Why Native Ads Are the Ultimate Wingmen for Display Advertising

With click-through-rates (CTRs) close to that of editorial content, native advertising is prompting many digital advertisers to abandon display advertising altogether. But it doesn’t have to be that way—our research shows that display ads placed next to a native ad from the same brand suddenly experience CTRs that are about X% higher than normal.

Apparently, when it comes to driving banner clicks, native advertising makes an excellent wingman.

How Native Ads Beat Banner Blindness

The reason lies in a theory that ad designers are very familiar with: the Gestalt principles, which state that, when it comes to visuals, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Our brain registers individual visual elements not in a vacuum, but in relation to what’s around them. That’s why a triangle can suddenly look like a sunray in a different context, and empty space can be read as a complete shape when it appears between two figures.

The problem with display advertising isn’t that it’s inherently bad at communicating information or sparking interest—it’s that, due to the phenomenon known as “banner blindness,” readers simply don’t notice display ads. Their eyes skim right over them without registering that they’re there.

Native ads aren’t subject to the same problem. After all, they comprise the central content of the page. So as the reader looks at the native ad, the brain notices its design features—the company’s logo, for example—and quickly notices that a similar visual cue appears nearby on the display ad.

Banner blindness is broken, and the display ad is free to work its magic.

Display Returns the Favor

The rest of the story is that display ads can also boost the effectiveness of native ads by featuring a strong call to action, which native ads often don’t. Once the reader is primed from viewing or reading the native content, the display ad can step in with a harder sell to drive traffic to the brand’s site.

It turns out native and display are a lot like Simon and Garfunkel: maybe only one’s cut out to be a solo act, but they can also do great things together.