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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and from creative and PR agencies to ad networks – all see the value in bringing technology on board to power many outdated processes and bring targeting and optimization into the buying mix.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

Challenges Brands Face When Executing Native Advertising (originally appeared on Marketing Magazine)

Article originally appeared on Marketing Magazine

Native advertising, which is a strategy to reach consumers with branded content in a non-interruptive fashion is being talked about a lot in 2015. This year in the US alone, eMarketer predicts native advertising will grow to the size of the entire digital ad spend in Canada, or about $4.5B.

Seeing the success of our neighbours to the south, it is not surprising that more brands in Canada are exploring how branded content can be leveraged to stand above the competition in speaking to consumers. Unfortunately, native advertising is not as simple as creating a banner ad and requires a fundamentally different mindset on how consumers build affection with a brand.

So what are the main challenges that brands face when it comes to executing native advertising?

Brands think interruption instead of engagement

When we talk about native advertising, it is hard not to speak about the overarching concept of content marketing. This is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience (CMI). The fundamental notion behind content marketing is communicating with consumers through content without selling.

Such an approach may seem counterintuitive to many marketers; however, the realities of breaking through the noise have changed. With so much advertising thrown at consumers, they simply tune out. For example, nearly 90% of TV viewers skip advertisements on their digital video recorders (The Guardian).

Consumers are tired of being sold to. They seek out content that brings them value, and oftentimes it is produced by brands. (Think of LEGO and their excellent content marketing in the form of theme parks and a recently released 3D cartoon.) Progressive brands that see value in content opt in to channels that deliver this value-adding content through non-interruptive channels. Native advertising offers just that. Unlike pop-up banner or pre-roll advertising that interrupts the user experience, native advertising offers consumers a choice to interact with a branded message.

Brands don’t have processes built around content marketing

Content marketing is new; hence it’s the new-age companies that were super successful in adopting it. HubSpot, Shopify and Netflix are some of the very notable examples. What is interesting is that many mega-brands are becoming very savvy with content too. Intel, MasterCard and P&G are all starting to build internal teams to focus on producing value to consumers through content that brings benefits outside the core value proposition of their product. However, the unfortunate reality is that most brands are lost when it comes to content marketing. While two thirds of all B2C companies are using content marketing, only 27% of companies have a clearly documented strategy (CMI research). According to the study, 50% of the marketers have a strategy only in verbal form. This just shows how far we are from having brands take content seriously.

Brands are uncertain how to measure the results

Over the last 20 years of digital advertising, marketers have been molded into Direct Response-first thinkers: drivetraffic, increase conversions, and then increase sales. The realities have changed. Consumers are bombarded with offers and deals daily. What many companies are starting to realize is that one of the most sustainable ways to ensure brand loyalty is not by constantly incentivizing purchases, but by connecting with consumers on a deep level—aligning the company’s values with theirs.

According to the same study done by the Content Marketing Institute, the key metrics that are used to measure the success of content marketing are traffic (60%), sales (54%) and conversion rate (39%). These priorities signal one thing—brands still think of content (and in turn native advertising) as a performance channel. What is more interesting is how many companies attribute these metrics to actual return on investment (ROI). A shocking 21% of respondents admit to not even attempting to track it.

Tracking direct response metrics, having no documented strategy on creating and distributing content, and not tracking ROI from content that is produced are all reasons why only a third of marketers consider content marketing effective. That’s the bad news. The good news is that with native advertising being a paid media channel, tracking ROI is easier, as it leverages many of the familiar strategies used in other paid media channels.

When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of native advertising, Toronto-based StackAdapt encourages brands to get serious about data and analytics. First and foremost, brands need to set benchmarks. That is, to segment users based on the source they come from, look at the content engagement metrics (time on site, page views, social actions etc.) and take the holistic approach by understanding users’ path to conversion analysis. Second, companies that invest in upper- and mid-funnel strategies to build brand awareness, brand affinity, and purchase intent need to split test native advertising with existing paid media channels such as banner advertising. Key performance indicators can include reach, frequency, cost per visit, and engagement metrics described above.

