Many platforms have embraced native advertising in recent months. This columnist explores how it's been going so far for Polyvore, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr.

Native ads are ads that appear within a stream of related content, almost “nested” and skinned to blend in; hence the native moniker. When a platform and an advertiser does it well with apt targeting, look and feel, the results can be fantastic: a return almost as high as search results pages without the accompanying query, but maybe not as high a volume.

However, as more platforms try and monetize or spin up to serve niche audiences or verticals, the bottom line is that they, too, have to meet a bottom line at some time or another. No platform is free forever and bringing users relevant products through a user’s regular behavior of discovery may just be the ticket without being too creepy or overbearing. So let’s take a quick look at some of the more popular discovery platforms and where they currently are in their efforts to monetize their audiences.


The fashion, beauty and home discovery site is less native in its display, outright listing pricing and links. However, the appeal to build your own “set” of products, whether you have any intention of buying those items yourself or not, is very compelling and clearly keeps users coming back, while building brand awareness and benefiting from organic discovery and traffic. Profitable since 2011, they pitch to potential advertisers that they achieve higher average order values than all other social media sites and 53 percent higher conversion rates. If your focus is sales and conversions, not branding and awareness, check out the Promoted Products in Shop option, powered by product feeds.

Cost: CPC-based
Open to: Fashion, beauty and home retailers. You’ll need to apply.


(Read more...) Pins were released last year to a select group of advertisers. The tool expanded earlier this year and now it looks as if there may be another option coming for small and medium businesses. These ads are mixed into the multi-pin and board newsfeed that makes up a user’s regular view; you almost wouldn't be able to tell an ad from a pin, if it weren’t for the “promoted” text. Personally, it’s my favorite way to discover new pins, as long as the targeting is just right.

Cost: CPC-based
Open to: Certain businesses. There is a waitlist.



According to 5,000 Instagram accounts analyzed by Quintly, an Instagram user is five times more likely to engage (likes or comments) than Facebook. That might not mean that they’re necessarily buying yet, but there is clearly an audience and it is thriving. Instagram was met with anger a couple of years ago when it first mentioned sponsored ads to select brands, but since the noise seems to have subsided, they will be opening up the gates to more advertisers very soon.

Cost: TBD
Open to: TBD


Purchased by Yahoo in 2013, the blogging/social/sharing platform primarily focuses on larger enterprise ads, copying the look and feel of a Tumblr post in a news feed. Only a light gray $ in the upper right hand corner distinguishes it as an ad. Blink and you almost miss it. It’s recommended that you have a presence on Tumblr and direct users to your Tumblr, rather than just taking them off to your own site.

Cost: CPE (cost per engagement)
Open to: Contact a brand strategist.


There are more out there and even more to come. When you think about it, it makes sense as an advertising style - not a disruptive display or seemingly unrelated social ad that are based on interests and behaviors that may not even be from your behavior, but that of a spouse or a child who borrowed your laptop for the afternoon. It’s not as targeted as serving up the answer to a search query, but it sure is getting a lot closer.

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