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Major Brands Are Bringing Programmatic Advertising In-House, Should Ad Agencies Be Worried?

As technology infiltrates the ad industry, many major brands are opting to keep much of their marketing in-house… Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Netflix to name a few. Seeking full control of their business, these industry giants are hoarding their media budgets (and their data), starving the hands that once fed them. But what, if anything, does this mean for an advertising industry whose death was reported as early as 1994? Can the value of ad agencies really be usurped by their own clients? Continue reading “Major Brands Are Bringing Programmatic Advertising In-House, Should Ad Agencies Be Worried?”

4 min read

Study Shows Canadian Consumers Increasingly Looking to Branded Content (Infographic)

As our data showed last year, traditional display ads are continuing to decrease in popularity online, and brands are looking for new and better ways to reach and engage audiences.

At StackAdapt we’re focused on helping brands make the most of their content through native advertising. We recently commissioned a survey with Leger Marketing to determine how Canadian consumers discover and interact with content to allow us to better understand consumer attitudes toward native and traditional advertising. The results? Canadian consumers are losing interest in traditional forms of online advertising, and this is the case especially with the younger generation (age 18-44). The study uncovered three key insights about the consumer decision-making process as it relates to advertising:

1. Consumers prefer learning about new brands through online content.

The study discovered that nearly 68% of Canadians prefer to learn about new brands online, and consumers between the ages of 18-44 are 33% more likely to prefer discovering new brands online (84%) than those above the age of 45 (56%). Online discovery further proves to be generational, as we found traditional methods to be more popular among those aged 55 and older, including print (33%), direct mail (21%), and radio (17%).

 2. Content helps consumers build trust toward a brand. 

 Consumers are well-informed in today’s purchasing landscape and with consumers exposed to hundreds of online advertisements, brands need to find a way to stand out and establish trust with their audience. The study revealed that 40% of Canadians trust a brand more after reading branded content or a brand’s blog. Younger Canadians (51% of 18-44 year olds) are more likely to trust branded content and feel that they are less likely to be misled by native content than those aged 45 and older (38%), further proving that consumer attitudes about a brand’s trustworthiness seem to be generational thing.

 3. Branded content is more likely to influence purchasing decisions. 

 More than half of Canadian consumers (57%) find informative and educational content most useful when making a decision about a brand online. Consumers are recognizing that they can discover brands that are more interesting and relevant to them, and native content is a much more engaging method to learn about brands than static ads. The generational gap shows that older Canadians (aged 65 and up) are more likely to find educational content useful (64%), while those aged 18-44 would prefer to learn about brands through entertaining content (24%).

Purchasing decisions are also heavily influenced by word of mouth, and branded content is easy to share with others. Two-thirds of Canadian consumers said they often share information about brands they like with friends through methods including customer reviews (17%), news articles (15%), engaging articles (15%), and videos (14%).

These discovery methods online lead to purchasing decisions, and more than half of Canadian consumers (55%) said that the type of content they read about a brand has in fact influenced an online purchase decision before. We found the types of content most likely to influence online purchasing decisions are:

  1. When consumers read about how other people are helped by the brand (22%)
  2. When the brand makes it easy to purchase by helping consumers navigate the market (20%)
  3. When the brand explains how it can improve or better service their life (19%
  4. The brand showing it understands the consumer’s values (11%)

Native advertising is proving to be a more effective method for brands wanting to communicate with audiences online. Especially with the younger generation of Canadians, online advertising is struggling to make an impact, and Canadians are looking to brands who deliver content that is informative and engaging in order to establish trust and influence purchasing decisions.

What does this mean for brands? Perhaps it’s time to steer away from traditional advertising and plunge into the world of well-distributed and high-quality branded content.

**A survey of 1,563 Canadian was completed online between June 6th – June 9th, 2016 using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/–2.5%, 19 times out of 20. Leger’s online panel has approximately 475,000 members nationally – with between 10,000 and 20,000 new members added each month.

4 min read

2016 State of The Industry: Native Outstream Video

Outstream native, often referred to as “in-article” or “in-text”, is a widely traded programmatic video ad format. Despite many challenges, outstream is gaining tremendous momentum within the industry due to the availability of inventory across publishers, networks, and buy-side platforms. And in case you’re new to the format, here’s an overview of where we stand in the Summer and Fall of 2016.

Brands are not sure how to create content for modern video formats

While outstream resembles its older brother pre-roll, it’s unique in the way it’s consumed. Outstream is the staple for mobile, so it’s highly viewable. However, sound is becoming a concern.

