A Brief History of Native Advertising

The history of native advertising shows the role advertisements have had throughout each decade and how it has changed with the rise of new technologies. From word of mouth to public events, moving into newspapers and now online, the rise of native advertising has evolved through various media. Today, native advertisements are defined as online advertisements that mirror the platform they are being advertised on, which may take the form of an advertorial, video, article, editorial, and more. Native advertising examples include:

  • Pinterest: Ads are placed into your feed, looking like a normal pin.
  • Netflix: Clips automatically play for the shows you can select. 
  • Amazon: Products will be added to the top of your search results with a tiny ad identifier.


Native ads can be beneficial because consumers trust them more than banner ads. Native ads also tend to have high click-through rates. 

Native advertising techniques looked a lot different in the 1900s. During this time automobile races became popular events around the United States. As these races began to receive media coverage, Ford took advantage and began running their ads next to the news. Of course, your desire for a new car would increase as you watched other cars speed around the track or your favorite racer won in a certain vehicle.


Another way people used native advertising in the early 1900s was by writing an editorial shared in newspapers or magazines that then promoted their brand as its author, such as Cadillac’s “The Penalty of Leadership” penned by Theodore MacManus and run in The Saturday Evening Post. Advertisers would seek out publishers that would publish paid long-form content that promoted their individual brand story.


Short stories and native advertising in newspapers and magazines soon became broadcast stories, music, and native audio advertising on the radio. Thanks to Westinghouse, stations had the ability to air locally, while others began broadcasting nationally. During this time, the still popular National Broadcasting Company (NBC) began forming. This was a form of media everyone could enjoy, as it was “free of charge.”


Programmed radio was the beginning of soap operas. Similar to using short stories to sell products in newspapers and magazines, television now became a medium to advertise products. P&G was one of the first sponsors of the commercial telecast with its melodramas and “soap operas” designed to promote their soap. Soap operas first began on radio and then transferred over to television. Due to the success of soap operas, branded TV became a popular native advertising channel, and televisions quickly became a household staple after the broadcasting of John Glenn’s orbital space flight. Due to the popularity of programmed television, commercial slots were shortened in between shows. 


With the 80s came the birth of infomercials. The advantage of native advertising during this time was that you could promote your product while informing the viewer. Soloflex was the first to air an infomercial, giving viewers the solution to a common scenario. These advertisements were aired during the non-prime time and are now commonly known as “as seen on TV” products. 


Native digital advertising shot off during the birth of the internet, and tech empires began to rise. Different search engines, like AOL, MSN, and Google, played favorites as they stacked search results with ads and company websites. 


Native advertising regulations reach a whole new level as sponsored content comes into the mix, and native content ads look different than ever before. As you read online articles on BuzzFeed or even The New York Times, you may notice certain articles are sponsored by another company. Sponsored content is sprinkled in with other suggested articles on their websites as a form of native display advertising.


With so many native advertising technologies available to us, what does native advertising look like now? Maybe you’ve noticed it as you watch one of the Transformers fight next to a Victoria’s Secret bus? Or as Iron Man drives off in a Saleen S7? Native display advertising has gotten to the point where you don’t even realize you’re viewing it.

So where is it headed? Online shopping, social media, and digital media are all mass platforms of native advertising and will continue to be as digital options become more accessible. 

Why native advertising? Native advertising is a great option for building an audience when considering a digital media campaign, because customers are more open to advertisements that are similar to what they are already viewing. Contact Agility Digital to schedule a demo and see how you can benefit from a higher click-through rate and more visitors by creating advertisements your audience wants to see.

A Brief History of Native Advertising | Contently

Image by Publishers and brands are running full-speed towards the latest marketing trend: native advertising. It’s being heralded as this new and groundbreaking phenomenon, but native advertising is far from a new strategy-it’s just that it’s being transformed by a new digital frontier.

A Brief History of Native Advertising