4 min read

Will existing attribution models work for native advertising? (Guest Article on iMediaConnections)

Blog post originally appeared on iMediaConnections. Read the original story here.


The majority of B2B and B2C brands now invest in content marketing, yet 55 percent of B2B companies believe content marketing campaigns are ineffective. Could this be because we measure the effectiveness of content (and native advertising channels that distribute it) the same way we do banner advertising?

Let’s start by taking a closer look at how users have been engaging with brands through banner advertising and their typical consumer journey to a purchase:

  1. The user sees an ad and clicks on it to go to the brand’s website.
  2. The user adds a product to the cart, but doesn’t complete the purchase.
  3. A retargeting company that works with a brand displays ads to the user to get him or her to come back to the site and finish the purchase.
  4. Some days later, the user decides to return to the site and uses Google to find the home page.
  5. The user completes the purchase.
  6. A retargeting company gets a conversion based on the “last ad seen” post-view attribution model.

Now, let’s look at how native advertising and branded content fits in the consumer journey:

  1. The user reads a piece of content distributed through a native advertising channel and visits the brand’s website.
  2. The user adds a product to the cart, but doesn’t complete the purchase.
  3. A retargeting company that works with a brand displays ads to the user to get him or her to come back to the site and finish the purchase.
  4. Some days later, the user is engaged by branded content and decides to return to the site, using Google to find the home page.
  5. The user completes the purchase.
  6. A retargeting company gets a conversion based on the “last ad seen” post-view attribution model.

As you can see, the end result for both journeys is the same. A brand invested in producing and distributing branded content, but in the end it’s as if it had no impact on the conversion whatsoever. It becomes even more absurd if you take into consideration that 54 percent of all display ads are not seen. That means a retargeting company needs to simply “load” the ad, even if it’s below the fold, to get the conversion based on the most common attribution model — “last ad seen.” Because of the massive scale that a retargeting company can tap into with banner ads, it’s able to almost always be the last company to load the ad, before users go back to the site.

Stats vary across different brands, but post-view conversions often take up more than 90 percent of all conversions, which means content gets no credit for its impact on any user’s consumer journey to purchase. An IPG Media Lab study commissioned by Forbes indicated that consumers were 41 percent more likely to express intent to buy the brand versus those who saw a regular web page with no branded content. The problem arises when it comes to actually attributing a purchase back to the original content. What existing attribution models are missing in a context of branded content and native advertising is the measurement of effectiveness of content — users’ engagement with it. Time of site, page views, social sharing — these are all ways to measure users’ engagement post-click.

There is no commonly agreed-upon way to tie in the branded content engagement to the most widespread attribution model — post-view. While likely there will never be a “one size fits all” approach to linking the impact of content to conversions, brands need to start taking steps to better understand this channel’s role in driving online sales. This could mean tagging all campaigns with ad serving tags in order to see where branded content affected the sale.

Attribution models are not perfect, and they are exponentially weaker in the context of native advertising. As more and more brands start investing in native advertising, it is important to understand how the existing models of attributing conversions work in the context of content-driven and native advertising.

4 min read

Measuring the Effectiveness of Native Advertising

Native advertising has quickly become the emerging and most potent new channel in the digital arsenal of media buyers and planners. It is essential to fully and completely understand where this new method fits into the consumer funnel, and also to understand how to properly measure its effectiveness at achieving campaign objectives.

Establishing the framework to measure the effectiveness of Native Advertising will help this new channel to increase its adoption among media executives and our most important account clients. We’ll outline the foundation of this framework to measure the effectiveness of Native Ads. 

1. Utilize platform-specific tracking and optimization: conversions, time on site, engagement.

Given a growing number of options media buyers now have when they choose a native advertising provider, it’s critical to ask what kind of measurement capabilities the individual platform has. What separates the best from the rest?

