Which Native Ad Units Perform Best

Design the ad unit to make it look as if it’s part of the page -- that’s the way native advertising works.

The biggest challenge these days is deciding which native ad format will generate the most return on investment -- a question behind a study done by my6sense, a software company focused on artificial intelligence.

Results: in-feed ads showed two times higher click-through and engagement rates than recommendation widgets, and up to 10 times higher CTRs and engagement than in-ad units.

The survey also found that mobile screen size does not hinder performance. Mobile native ads saw double the CTR of desktop native ads because users can view the ads any time while on the go. 

“We expect to see more storytelling and branded content types of advertising,” said Avinoam Rubinstain, CEO/founder of my6sense. That’s keeping in mind new formats, like the video native ad units introduced by Google in 2016.

The research also found exclusive focus on one advertiser in a series of in-feed units results in greater engagement rates, making this type of native ad desired most by marketers in the automotive and retail space.



The in-ad native format, which includes multiple ad and content units, generates lower revenue for publishers and less engagement for advertisers, given its smaller size and less central location. However, it outperforms banner ads on both of these metrics.

From an advertiser and publisher perspective, recommendation widgets get the best results. The research finds that widgets account for about one-third of native ads. In-feed native units followed with 30% and in-ad native units came in at 25%.

These days, most ad units can be placed programmatically. 

Native display ad revenue in the U.S. will contribute 74% to the total U.S. display ad revenue by 2021, up from a 56% share in 2016, according to BI Intelligence estimates based on data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, PwC, and IHS.

The good performance of these ads is at least one reason for continued investment in native ad companies. PowerLinks, which supports programmatic native advertising, secured about $6 million in Series A funding in a round led by Foresight Group. The announcement, made in February, followed a year of expansions, according to one report.

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