Native vs. Display Ads: What You Absolutely Need to Know

3 Min Read

Even if you’re well versed in the digital marketing landscape today, it’s hard to keep track of all the different techniques that marketers are using to promote their companies. Two of the most popular types of digital marketing tools today are display advertising and native advertising.

Display ads and native ads both work to communicate information about a company, product, or service in an online environment. Despite their similarity, though, the two techniques are actually very different, and it’s important to understand their distinct differences if you want to use each correctly.

The Basic Differences Between Display Ads and Native Ads

The basic difference between display ads and native ads is simple. Display ads are advertising content on the web that are clearly recognized as ads; their content stands out from the rest of the content around them as promotional and intended to market something. The most popular types of display ads include:

• Banner ads

• Pre-roll video ads

• Pop-ups

• PPC ads


Native ads, on the other hand, are aptly named because they appear to be native to the environment that they’re in.

That is, they mimic the look and subject matter of the material around them, so that they don’t particularly stand out as promotional, and sometimes are mistaken to be just like all of the other content on a page. Native ads include things like:

• An article or content recommendation at the end of another post or article

• An ad in your social media feed that looks like a post

• A promoted search result at the top of a search engine results page

When to Use Native or Display Ads, and How to Decide

Both native advertising and display advertising are effective ways to promote a business. Native advertising is growing, and experts predict it will become a $21 billion industry by the end of the year. Marketers are also expected to spend $48 billion on display ads this year.

While both tactics work, it’s important to understand where each is most effective. That way, you can understand how to harness each – and get the most return on investment (ROI) on your ads.

Use Native Ads for a Niche Audience in a Set of Specific Places

If you need to promote your business or content to a small, niche audience that reads content in a small set of specific places, aim to use native advertising.

Native ads are considered less intrusive than display ads (and they won’t be blocked by ad blockers), and they are good to use where people spend time reading content: on blogs, journalistic sites/magazines, and professional sites like LinkedIn.

If you’re appealing to a targeted audience that frequents specific sites and actually reads the content there, your best bet would be to promote your information using an article style ad that blends in with its surroundings.

Use Display Ads for More Visual Content

If your promotional material is going to contain visual content, like pictures or videos, consider using display ads.

Because native advertising is often formatted like an article or post, it tends to be text-heavy, and it encourages reading by the people who encounter it. If your ad is going to contain an eye-catching image that pops, a display ad, such as those on the Google Display Network, is a good format for it.

A display ad is like a billboard; people on the web encounter it when they’re not expecting it, but if it’s visually-pleasing and striking enough it will catch their eye, which is the best way to get people to pay attention to a display ad that they see.

Use Native Ads Where People Tend to Engage with Content on a Page

There are certain sites where people tend to regularly click, engage, and interact with the content on a page. These sites include places like BuzzFeed, where people complete quizzes and surveys and social media pages, where users “like” other peoples’ content and make comments.

In fact, studies show that 96% of all social media advertising actually falls into the category of native advertising, which means that most marketers understand that social is a beneficial place to turn to online advertising that is contextual.

If users are going to be engaging with content on a page, consider using a native ad there. When people are already engaging with similar content, it ups the chances that they’ll engage with your native ads, especially since your ads will look just like the rest of the content that is on the a page around it.

Digital marketing has taken on many forms in our very complex, internet-based world, and two of the most popular – and similar – are display and native advertising. However, by understanding the nuances of each, and where people respond best to them, you can ensure that you optimize your choice of ad placement, and place the right marketing material where it would resonate with people the most.


Also read:

How to Get Your Display Ads in Front of the Right Target Audience

Your Guide to Keeping Social Media Ads Fresh – and Effective

Do you get better ROI from Content Marketing or Paid Ads?