Most platforms use the common measurement of “ad impression” quality and effectiveness built in. These can be metrics such as ad viewability (%), ad viewability time(s), brand safety, non-human traffic, etc.  Or, these metrics can be easily obtained by attaching a variety of measurement and verification tags from 3rd party providers. Properly analyzing this data: media buyers will learn a indispensable amount of valuable information about the quality of native placements which they have in the market.

Besides this, some platforms now offer analysis beyond the click. It can be something as simple as installing a conversion pixel (tailored to a specific action on the site), or something more sophisticated, such as getting a platform-specific analytics pixel that can measure things like average time on site, page views, content shares, new vs. return traffic, etc.

The bottom line is that it’s critical to fully understand what each platform has to offer and take full advantage of all capabilities. As the AdTech market grows the defining factor determining the winners for digital dollars from Brands and Agencies alike are the functionality and features offered by each platform.

2. Use click-macros to get as much information from the click as possible – domain URL, etc. 

This can be an alternative solution when it’s not possible to place any type of analytics pixel on the page.

Click macros are essentially small pieces of program, code that can be inserted into the destination URL (either manually or automatically), and they pass some critical information about the click to the site’s analytics software. It can be very valuable information such as the domain URL, geo location of the click, product price, etc.

This will provide a more detailed breakdown of the overall traffic from this native ad provider, and help media buyers make some optimization decisions; for example, allocating more budgets to specific sites based on “average time on site” analysis.

3. Split Test Everything!!

In any and all marketing campaign there are a lot of variables coming from a variety of angles.

  1. On the (native) ad level – there is an image, headline and a body text (for the majority of native units).
  2. On the placement level – there is an option of serving on thousands of sites, on various contextual verticals, etc.
  3. On the targeting level – there are interest segments, device types, frequency caps, day parting, etc.

Older marketing wisdom states: target the right user, in the right place (environment) at the right time. So it’s not hard to imagine that a small tweak in the combination of those variables above can affect the campaign in a really big way for a huge advantage.

These days the majority of campaigns can auto-optimize now. For example, platforms can take a large number of combinations (obtained by mixing different variables), serve them at an equal weight, and then focus on the best combinations.

The simple advice here is to pick at least three variables of each element (three images, three headlines, three body text elements, three contextual categories, etc.) and serve them at an equal rate. This will provide an enormous amount of learnings for future campaigns.

 4. Holistic view of digital – utilize Path to Conversion Analysis

The last piece of advice–and arguably the most sophisticated one–is to take a holistic view of all your digital initiatives by utilizing the path to conversion analysis. In the simplest terms: this is done by “tagging” all your digital channels with time-stamped measurement tags. The majority of ad servers provide this type of analysis these days to help as well.

This way, every time a specific ad unit is served or clicked on (depending on the attribution model), this is being recorded, and can later be analyzed to understand how the customer interacted with various channels on the way to converting.

For instance, you can see that a customer first interacted with banners (with or without clicking), then read a piece of content on the brand’s page by following a native ad, was later exposed to re-targeting banners, and then found the product page through search and converted.

 This type of approach–when you make data and measurement the central piece of any campaign–allows media buyers to learn from existing campaigns and improve on future ones.

These methods have been tried and tested and marked for success on our end and is the best approach in the new data-driven marketing world.

4 min read

Trends That Gave Rise to Native Advertising (Featured on Marketing Magazine)

Digital advertising evolution: a closer look at the fundamentals. Piece originally appeared on Marketing Magazine

In 2015 the term that undeniably takes centre stage in the digital media world is native advertising. Even though many marketers continue to battle over exactly which advertisements should be called native, the fundamental premise is the same: uninterrupted delivery of content produced by or in collaboration with a brand. To understand why native advertising gained such momentum over the last couple of years, we ought to look at the underlying industry trends that will continue to shape native advertising as one of the dominant digital media channels.