If we consider that the typical mobile experience includes listening to music or browsing the web on the way to school or work, this means that most users are consuming ads without sound. Digiday recently stated that up to 85 percent of Facebook video is consumed without audio. Across the wider web, approximately 40-50% of outstream videos are also viewed soundlessly. While we are starting to notice more videos accompanied by subtitles or high impact text,the vast majority of this creative lacks these elements. All things considered, we can see that video creation for the modern web is still in its infancy.


Users don’t mind native outstream

A major concern surrounding outstream was the disruption of user experience. However, the numbers tell a different story. Unlike pre-roll ads that users are forced to watch, outstream ads provide users with a choice to pause the video or scroll down to continue reading. This positive reception, combined with high completion rates and low cost-per-completed views (on par with pre-roll), means that brands are now making a bigger case for outstream.

Just look at this beauty!


Viewability is high but needs more support from verification partners

Outstream had a unique opportunity to create an ecosystem for highly viewable ads. While most sites only load ads that are in-view, we are seeing some early offenders, indicating that you will likely have to work with a viewability partner to make sure your money is spent wisely.

Thankfully, due to the novelty of the format, it’s easy to tie viewability to click-through rates at a basic level. We’ve see that outstream ads loaded in-view yielded five to 10 times higher click-through-rates than their non-viewable counterparts.

Figuring out which format you are buying programmatically is hard

Considering that most platforms still have some undisclosed inventory, it’s no surprise that there are issues surrounding transparency. For companies that only create outstream video, it’s simple. However, for those that support multiple formats, it’s more challenging. Currently, very few exchanges or buy-side platforms that offer both pre-roll and outstream can easily separate the inventory due to the fact that it requires a lot of heavy lifting on their end.

Both pre-roll and outstream have a place in every media plan. However, brands’ ability to choose only the format they are interested in when buying programmatically still requires a lot of improvement.

Lower barriers to entry for brands to be on Tier 1 publishers

Historically, brands could only run video advertising on Tier 1 publishers since only they had video content that could be monetized through pre-roll. Outstream then opened the doors for smaller publishers to monetize their content with video, and in the process, enabled Tier 1 publishers to extend their video inventory. Seeing as these publishers create ample static content, it naturally became a great environment to deliver outstream ads. Now, we are witnessing outstream helping brands to scale video campaigns on Tier 1 publishers of sizes that were traditionally reserved for direct deals.

What’s Next for Outstream?

As seen with native advertising, content creation and transparency remain the largest challenges for brands to adopt modern mobile-first formats. That being said, with these few barriers left to overcome, outstream is showing great promise and can swiftly rise to become the most prominent high performing channel for video advertising.

4 min read

Digital and Native Advertising Growth: A Full Assessment on Media Ad Spend

Increasingly mobile lifestyles and new innovations in advertising technology have created a new set of opportunities for marketers in the world of digital advertising.

Now, brands and agencies in search of vast audiences and consumer attention have to consider budget allocations and long-term strategies in a fast changing sphere.

As many of us will be heavily influenced by future marketing and advertising trends, we decided to do a full assessment on media ad spend, including the growth of native and video advertising, to see where media spend is (and should) be going.

Print Decline Accelerating; Television Poised for a Takedown

Recently, Victoria’s Secret discontinued their famous direct-mail catalogue which had been helping the brand increase awareness for 29 years. The event illustrates the current state of print, whose decline is expected to accelerate 20% by 2017. Over the same period, total media ad spend will increase by 11%, from $177.76 billion to $196.95 billion (eMarketer). 

As recently as 2014, Television accounted for 39.6% of all media ad spend globally. This number will shrink to 37.4% by 2017 (a 5.5% decline), opening the door for a new champion.


Watch the Throne, Digital Will Be New King by 2017

Digital ad spend is set to officially surpass TV in 2017, and by 2020, digital will account for 44.9% of all media ad spend (eMarketer). Within just four short years, digital is expected to have an impressive 12% margin over TV.

With this uptick, many brands have allocated a higher proportion of their marketing budget towards digital and found success with their target audiences, especially amongst certain channels.

Mobile Leads Digital Video Advertising’s Growth

Thus far, mobile has been the catalyst for digital’s ascension over TV due to their unique ability to reach audiences anywhere. Currently, mobile ads are achieving over 2X the amount of brand awareness and up to 3X the level of purchase intent as their desktop counterparts (Opera MediaWorks).

Mobile video, in particular, has seen the greatest success, where spending in the US jumped 80.6% in 2015. That trend is expected to continue, albeit at a more reasonable rate, well into the future.

