Native Advertising

Influencers and Endorsements: where is the line between native advertising and ads that take personalisation too far?

By Jessica Bubenheim, on 10 January 2018

 Native advertising is evolving, marketers are discovering more engaging ways for reaching customers. Widespread data collection and sharing have become the biggest asset to the  modern marketer’s toolkit. Marketers have unprecedented 360 degree individual customer insights. Ads are flawlessly serving individual needs and Ad design is becoming increasingly intuitive to users. We’ve reached a state where distinguishing advertising from other content has gotten tough.

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 This makes us question- to what do we owe the success of native advertising? is it the intrinsically compelling content? Maybe. Or is it that consumers are unaware that the content their reading is an Ad? The University of Georgia has conducted studies showing that native advertising targets unalert customers when their mental ad avoidance strategies are off-guard. When users think they are processing agendaless content, they perceive it differently. Advertisement trigger negative evaluations - native advertising, when unrecognised as advertising, does not.  

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This excerpt from the University of Georgia study shows that very few participants recognized a native ad article as advertising, irrespective of disclosure condition. Overall, less than 8% of participants, 17 out of 242, recognized the advertisement.

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(Journal of Advertising, 2017)


From a design perspective, the table shows that middle or bottom positioning and wording using “advertising” or “sponsored” increased advertising recognition and this recognition generally led to more negative evaluations.

However, since the term fake news took over, consumers awareness is rising and consumer naïveté is increasingly rare. Will native advertising continue to succeed in the face of conscious consumers? The more targeted and personal an ad, the more privacy concerns are activated. In 2013 Netherlands passed a law requiring websites to inform visitors of covert tracking. The result - click-through rates plummeted.


How do digital marketers draw the line - when is a personalized ad welcomed and when do users block them out.

Social scientists have looked into privacy concern triggers that can help marketers evaluate when personalization has gone too far.


Here’s what not to do:

  • use information obtained from third-party website  
  • use inferred information about the customer (ex. information about pregnancy)
  • ‘talk about people behind their back’. If you feel comfortable disclosing information to a friend - “first-person data sharing” - you would probably feel uneasy if they passed that info along to someone else without you knowing - “third party data sharing”.

Instead consider this:

  • use only information obtained from the site on which the ad appears
  • listen to your specific consumers privacy concerns and expectations carefully and honor them

 → What is Native Advertising? Advantages and success stories.

 → Three striking examples of Native Advertising


It’s not all bad news, there's a way to consumer- advertiser harmony.

Harvard Business Review has outlined 3 factors that help you marketers make the best out of native advertising - for both consumers and promoters.

  • Trust. Offer voluntary ad transparency. If your allowing your consumer to see:  “Why am I seeing this ad?” you’re on the right track.

  • Control. Consumer privacy concerns arise when they feel like they’re losing control of their data. Looking at the friend example again, you would want to dictate who you tell your secrets too, and wouldn't want a friend going gossip girl on you. Offering users meaningful control over their information will likely improve ad performance.

  • Justification. Allow users to see the value of targeted native advertising by justifying  why personal data has been used to generate this ad. Here authenticity is vital. You should rethink your intentions and your ad If you yourself are having difficulty coming up with a compelling reason for the way you use consumers’ data.

Try looking to the offline world to understand Where the Line is Between native advertising and ads that take personalization too far. Keep your focus on adding value for your customer - if your thinking customer centric, they will thank you for it and it will pay off.


Native Advertising

Jessica Bubenheim

Studying International Business at Warwick Business School. Inspired by Social Entrepreneurs.