Shift to values-based advertising

When advertising first emerged, the main focus was the list of its features to differentiate it from the competition. However, as more companies started competing for consumer attention, it became evident that it is impossible to win the ‘feature war.’ What more progressive brands came to realize is that in order to win consumers over, they had to connect with them on a level deeper than just transactional. The emergence of social media, which allowed brands to shift from a monologue to a two-way conversation with consumers, presented an opportunity to engage with consumers by showing shared values and being more human. The democratization of such powerful distribution channels allowed even smaller companies to show their human side. Take Green Shoe Studio, a production company based in East Peoria, IL. Instead of focusing on the capabilities of their recording studio, they instead showcased their values by allowing an elderly man to record a love song in tribute to his wife. This short documentary generated millions of views on YouTube.

Shift to Pull Marketing

According to a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013—a second shorter than that of a gold fish. This comes as no surprise, given that the typical Internet user is exposed to up to 3000 advertisements a day (Huffington Post). As a result, more brands see the value in finding ways to get users to discover them in order to stand above the crowd of competition that aggressively pushes their messages at consumers.

Such thinking gave rise to the concept of content marketing: a strategic initiative of creating content that delivers value beyond the core product offering. The underlying magic of content marketing is that it delivers value in a non-interruptive manner. “Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent” (CMI). According to the Content Marketing Institute, over 90% of all companies now invest in content marketing. As the creation of content increases, so does the need for scalable distribution channels.

Brands start to think like publishers

Traditionally publishers approached their monetization by building an audience and then selling opportunities to engage with their audience to advertisers. Prior to the wide adoption of social and native channels, brands in turn relied heavily on these publishers with their established distribution channels to reach their consumers with content. However, with the proliferation of the aforementioned digital distribution channels, brands began to realize the efficiencies in reaching the right audience that these channels have created.

Instead of relying just on the audience of a particular publisher, brands take a publisher-agnostic approach to distribute their content through programmatic native advertising technology partners. By producing original content and hosting it on their properties, they are able to cherry pick the audience of interest and drive users to this content. Native advertising channels emerge to complement closed social media networks and reach users with branded content across the web.

Everything goes mobile 

The current challenge that markets face is that most of the Internet, together with the advertising solutions to monetize it—banner ads—have evolved around static web. The nature of mobile content consumption rotates largely around the concept of infinite scrolling, similar to that of large social networks like Facebook. This evolution called for new ad formats that are integrated ‘in-feed.’ The historical solution for mobile has been tiny ads (300×50) that don’t provide enough room for delivering a brand message. On top of that, over 50% of clicks are reported accidental (Business Insider).

Today, well over half of Canadians own a smartphone (Catalyst) and their mobile usage grows exponentially. Mobile data traffic is expected to grow 762% by 2018 (Financial Post). As expected, advertisers see this growing appetite for mobile usage as an opportunity to reach consumers on the go. The strong demand for new ad formats to address the evolved nature of content consumption on mobile devices, called for a solution that would link the marketing message to the user experience.

First pioneered by social networks and search giant Google, we are seeing native advertising strategy being widely adopted. As per a study done by eMarketer, 73% of US media buyers now invest in native advertising. And rightfully so; according to a study done at IPG Media Lab, native advertising beats banner ads on every engagement metric, from increasing brand favorability to a lift in purchase intent.

4 min read

Native Advertising DSP: Programmatic Approach to Buying In-Feed Native Ads

Programmatic buying is breaking into the native advertising industry with IAB’s recent release of OpenRTB 2.3 and Native Ads v1.0 protocol for automated trading of media. The mission behind the release is to foster innovation in Real-Time Bidding (RTB) marketplace for Native Ads by providing a technology standard for companies to innovate around. By establishing this open, flexible, standard for the new ad format, In-Feed Native Advertising, the programmatic ecosystem will see its rapid adoption amongst publishers and advertisers.

