Making Native Compete with Standard Formats via Header Bidding

As the trend toward user-friendly advertising grows, so does usage of native: ads that look and feel like natural content. In fact, by next year native ads are due to attract over $50 billion in global spend. But why is native’s appeal so strong and where will it take the industry next?

To find out we caught up with Alex White, VP Product Marketing for Sharethrough — an in-feed native platform. Here’s his insight on what makes native different, how advanced tools are making it simpler to harness its benefits, and what the future holds.

Sharethrough has developed a header wrapper solution for native based on Prebid.js. Could you explain how it works?

Fundamentally, the solution allows publishers to unify all demand sources in a simultaneous auction – helping them to boost yield and revenue. The technology works by blending plug-and-play header wrapper technology — which merges multiple header bidders — with the standard mediation waterfall. Once publishers had to choose between real-time auctions and the traditional waterfall, but now they can optimise every monetisation option by implementing one tag on their sites.

We recognise that many publishers are not fully embedded with native yet but are currently transitioning their business model and, as such, still have a lot of monetisation coming in from standard display and video. The wrapper itself has been built for maximum flexibility: supporting native bidders, as well as current display and outstream video, to give publishers broader format choice and maximum monetisation options. It also forms part of an easy-to-use interface that’s not only designed to integrate with every major demand-side platform (DSP) in the market, but also minimise workflow friction. Native advertising templates, for instance, can be customised for each publisher to seamlessly match different pages. And publishers can even add, remove, adjust and reorder bidders or sources themselves, without calling on internal developer teams. What’s more, reporting is almost instantly accessible, enabling publishers to consistently track and enhance advertising efforts.

How do you differentiate between native video and outstream video?

It’s important to note that native video is an outstream format because it is not playing in the stream of other video content. Both formats automatically play on publisher websites when users scroll by, however that’s where the similarities end. There are big differences when it comes to the experiences and results they deliver. The biggest difference is that the native version of outstream has a headline which is proven to drive increased consumption and awareness of the advertiser before someone even watches the video. Native ads match the form of their environment; complementing their context to ensure content is relevant and valuable for every audience. On social media platforms, for example, native video aligns with news-feed headlines, which means it has a greater capacity to capture individual attention and inspire users to watch ad content.

In contrast, non-native outstream isn’t always as well integrated with media experiences — often interrupting them, with a video unit opening without explanation between the paragraphs of a story — and therefore has much less chance of engaging consumers.

Native was the shiny new thing for a couple of years but it seems to be less of a talking point. Is this because the shine wore off or because it has simply been incorporated into the mainstream?

I don’t agree that it’s not a talking point any longer. If native is no longer considered the shiny new thing, it’s just because it’s more established within the digital advertising repertoire.

To begin with, brands didn’t fully comprehend what native entailed or how to leverage its benefits, and tended to stick with tried and tested ad types such as standard display. The last few years, however, have brought significant change. As advertisers’ understanding of native capabilities has improved, so too have adoption rates. Indeed, earlier this year eMarketer released its first report on US native usage, which revealed that native display spend increased by 36.2% in 2017 making up 52.9% of overall budgets. And with advertiser interest soaring, it’s only logical that publishers are viewing native as a means to boost inventory appeal and yield, as well as improve the user experience.

Because native’s success is tied to the success of mobile, video, and programmatic, we are in the midst of a hyper-growth period for native that is driving the format from being the relatively new kid on the block to the gold standard for digital advertising.

How important are native ad formats on mobile? Has the industry cracked optimisation of these formats?

Native is already an integral element of mobile advertising and it’s only set to become more so; Facebook and IHS estimate that by 2020 it will drive 63% of mobile display ad revenue. The key reason for this is that native is the only ad format that really makes sense in the mobile environment. With much less on screen real-estate , users want low-impact ads that allow them to choose whether they wish to engage, without intruding on their experience — requirements that native meets perfectly. Mobile native has been found to attract three times more user attention than basic banner ads and hold their interest for 40% longer.

Pioneering social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter are championing and enhancing its use in news feeds, developing native options principally focused on video that suits both users and brands. For instance, LinkedIn has released a new feature whereby users can create and immediately share native video on its platform. The format is also starting to make inroads within the app environment, in the form of editorial and video.

But some areas, like creative production, require further development. There is a need for wider understanding among publishers and advertisers that mobile is a unique space and campaigns built for desktop cannot be simply carried across. Ads served in-app, for instance, must be optimised according to the algorithm used by individual apps, and the app store they are sold through.

Mobile native ads should be constructed according to their target audience and destination; crafted to meet mobile user needs and behaviour, screen dimensions, and the unique specifications of the environment they’re served in. Once the industry gets this right, marketers will be able to realise the true potential native offers on mobile.

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