The short answer is that native advertising — sometimes called branded content or sponsored content — is content created expressly for an advertiser and designed to look and feel like a publisher’s editorial content when displayed on a publisher’s website.
The longer answer is more complicated. While some claim native advertising is nothing more than old fashioned advertorial, the fact is native advertising is something new. So new in fact, that native ads look, feel and read differently from site to site, market to market.
The big difference between “advertorial” and native ads is that advertorials often challenged credulity. To work effectively native ads must be credible, accurate, interesting and clearly identified for what it is. Sponsored content often is little more than a series of pictures with captions organized around a theme that compliments an advertiser’s marketing goals. Branded content and native advertising usually tell a story — either about the advertiser’s products or services or about trends related to those products and services. These stories are designed to enhance the advertiser’s image as the local opinion leader in their line business and to elevate the advertiser in organic search.