The fundamental difference of the new OpenRTB 2.3 protocol is that it allows for passing individual ad elements in a form of metadata, unlike banner advertising where a static image file is being passed. This allows for virtually infinite variability in what native ads can look like. A company that played a major role in defining the key elements an in-feed native ad should have is Facebook.

Over last few years we have seen several companies enter the native advertising industry. Their work primarily resembled that of an ad network — they juggled working with both publishers and advertisers. Even though native advertising implies integration and customization, every company needed some degree of standardization to grow the size of the publisher network they can tap into, on the premise of which they can attract more advertiser dollars. We’ve seen this happen to banner and video ad formats, and it is now happening in native advertising too — companies start shifting towards either supply-side to represent publishers (and become an exchange or an SSP) or demand-side to represent advertisers. This narrow focus is instrumental in avoiding the conflict of interest ad networks have — having to maximize revenue for publishers while driving the most ROI for advertisers. These conflicting goals can on be avoided in an open marketplace environment.


Native Advertising is gobbling up budgets, but the novelty for the new format is quickly is wearing off and media buyers started to demand performance. It may have been sufficient to simply integrate a native ad in a contextually relevant environment 2 years ago, but in 2015 buyers want to make sure the right users see these ads. In fact, according to eMarketer, 70% of media buyers place audience-targeting as a top priority when buying native advertising. With the rise of native advertising exchanges such as AdsNative, PubNative, DistroScale etc., trading desks looked for a platform that would allow tapping into all of the exchanges for maximum scale, targeting and workflow efficiencies. Native Advertising DSP allows buying native advertising across all exchanges through one interface. Some of the most notable advantages of using a DSP to buy native advertising:

  1. Centralizing campaign reporting provides actionable data across all exchanges.
  2. Leveraging DSPs machine learning algorithms allows for optimization of campaigns across all exchanges towards one goal.
  3. Having full transparency on where the ads are running and the cost that is associated with buying native ads. Centralized platforms make campaign pacing decisions and budgeting easy.
  4. Appling frequency cap on all media buys. This eliminates scenarios in which a user is over-exposed to ads through different exchanges. Having a universal frequency cap ensures users that have converted on the site are removed from targeting across all exchanges and aren’t targeted over and over again.
  5. Buying advertising against 1st or 3rd party data across all exchanges. This ties into the point above, of having tight control of what users are targeted, how often, and with what message.

Native advertising channel is an infrequent opportunity for brands to get an upper hand on their competition by scaling engaging content to build deep connections with consumers. With the wide adoption of automated ad buying, Native Advertising DSPs provides brands with a cutting-edge access point to serve native ads to their target audience at scale with full pricing and site-level transparency.

4 min read

Programmatic Native Advertising Platforms vs. Native Ad Networks

The native advertising industry continues to boom. In the US alone, eMarketer predicts $4.5B in 2015 to go towards content sponsorships, native ad integrations, and programmatic native channels. What is particularly notable is the growth rate. The industry that piggybacks on the massive trend of content marketing, is expecting to grow 45% from 2014, and continue growing at the 25% rate for 3 years after.

It is not surprising that more marketers are catching up on the terminology trying to make sense of the ever-evolving landscape of digital advertising. It seems as though new companies claiming to do Native Advertising is popping up every week, and as more buyers starting to invest in it for content distribution, more clarification is needed to distinguish the two fundamentally different buying and selling concepts: Programmatic Native Advertising Platforms vs. Native Ad Networks.

Native Ad Networks

A natural stage in scaling new ad formats a.k.a. solving ‘chicken and egg’. It always starts the same way — buyers want to buy a new ad format which isn’t available on publishers’ sites since they don’t yet see the dollars for such ad formats. Ad networks help aggregate supply and demand to start pushing new formats forward.

