all the ad spend. These are numbers from BI Intelligence, IAB and eMarketer, and they are saying publishers and advertisers are investing more in native advertising. 

What are native ads?

According to IAB Europe, native ads are units used for the automated distribution of content at scale and that align to the style and format of the surrounding environment.

That means the native ads look and feel like the content on a site. Instead of creating numerous templates for each possible publisher site, all of the individual ad components (creative, copy, headline, etc.) automatically adjust to fit each placement across websites and apps. The native ads blend in with the publisher’s site content, rather than disrupting the user’s online experience.

The native ads specs

Native ads need to have a logo (square format), the main image (similar to facebook size 1.91:1, or square size), and text fields (advertiser name – 25 characters, headline – 25 characters, body text – 60 characters, long body text – 150 characters, call to action – 15 characters). Each text field has a character limit, some publishers have also a character limit per word, and according to the publisher some fields will appear and others will not. Taboola, one of the biggest native ad networks, only uses the fields advertiser name, body text, and main image.

There is a different variation of native ads called video native ads. In video native ads, the main image is replaced by a video, while the other elements remain. 

The best practices for native ads creatives

Taboola says clean images work better, with a single center of focus. Also, people are always preferable and they should be in at medium zoom. The colors should be eye-catching to attract the user’s attention, and the main image should not contain brand logos, layers, text or clip art. 

The titles should get the clicks from the users. A good CTR is half way to get a good native ad campaign, but only if the motive is the combination of the main image and the text.

According to Taboola, titles that catch the attention are the ones working better. The mystery gets the users attention. Capitalized titles work better.

Where native ads appear?

Native ads are being adopted more often by publishers and demand is today higher than supply. 

Publishers, ad networks and exchanges that promote native ads include Microsoft, AppNexus, Outbrain, Quantum, Schibsted Media Group, Ligatus, TripleLift, Google, Plista, Adsnative, Nativo, audienzz, Adyoulike, SmartRTB+, and Taboola.

Native ads appear in-web and in-app environments and can be used for app install campaigns, web performance or branding, CPA, CPM and CPC campaigns.

Native ads examples

Google recommended content (Adsense Matched Content) in PPC Land
Taboola recommended content in Bild
2 Native Ads integrated into the headlines – where says ANZEIGE in yellow, on the left. In MSN Germany
 Native ad integrated on the headlines, in Promiflash

Where native ads can be bought?

Native ads can be bought directly on the ad networks like Taboola and Outbrain. Native ads are also available in RTB, since 2016. Almost all ad networks and exchanges have their inventory available in RTB. This means native ads can be bought via DSPs with native integration, like AppNexus, The Trade Desk or DV360.

What bid to use?

The standard bid available in all DSPs is CPM as this is transactional bid in RTB. There are bid optimizations that advertisers can use, similar to display ads, in order to optimize to CPA, CPC or CPI. 


On the ad networks like Google Ads, Taboola, and Outbrain, advertisers can start the native ad campaigns bidding CPC from the beginning. 

All the KPIs can be measured in native ads except viewability. IAB Europe says unlike the standardized IAB ad units, native ads can differ from one provider to another in the way they execute the delivery. 

In delivering native ads to their own specs; the size, orientation, ad container, and ad rendering will all differ from partner to partner. For third-party verification, this presents a challenge: producing an all-inclusive methodology to measure across all native advertising providers. 

Third-party tracking like click trackers and impression trackers can be implemented.