Ad monetization is undergoing a seismic shift. With privacy laws, ad blocking, the pending death of third-party cookies, and a renewed concern from advertisers around brand safety, the industry is realizing that traditional programmatic advertising is not the future of ad revenue.
Instead, publishers are finding that more innovative, native ad units are the path to success. We’ve seen this in social, with Twitter’s, Facebook’s, and Snapchat’s native promoted posts, as well as in eCommerce, where brands like Walmart, Amazon, and Etsy have added sponsored products listings to search results.
But what about companies that aren’t social networks or marketplaces? What opportunities do they have to integrate high-revenue native ads into their sites and apps?
There are actually plenty of ways any publisher can incorporate native ads into their service, and below looks at 10 native ad examples other companies have successfully launched.
While native ads are by definition unique to each publisher, these examples hopefully can spark some creative inspiration and get you thinking about how to integrate native ads into your site/app too.
Ad unit: Sponsored carousel ads
One way that Klarna, Europe’s highest-valued private fintech company, monetizes is via sponsored deals within their home screen’s carousel. These ads incorporate first-party data to show the right deal to the right person, and they look exactly like organic deals (except for the “Ad” tag).
This use case showcases how native ad monetization is all about looking at your standard content and identifying ways advertisers could sponsor it. In this example, Klarna already had a carousel promoting deals, and by adding a sponsored deal to the rotation, they easily created a new revenue stream.
Ad unit: Background native ads
Any blank space on your site/app is an opportunity to monetize. WeTransfer capitalized on their empty space by inserting beautiful native ads around its transfer screen.
These ad units are designed to fit around the upload box (no matter the screen size), and the stylized images/videos provide more personality than if WeTransfer had kept a blank background. Plus, given these rich, highly visually ad formats, it's been easy for WeTransfer to find advertisers willing to purchase them.
Ad unit: Logo overlays
Unsplash, an online photo community, is known for their beautiful imagery, so intrusive banner ads would be very off-brand. To drive ad revenue, they’ve instead subtly integrated advertisers into their images — in an almost unnoticeable way.
Below, you can see Squarespace’s logo and tagline added to the homepage’s background image.
Not obtrusive at all, this native ad drives a little extra revenue for Unsplash every day — and it highlights how you can monetize any real estate by allowing a brand to overlay their logo somewhere on the page/screen.
In this example, too, Unsplash enables brands like Jimmy Dean to upload downloadable photos that incorporate their products within the stock footage.
Ad unit: Sponsored in-feed articles
Pocket is a service built into Firefox that allows you to save and discover content for later viewing. When you open a new tab in Firefox, you’ll see a list of Pocket-recommended articles below the search bar.
Within this list are a handful of sponsored articles, where advertisers are paying for greater visibility.
These native ad units blend in with the organic articles and allow Firefox to monetize its homepage in a privacy-safe way, as no personally identifiable information (PII) is needed to serve the ads.
This approach is also an improvement to the standard “You May Also Like” boxes sponsored by Taboola or Outbrain, as the advertisers are hand-selected, the ads aren’t ad blocked, and they load much faster.
Ad unit: Immersive brand experiences
Spotify’s native ad approach combines creativity with curation. When Stranger Things, for example, released their second season, they partnered with Spotify to promote it, which involved Spotify letting users turn on “Stranger Things Mode” and explore playlists curated for each of the show’s characters.
This native ad unit is more than just a sponsored playlist (which they also do) — it’s an immersive branded experience that fits the personality of both Spotify and Netflix.
And there’s no reason other publishers can’t build such innovative ad experiences: it’s all about understanding your users — and identifying how to seamlessly add an advertiser to that experience.
Ad unit: In-feed internal promotions / in-house ads
Not all native ads need an outside vendor or advertiser. Strava, for instance, uses native, in-app promotions to upsell their paid plan. These ads incorporate first-party data to ensure that users see promotions only when they are likely to convert.
These in-house ads are successful because they flow naturally in the user experience and employ complex targeting logic not possible with a standard content management system (CMS).
Other companies could benefit from a similar approach. Do you have other products/services you'd like to promote? Use an ad server to target users with promotions that upsell other apps, paid plans, special offers, and so on.
Ad unit: Marketplace sponsored listings
We’ve seen an interesting trend recently of content publishers launching their own product marketplaces. While small, these marketplaces do have an opportunity to drive revenue through sponsored listings (whereby vendors pay to promote their products).
While we often associate such a native ad unit with Amazon, you don’t need to be an eCommerce giant to launch sponsored listings, and Chairish, a niche marketplace, proves this.
In fact, Chairish launched their promoted listings ad platform in just weeks, and these ads have enabled them to profitably grow their business.
Ad unit: Website skin ads
While “skin ads” (takeover ads that surround your standard site content) can be overpowering if done poorly, Atom Tickets incorporates them in a way that feels natural to the browsing experience.
In this instance, Atom Tickets partnered with Disney to promote Black Widow both in their homepage carousel and in the space around the site’s main content.
This impossible-to-miss native ad feels like part of the site experience and therefore doesn’t stand out as an irrelevant, obtrusive ad.
Ad unit: In-feed native ads
Your in-feed ad units don’t have to be sponsored products, sponsored articles, or promoted posts; they could also be ads for third-party advertisers that blend in nicely alongside the site/app’s organic content.
With Grab’s Masthead ads, for example, advertisers can pay for a native ad that directs users off the app. These ads don’t take up much space, while still blending in and being a valuable monetization opportunity for Grab.
Ad unit: Native email ads
Bed Bath & Beyond sends millions of emails a week, and to monetize them they have worked with their vendors to insert native promotions into their emails.
By not using an email ad network and instead relying on direct-sold ads that fit nicely in the email, Bed Bath & Beyond built a high-margin revenue stream that ensures their email ads are on-brand while also flowing well in the user experience.
Given that native ads are inherently unique to the publisher, the above ad units aren't meant to be exactly replicated; instead, the 10 examples can be starting points as you brainstorm ways to monetize your own site/app.
If you’re looking to launch your own native ad product but don’t know where to start, we’d love to chat. Kevel provides ad APIs that make it easy to launch custom ad products in just weeks. With our tools you get access to everything you need to launch a native, full-featured, high-margin ad platform.
Chris has worked in ad tech for over fourteen years in a variety of roles - giving him customer support, PM, and marketing perspectives from both the advertiser and publisher sides. He's the VP of Marketing at Kevel.