Native advertising has clearly caught advertisers’ attention, as well as their budgets. Facebook has invested heavily in native and is reaping the rewards, with earnings of $5.2 billion in the first quarter of 2016. Traditional display ads are losing market share, with native ads already accounting for 50% of revenue at larger publishers.
Native is powerful, and the fact that it has emerged outside of walled garden environments –offering scale to go along with powerful form and function – is a delight to most advertisers. Yet for native to truly redefine the digital landscape, marketers need to have programmatic access – enabling them to gain desirable video placements, avoid ad blocking, drive performance and provide granular creative targeting. Fortunately, that industry evolution is already under way.
While native certainly gained popularity on social networks, the walled garden nature of the channel meant that it came with hidden costs, and that any network could change its settings and force advertisers to rethink their strategy. The good news for advertisers is that they are now able to replicate this successful strategy outside of these walled gardens and across both the open web ecosystem and mobile in-app inventory. Standardisations have improved so marketers can quickly turn around ad units and achieve scale from native.
Native has the potential to slow the growth of ad blockers. Many consumers are now downloading software to prevent ads from even loading on the page, partly because the latency of heavy ad loads slows down a page and delivers a poor user experience. Native fits seamlessly into pages across the open ecosystem, loading faster and delivering a better experience, making these ads far less irritating than other executions. Accelerating the use of native formats should in turn limit the use of ad blockers overall, which is good for the industry as a whole.
Of course, advertising isn’t only about being seen, it’s about users responding to the message. Fortunately, advertisers can leverage the same level of insights that they use for programmatic today on programmatic native. They can target audiences based on behavioral aspects, demographic info, geographic location, as well as the content on the host site itself. Having the ability to combine content and context creates a better chance of an ad resonating with consumers.
Native works particularly well in mobile environments, which is convenient, as consumers are using mobile to access the web and apps more frequently than ever before. Mobile opens up a new world of signals for marketers to use to enhance their audience understanding, allowing them to target even more granular messages and achieve the best performance possible by reaching only the right audience.
As each new device and medium grows, video grows with it, to the point where advertisers can’t consider a new format without thinking about video as well. The combination of the sight, sound and action of video, along with the seamless native placement, is going to be one of the points of emphasis in all advertising conversations going forward.
And as native programmatic develops, other factors and innovations will align to make it an even more powerful tool. Creative targeting plays as much of a role in successful advertising as media targeting, and advertisers will need the ability to optimise the creative of their native placements to match the audience with the best possible message. As standards develop and advertisers get more comfortable, the natural iteration will be to bring dynamic elements in.
All signs point toward native programmatic being a truly powerful tool for advertisers to engage with targeted audiences online. Any format that provides an overwhelmingly positive user experience and lets advertisers leverage video and granular data is sure to bring a smile to a marketer’s face. Marketers looking to use this format need to explore their options, and continue to push publishers for more inventory across both desktop and mobile. As marketers race to reach audiences in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, native programmatic may represent one of the most powerful tools yet.