Native Advertising Vs Content Marketing

By Jerome Cornwell

hand-holding-light-bulb-1 When you’re considering content marketing vs. native advertising, it’s important to recognize their similarities but also their differences.  


To understand the relative merits of content marketing vs. native advertising, it’s necessary to consider the differences between these two overlapping strategies.

Unfortunately, people with limited knowledge of a subject often misuse words and phrases. However well-intentioned these mistakes may be, they can confuse audiences who may also be unfamiliar with the correct terminology.

There’s often confusion between content marketing and one of its subsets, native advertising. The latter is a key component of the former—in the same way all Fords are vehicles but all vehicles aren’t necessarily Fords. Content marketing covers a far wider scope than native advertising. It’s broader and often more long-term in outlook, helping to raise brand awareness and improve a company’s standing rather than simply driving clicks or boosting sales.

In this article, we compare content marketing vs. native advertising, and determine how these two complementary forms of advertising overlap—and ways in which they differ.

Defining the differences

To understand the difference between content marketing and native advertising, we need to consider what these two forms of promotion and advertising do.

Native advertising

Let’s start with something Brax is very familiar with: native advertising. Our powerful software interface allows companies to manage multiple campaigns across all the major native advertising portals—Taboola, Outbrain, Revcontent, and But how is native advertising actually classified?

Outbrain defines native advertising as “the use of paid ads that match the look, feel, and function of the media format in which they appear.” When you scroll down a social media timeline or reach the final post on a message board, native ads appear below the primary content. Designed to look like other on-page content, they promote unrelated goods and services—an unobtrusive yet effective alternative to ineffectual banner ads.

Content marketing

By contrast, Taboola defines content marketing as “the process of creating and distributing a piece of content, or multiple pieces of content, geared towards a specific key performance indicator at a specific stage of the marketing funnel.” That’s quite a scientific definition, so let’s break it down into bite-sized chunks:

  • Creating and distributing: Content marketing generally requires considerable amounts of content production, whereas native ads may simply be promoting an existing product or service.
  • Multiple pieces of content: Unlike time-limited and laser-focused native ad campaigns, content marketing is an ongoing process often carried out over a number of years, using a spectrum of different materials.
  • A specific KPI: Content marketing can cover a wider realm than native advertising, from raising brand awareness or running PR campaigns to supporting existing customers with white papers and how-to guides.
  • A specific stage of the marketing funnel: It could be used for the purchase stage of the funnel like native ads (estimates and coupons), for the evaluation stage (ebooks, spec sheets, webinars) or at the top of the funnel (how-to videos, interviews, email newsletters).

Native advertising is a subset of content marketing, mostly focused on the bottom of the funnel. It can be used as part of wider content marketing efforts to drive enquiries and sales, but it’s less suited to offering advice or raising brand awareness. While native ads are paid media positioned in front of demographically relevant audiences, content marketing is an inbound strategy aimed at building a brand and raising consumer awareness. It’s less about the here and now, and more about the bigger picture.

Celebrating the similarities

As an extension of content marketing, native advertising can be wildly successful. The click-through rate of native ads is now 40 times higher than traditional display ads, despite costing as little as $50 per day to run a campaign on platforms like Taboola. Many of the tactics that serve companies well in content marketing are directly applicable to native advertising; our recent guide to cognitive ease is relevant to both, for instance.

Crucially, native advertising campaigns can be focused on audiences using detailed demographic data. There’s no hit-and-hope campaigning here, as there typically is with print media. For companies with limited marketing budgets, positioning themselves only in front of relevant audiences is a compelling benefit. And after the last year, it’s naïve to think consumers will be enthusiastically searching out goods and services. Every dollar counts in the midst of economic and social upheaval, so targeted promotion is more vital than ever.

The best of both worlds

If you were questioning how content marketing vs. native advertising compare to each other, we hope this article has cleared it up for you. If native advertising sounds like a good, cost-effective way to promote your brand or business, we’re happy to discuss possible next steps. Drop us a line about the specific challenges you’re facing, and we’ll explain how our multi-platform native advertising interface can benefit you.