Set to experience doubledigit growth every year, the US digital video advertising market will nearly double by 2019, at which point it will account for roughly 43% of all media ad spend. (eMarketer)

Mobile video has been a goldmine for advertisers who have been able to show targeted audiences more personal ads in real time, everywhere they go. A marketing budget that doesn’t include mobile video ad spend will soon be a rarity.

Native Advertising Also Anchoring Digital Growth

Many sources estimate that accidental clicks on banner ads are as high as 50 percent (Business Insider). This wasteful spend has hurt brands and brand equity, leading to a massive shift towards native advertising.

By 2021, native display ad revenue in the US, which includes native in-feed ads on publisher properties and social platforms, will make up 74% of total US display ad revenue, up from a 56% share in 2016.

Total media ad spend on native ads will grow 20%+ up until 2021 and beyond (eMarketer). During that span, we will witness spend on digital banner ads decline for the first time, as brands produce more content and resort to storytelling as a way to better connect with their digital audiences.

Native Advertising Top Digital Focus for Marketers

Brands and agencies have found success with native ads, including in-feed sponsored content and outstream video, which integrate well with the user experience.

Recently, native ads ranked as the top priority for  B2B marketers when asked where they will focus their mobile ad buys over the next six months (VentureBeat).

As a result, native display ad revenue in the US is expected to rise to $36B within the next 5 years (Business Insider).

Media Ad Spend Growth and Trends (Summary)

  • Print media ad spend (newspapers and magazine) will decline 20% by 2017
  • Long-time king TV set to be surpassed by Digital in 2017
  • Digital now accounts for roughly 35% of all media ad spend, roughly $60Billion USD. This number will grow to 45% and about $90Billion USD by 2020
  • Digital triumph will continue to be led mainly by mobile video (80% increase in spend in 2015), and native advertising (20%+ growth each year into the foreseeable future)



We see that digital will continue to soar and its ascension will be led primarily by mobile video and native advertising, where brands have achieved the best outcomes.

As the industry continuously changes, brands will accelerate their search for new and innovative ways to tell their unique story across the mediums and channels that best resonate with their target audiences. Currently, that means good news for native and non-intrusive video ads.

4 min read

The Future Of Advertising Is Content ‘Performance’ Marketing

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.


Content marketing is mainstream. Whether it’s a B2B startup or a large consumer enterprise, most marketers now understand that stories are superior to ads because they’re simply more impactful. More than half of Canadian consumers who have bought online responded that branded content had influenced their purchase decision.

However, at the moment, “gut feeling” is the reason marketers put content at the centre of their marketing. If probed about how to measure the ROI of content, many marketers would offer differing opinions.

Despite this uncertainty, the question of content marketing’s role in bringing tangible business results is moving to the forefront of all marketing conversations. The challenge of measuring ROI is largely tied to the lack of attribution models that would work specifically for content.

For such an attribution model to exist, it would have to be possible to connect the dots of who is reading your content and what impact that content creates. While some pieces of this puzzle are still missing (for example, the absence of qualitative metrics around the impact of content), there are some promising movements in repurposing existing technologies to serve the content marketing space.

One of particular note is the adoption of programmatic technologies for the distribution of branded content. Programmatic native advertising is quickly becoming the default channel for distributing branded content in an efficient and attributable way. Why so? Because it provides a fundamental edge over traditional channels: the ability for advertisers to speak only to their audiences of interest without creating unnecessary noise.

What does this ability to reach only relevant audiences with content on-demand mean for brands?

First, targeted storytelling lets brands build deeper relationships with consumers. Gone are the days of the transactional approach to doing business. Driving revenue from existing customers is simply much cheaper than continuously acquiring new ones. As competition becomes fiercer across all verticals and product categories, building brand loyalty is of paramount importance for brands that want to stay relevant in the years to come.

Second, if you have several buyer personas, it becomes a powerful channel for segmenting your messaging. Instead of doing what most marketers do—that is, “pumping” content out—granular segmentation allows marketers to step away from the shotgun approach of content marketing and towards a “sniper” mentality.

At the end of the day, it’s the right content delivered at the right time in the purchase funnel that truly moves the needle for brands. “Spray and pray” is simply not an approach that marketers should take two decades after the first ads appeared online.

Third, it brings convergence between brand advertising and performance teams. This can help brands and agencies build leaner teams, consolidate multiple platforms, and avoid an expensive overlap in reaching the same users. Awareness campaigns that have become synonymous with lack of accountability can start being closer tied to on-site engagements, events and ultimately sales.

Last but not least, as content-driven initiatives start moving down the funnel, we’ll see more brands invest in value-adding strategies to connect with consumers. Content’s non-interruptive delivery through native advertising creates a better user experience on the web and slows the ad blocking trend.