Ad networks dominated early 2000’s in banner advertising, and Native Ad Networks were brands’ go-to partner to buy and sell native until late 2013. Traditionally they are characterized by working directly with both publishers and advertisers. While this is certainly a step up from having advertiser directly reach out to publishers for advertising campaigns, Native Ad Networks are limited by:

  1. Conflict of Interest. Advertisers look to get the lowest CPM rates, while publishers look to get the highest CPMs possible. Ad networks have to constantly juggle the two sides without bringing 100% efficiencies to just one side.
  2. Arbitrage. Ad Networks don’t operate on dynamic CPM model, hence, there are opportunities for arbitrage and sky-high margins. An Ad Network negotiates the CPM price for ad inventory, which it later resells to advertisers.
  3. Limited scale and targeting. Because inventory price is pre-negotiated, impressions are not sold on impression-by-impression level. Which means advertisers pay even for users they aren’t interested in advertising to.

Aside some obvious drawbacks, Ad Networks bring value in offering custom units that aren’t often sold through programmatic channels. They also are able to guarantee impressions, which platforms can’t do in a real-time bidding environment.


Programmatic Native Advertising Platforms

Unlike ad networks, platforms are characterized by:

  1. Focus. Represent either supply-side (publishers) or demand-side (advertisers). This allows a platform to have laser-focus on maximizing returns for the party they represent. Publishers make more money with supply-side platforms (SSP), while advertisers get stronger return on investment when working with demand-side platforms (DSP).
  2. Real time. Buying and selling of Native Ads happen on impression-by-impression level in a real-time bidding marketplace type of environment. This allows buyers to leverage 1st and 3rd party data to bid only on an audience of interest. For example, being able to buy native ad impressions only for males 25-34 in Toronto who are actively looking for a new mid-size vehicle.
  3. Tight control over impressions. Programmatic platforms allow for frequency capping to ensure users aren’t overly exposed to the same message. This ensures good user experience on publisher site, as well as strong ROI for advertisers.
  4. Scale. Because programmatic platforms are heavily relying on technology, their buying and selling capacity is much more scalable. That mean DSPs can work with dozens of Native Ad exchanges to buy native ad inventory, and SSPs can plug into dozens of DSPs to sell native ads.
4 min read

What Is a Native Ad?

When we start diving into the topics of Native Advertising, it comes as no surprise that the fundamental question that needs to be answered first is: “What is a native ad?”; and this is the question that we’ll kick off our series with. First, let’s try to distinguish two similar sounding terms — Native Advertising versus a Native ad.

  • Native Advertising is a strategy to seamlessly present branded content to a consumer.
  • Native Ad is the product of the strategy.

Native Ad is a paid advertisement that resembles the form of the content that appears on the publisher property or a platform. As a strategy Native Advertising is largely dominated by content-driven message from an advertiser. An advertiser produces branded content (articles, videos etc.) or works with a publisher’s editorial staff to develop sponsored content, and then seeks ways to distribute it to reach the target audience. (Stay tuned for follow up posts to learn more about the difference between Branded and Sponsored content). To get the content in front of the target audience, an advertiser can approach Native Advertising in two forms of the ad units:

  • Distribute branded content through snippets of content preview natively integrated in the publisher’s site or a platform.
  • Integrate sponsored content entirely on the publisher’s property.

Here is an example of an ad (content preview) on a social media platform. Volkswagen works with Twitter to drive users to their content hub:


Content snippets are called In-Stream Native Ads. Here is an example of this unit from ContactMonkey on a publisher’s property:


Here is the ad that comes in a form of sponsored content that is fully integrated in the publisher property. GE works with The Economist in this example:


To summarize, a Native Ad, regardless of where the content is hosted, is an advertisement that preserves the ‘look and feel’ and closely aligns with the property that it is displayed on.

Native Advertising is a way to present either entire sponsored content or a snippet of the branded content. The fundamental differentiator of Native Advertising is that unlike other forms of disruptive advertising (think popup ads, or page takeovers), it presents advertiser’s message without interrupting user experience on the site or platform.

4 min read