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A Guide to Understand Mobile Native Ads

Mobile Native Ads
According to eMarketer, native advertising spending will reach $41.1 billion in 2019, a 24.9% increase from last year.

Similar to display advertising, native advertising (or simply, native ads) help publishers to monetize their websites and there’s no doubt that it will continue to woo both sellers and buyers in the adtech industry. Before diving into what are mobile native ads and how to run it efficiently, we would like to clear one thing – You can run native ads along with the regular display ads. That being said, you need to measure and iterate to find the right balance b/w native ads and display ads

According to eMarketer, native advertising spending reached ~$41.1 billion in 2019, a 24.9% increase from last year, and contributed to 61% of the total digital display ad spending. By 2020, 63.2% of mobile display advertising will be native which will account for $53.4 billion in advertising revenue

But many publishers still struggle to get started with native ads. As mobile traffic continues to beat other devices’ traffic, we will focus on mobile native ads specifically in this piece. Of course, the process to get started with native ads is the same for mobile/desktop/tablet.

Table of Content:

What Are Mobile Native Ads?

Mobile native advertising or mobile native ads enable digital publishers to run ads in the format of their website content, thus the name “native”. Native advertising is less intrusive because of the fact that the ads are designed to blend in with the content of the host (website). 

Generally, mobile native ads go by various names – Sponsored content, Promoted content, Paid content, etc. Even though they are sponsored by brands, they are hosted on the publisher’s site and there’ll be no CTA to an advertiser’s landing page. 

Sponsored articles

Many publishers including The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, and, Forbes are placing running sponsored ads (articles) that resonate with the audience. Now, you will probably have a question – what about the ads that are native, but when clicked takes the user to the advertiser’s landing page? 

They exist and they, in fact, are the most common form of native ads on the open web. To put it simply, you can categories mobile native ads (or native ads in general) into:

a. First-party ads

b. Third-party ads. 

Note that the difference between both is where the ad content is hosted/displayed to the user. If it is on the publisher’s property (same site), it is first-party. Else, third-party. Sometimes, publishers make use of first-party data to place and recommend first-party native ads (i.e., sponsored articles/pages). 

Best Mobile Native Ad Formats

Having discussed the basics of mobile native advertising, it is time to know about the most popular mobile native ad formats. At present, there are 5 formats for mobile native advertising that are recommended by IAB and we’ve listed them here with examples:

In-feed (Content)

In-feed (Content) native ad format is best suited for editorial feeds, stories, and these ad formats are usually placed in between the content available on a website.

In-feed (Content) Mobile Native Ad

Recommendation Widgets

These ads often appear in the form of widgets at the end of an article or a page. You might have encountered these ads with headlines “You may also like”, “Recommended for you”, etc. Generally, recommended mobile native ads don’t mimic the aspect of the editorial content of a website and links to a different site (advertiser’s landing page). Publishers (and users) prefer to avoid them as they are click-bait articles lacking quality (most cases) and advertisers have reportedly experienced high Invalid traffic activity when advertised via these widgets. 

Recommendation Widgets

In-feed (Social)

This mobile native ad format is best suitable for social media feeds (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.) where ads are made to fit with the form of social media posts. Though the open web can’t use the format, it’s a good example to refer to.

In-feed (Social) Native Ad

In-feed (eCommerce)

This ad format is used by the e-commerce publishers/website owners. The ads (promoted products) are mixed with product listing as shown below. e-Commerce publishers usually prefer this advertising method since it displays products or deals relevant to the visitor’s interests.

In-feed (eCommerce) Mobile Native Ads


This native ad format is used by mobile game publishers. Usually, these in-app or mobile web ads are optional for visitors. They can skip the ad and continue with the game. However, if seen, they get rewards in the form of points, lives, etc.

Get Started With Mobile Native Advertising

If you would like to run native ads (third-party) on your site, you need to configure ad server and connect with a native demand platform. On a higher-level, this is how native ads are fetched. 

In native advertising, advertisers’ ad servers provide different components of a native creative such as headline, landing page URL, images, and logo, instead of returning an ad tag*. Publisher’s ad server (e.g. Google Ad Manager) collects the components and generates an ad that is appropriate to be served on mobile devices and fits with the surrounding content of the particular page (Src).

*In case of typical banner advertising, an advertiser provides an ad creative (an image or ad tag) with a fixed size via a third-party ad server. And, Google Ad Manager, without making any changes in the ad, serves the ad into the stated size.

List of platforms* that offer mobile native advertising:

  • Sharethrough
  • Outbrain (recommended widget)
  • Taboola (recommended widget)
  • Nativo
  • TripleLift
  • NativeAds
  • Adsnative
  • StackAdapt
  • LoopMe

*The mentions aren’t recommendations, just a few examples.   

Native Ads on Open Exchanges Vs Private Marketplaces

Mobile native ads demand can be from open ad exchanges or private marketplaces. It ultimately depends on the vendors in question. Publishers tend to connect with native ad platforms (as mentioned above) to deliver native ads along with display ads. Google Ad Manager offers native ads via its ad exchange, Google AdX

From our experience, you need both ad types and maintain the proper balance to ensure higher revenue and better user experience.

Advantages of Mobile Native Ads

Native ads offer a bunch of advantages for publishers including:

  • As native ads enable publishers to display the ads with the same style and format as that of organic content, it increases ad view rates and hence the probability of user engagement.
  • Native ads are merged with the content of a website. Hence, it enables readers to go through the website’s content and advertisements without any disruption.
  • Mobile native ads, being less invasive, offer a higher rate of acceptance and click-through rates.

Sidenote: Ad copy matters a lot here. Without the intriguing content, users may scroll past the ads. And, another drawback is the lack of distinction between organic and paid ads – which will end up increasing accidental clicks (higher bounce rate, lousy user experience).

Best Practices for Mobile Native Advertising

  • Since native ads match with the organic content of a website, make sure that ads provided by your demand partners are relevant to the page (contextual matching). After all, you wouldn’t want to place an irrelevant ad right in between the quality content you’ve published. 
  • The format of content varies from one device to another (desktop, mobile, or tablet). So, personalize your native ads based on the screen sizes to create the best possible user experience. For instance, Google Ad Manager has the capability to render ads based on the screen size to ensure native experience. 
  • Ensure that advertisers’ logo, headlines, words like “sponsored”, “promoted”, “recommended”, etc. are visible to the users so that they can differentiate between the organic content and advertisements.
  • Don’t go all-in with native ads without analyzing the user signals. It is always better to prioritize users over ads.

What’s Next?

Mobile native ads are, indeed, compelling and can earn you better revenue. But it is equally important to consider user experience, existing display ads/video ads on the pages, and industry guidelines before implementing.

“I would urge advertisers to think about how to communicate [disclosure] to consumers while wanting the ad to be in the flow of what consumers are seeing”

– Mary Engle, Associate Director of Advertising Practice, FTC.

FTC has already warned publishers regarding the deceptiveness of native ads. As we always say, run, analyze, and iterate. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution in adtech and native ads may not get you better revenue as the programmatic display. If you need help setting up native ads on your website, we’re a click away.


Read Next: Ad Refresh – A Beginner’s Guide For Publishers

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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