While the industry still works towards a meaningful consensus of what native advertising entails, native campaigns continue to flight as interest among publishers and advertisers grows. While the trailblazers have been high-traffic consumer sites, like BuzzFeed, B2B sites represent a sizeable opportunity for advertisers as well.

Why?

  1. B2B marketing heavily involves content. Webinars, white papers,  decks, demos, and reports are content types that barely exist in the B2C  world, but that are part and parcel of B2B digital marketing.
  2. Specialized industry magazines and blogs continue to thrive, even online.
  3. B2B buyers use the same Web as everyone else, and targeting technology has gotten a lot better at identifying them. An ad that serves an B2B audience can be served up into BuzzFeed, for example, since plenty of B2B buyers consume popular online content as well (even at work *shhhhh*!).
  4. Many sites, like YouTube, SlideShare, Forbes, and Scribd, host content that B2B buyers consume in droves. And they're advertising-supported, as well.

If you've been following native advertising, this isn't exactly revelatory, and yet native ad campaigns in B2B are still in their nascency. BuzzFeed, ever the pioneer in this space, has kicked off its first B2B native ad campaign.

Even as strange as a campaign targeting aviation industry buyers sounds on a site best known for silly viral memes, the idea has legs. After all, however nebulous the term native advertising is, content and context are two of the most important elements. Native advertising delivers content that site users would be expected to enjoy consuming, and it's delivered within context, within the flow and adhering to the format of the site.

Let's look at an example.

Using Forbes’ digital native advertising product, BrandVoice, advertisers get their own channel (including their name alongside “Voice” in a camel-case format, like OracleVoice and SAPVoice). Promos for a BrandVoice-sponsored post appear in the parent channel’s page/stream:

The  article title begins with the BrandVoice name, hinting that it's different from the rest. This becomes clearer when reading the  article:

A byline strip above the article title establishes that the piece was written by or for the advertiser. The explanatory link discloses the relationship between the article’s authorship and the sponsor. Banner and rectangle ads promoting the advertiser flank the article.

Forbes.com is a fast-paced, content-rich site with dozens of new articles published hourly. Articles written by Forbes staff have long sit alongside those authored by contributors—many of them corporate—so the BrandVoice native advertising product does not represent a major departure from what readers expect from the site.

What's notable about this native advertising execution is that the sponsored pieces aren't necessarily promoting the sponsor's product: the surrounding advertising does that. The piece, if written well and delivering some order of value to the reader, should help influence the reader's perception of the brand in a more subtle way.

Do other B2B native advertising solutions take the same approach? Not necessarily. Business Insider, another site popular with business readers, has a similar program called Sponsor Posts, but BI, like Forbes.com, primarily deals with articles. Other publishers that deliver content differently should have native ad solutions that match the consumption patterns and preferences of their users.