At the end of the day, all marketing and advertising efforts should accomplish one goal and one goal only: to drive sales now or in the future. With the adoption of real-time, data-driven technologies for the distribution of content, we’re witnessing a shift from content marketing to content “performance” marketing—a more sustainable and accountable way to drive business results by delivering value—adding content to consumers in a timely manner.

4 min read

How Trading Desks of all Shapes and Sizes Embrace Programmatic Native Advertising

In the year 2015, the concept of a trading desk is not new. While most industries’ programmatic veterans think of agency when they talk about trading desks, the fact is that trading desks have evolved into all shapes and sizes.

Nowadays, programmatic buying is so widely accepted that even the smallest agencies see the value in bringing a demand-side buying platform (DSP) on board. No longer having a trading desk is something that is reserved only for holding companies. In 2015, trading desks are formed from even a few team members using a DSP to buy media.

What’s also interesting is the breadth of companies that have started building trading desks. From individual publishers to large media companies, and from creative and PR agencies to ad networks – all see the value in bringing technology on board to power many outdated processes and bring targeting and optimization into the buying mix.

While trading desks usually have several platforms to buy various formats, for the sake of this article we will focus on Programmatic Native Advertising. (If you are unsure how native advertising is bought programmatically, please read up on it here).

What exactly do the above companies achieve by bringing a platform on board to buy native advertising programmatically?


Let us illustrate:

Creative and PR Agencies

Historically, there has been a clear delineation between creative and media agencies. Creative agencies came up with advertising campaigns, while media agencies made sure these campaigns got in front of the consumers. This may have worked when advertising was being pumped out in one direction – towards the consumers. But now the brand-to-consumer communication has evolved and it’s a two-way dialogue. The medium is the content that brands produce, and the distribution is social and native advertising channels.

With the increasing importance of having a tight feedback loop on content production and distribution, many creative and PR agencies are evolving to add paid channels as part of their offering. As content and media come closer together in the context of programmatic native advertising, creative and PR agencies that embrace new formats and channels to reach audiences at scale help their clients win big time.


Media Agencies

With content marketing booming, media agencies have the most pressure to redefine themselves. Built primarily for ‘push’ marketing strategies, many brands don’t see media agencies as being well equipped to execute campaigns beyond direct response initiatives. This has largely been due to the absence of media agencies’ capabilities to execute content-driven and social campaigns that many brands have brought in-house with the rise of social media as a content distribution channel.

As social is becoming more crowded, brands are now starting to move away from distributed media strategies and towards owning the content and engaging with consumers on their own properties.  Such developments are recent and many brands still need help with finding ways to reach new audiences with their content. This gives media agencies a perfect opportunity to bring innovative programmatic native advertising solutions in-house to take the lead on brands’ new content-driven strategies.


Publishers and Media Companies

The media landscape has drastically evolved over the last decade. With the wide adoption of real-time bidding and programmatic buying of banner ads, more and more brands care about the exact audiences they reach rather than where they do so. This has drastically commoditized publishers’ inventory.

What has not yet been commoditized is custom (or sponsored) content that publishers produce together with a brand. This content is then hosted on the publisher’s property and is read by its audience. As a part of the package, publishers often utilize an audience extension strategy to get additional reads to the custom content that they have produced for the brand. Unfortunately, up until now, they have been utilizing intrusive banner ads to deliver value-adding content.

In native advertising, where the branded content is discovered is very important. What many publishers and media companies have started doing is bringing native advertising buying platforms in-house to execute audience extension across the web. This is done through in-feed native ad formats that deliver content in a non-intrusive, cost-effective manner.


Independent Trading Desks and Ad Networks

These two have surprisingly grown close in their role over the last few years. Soon after the first independent trading desks (ITD) started popping up, ad networks realized the scale that they have is simply unmatched to the scale of the whole web that ITDs get through the demand-side platforms. When ITDs and ad networks rushed into programmatic buying of banner advertising, this commoditized their offering.

What ad networks have are relationships with publishers. That means by bringing programmatic native advertising in-house they can closely align brands’ campaigns with the sites they work with. Just like media companies, if ad networks create any custom content with their brands, they can utilize programmatic native advertising platforms to execute audience extension and amplify this content across the web for additional scale.

Programmatic native advertising technology can benefit ITDs in a different way. Because ITDs rarely have direct relationships with publishers, what they can bring to the table is a truly agnostic approach to supply sources and the technology. Since ITDs don’t have any obligations to publishers, their 100% focus on advertisers can deliver unparalleled results if the scale and cost-efficiencies of getting users to engage with content are what their brands are after.

4 min read