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Outlook 2018: Brand Safety & Transparency are the Game Changers for Native Advertising

Last year’s IAB predictions for content marketing and native advertising focused on mobile, native and data as the game changers.  And while this largely holds true for this year, a few new themes have emerged that have changed the tone and outlook for this type of marketing, namely brand safety, transparency and the growing role of AI.  Focus on brand safety, in particular, has forced content marketers to take a second look at content distribution, with an eye toward higher quality, “safer”, contextual placement over reach/scale.  In many ways, this reflects the maturation of content marketing, branded/sponsored content and native advertising in a world where brand safety concerns are looming larger than ever before.

As we begin 2018, some members of the IAB Social Media/Native/Content Committee shared their predictions for content marketing and native advertising which you can read below.  As you read the predictions, you will see a number of consistent themes which we’ve highlighted in the infographic:

 

Click on each headshot to read individual IAB member predictions from AdYouLike, Bidtellect, GumGum, Influential, rewardStyle, Sharethrough, StartApp, Storyful, Triplelift, Turner Ignite, and Unruly:

Photo of Lon Otremba
Lon Otremba
Bidtellect
Photo of Lon Otremba
Lon Otremba
CEO

In 2018, the barrier between content creation and content distribution will come down. Right now, these two strategies often exist in silos, preventing one from influencing the other and causing marketers to miss a significant opportunity. With the two pieces linked, marketers can gather behavioral insights from distribution campaigns and feed them back into their creation strategy, leading to smarter, more valuable content for consumers.

In 2018 these two pieces of content marketing will work in conjunction, enabling marketers to travel the “last mile” in linking the right content with the right consumer, at the right moment in time.

Photo of Phil Schraeder
Phil Schraeder
GumGum
Photo of Phil Schraeder
Phil Schraeder
President and COO

While Native Advertising continues to grow tremendously this year, it remains plagued by brand safety issues. Traditional approaches to brand safety rely strictly on analyzing headlines and text that appears on a publisher’s site. This is not a fail-safe solution. By focusing on text only, brands that run native ads are occasionally associated with unsafe images such as car crashes, guns, hate speech, etc. With the latest development of AI (Artificial Intelligence), brands will increasingly use computer vision to identify unsafe imagery and deliver its ads in safe, contextually relevant environments.

Photo of Ryan Detert
Ryan Detert
Influential
Photo of Ryan Detert
Ryan Detert
CEO

In 2018, we will see the continued emergence of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the influencer marketing space. In 2017, we saw huge growth in the use of AI to measure personality characteristics, natural language understanding, and tone analyzation of text, but brand marketers are now asking for AI to go a step further. The next evolution will be visual AI, which will include photo and video recognition. Using visual data, AI will be able to not only analyze content, it will also be able to be used for media targeting through video object and pattern recognition.

Photo of Amber Venz Box
Amber Venz Box
rewardStyle
Photo of Amber Venz Box
Amber Venz Box
Co-Founder + President

I predict the following for Native Advertising in 2018:

  1. Time spent inside of mobile, closed social platforms will increase, furthering society’s reliance on influencer recommendations to inform consumptive decisions, and resulting in the exponential growth of influencer marketing budgets.
  2. Pressured for positive ROI (Return-on-investment) in a period of transition from ‘bricks to clicks,’ marketers will require true rationalization of influencer marketing spend, moving to providers who offer full-funnel tracking inside of closed mobile social environments.
  3. Marketing technology that narrows the gap between discovery and consumption will be required to meet evolving consumer expectations in an on-demand economy.

 

Photo of Dan Greenberg
Dan Greenberg
Sharethrough
Photo of Dan Greenberg
Dan Greenberg
CEO/Founder

Cookie tracking changes on iOS and the coming implementation of GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation) will force brands to make a major shift in 2018, realizing that cookie-only targeting will mean missing out on reaching some of the highest value iPhone users. In parallel to cookie-based targeting, marketers will begin to use context and content for identifying pools of high value users, delivering ads that complement the surrounding content. This will shift ad spending away from the long-tail and towards well-lit editorial content sites. This will make native more important than ever in the media mix, allowing brands to invest in ads that consumers are less inclined to block, and enabling them to improve their ad performance and brand awareness by using trusted publishers to read curated, high value audiences.

Photo of Caitlin Gutekunst
Caitlin Gutekunst
StartApp
Photo of Caitlin Gutekunst
Caitlin Gutekunst
Director, Digital Content

My predictions for Native Advertising in 2018:

1. Brands find it hard to reach consumers in the fractured social & messaging landscape. Brands must participate through authentic owned creative that encourages consumers to be ambassadors.

2. Everyone wants a chatbot! But Natural Language Processing is hard to scale, so the quickest path to consumers will be within navigational UI (User Interface) to optimize flow and remain consumer-focused.

3. Social platforms are aware of their value and they understand that owning the audience has an advertising ROI. Branded experiences like filters, emojis, and more will now need to be factored into media budgets.

Photo of Mike Hess
Mike Hess
Storyful
Photo of Mike Hess
Mike Hess
VP of Marketing

For branded content, authenticity will take center stage in 2018. Not just beautiful, high gloss content but content that actually reflects and utilizes the interests and sentiments of the people brands are trying to reach. That means looking deeper than a few top-level metrics and activating celebrity influencers. Successful brands will really explore the conversations of social communities and derive insights from those conversations to create content that’s meaningful for the audience and relevant to the brand.

Photo of Ari Lewine
Ari Lewine
TripleLift
Photo of Ari Lewine
Ari Lewine
Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer

I predict the following for Native Advertising in 2018:

1. 100% year over year growth in native programmatic as DSPs make native ad buying as seamless as buying banner ads
2. Shift to more engaging ad experiences such as native video, gifs, cinemagraphs, carousels, 360 video, etc.
3. Focus on brand safety, transparency, and supply chain results in reallocation of spend from traditional video towards native video, as inventory becomes scarce
4. Continued market confusion around the types of native
5. Analytics becomes both an input and output for branded content

Photo of Michal Shapira
Michal Shapira
Turner Ignite
Photo of Michal Shapira
Michal Shapira
SVP of News Content Partnerships

The year of high-quality video:
In 2018, we anticipate there to be a renewed focus on high-quality, video-led brand storytelling. While the bulk produced will remain short-form, we predict that more marketers will experiment with longer-form formats, which can enable a more profound, emotional connection with the consumer – and platforms will extend beyond digital and social to experiential and TV.

Upsurge in emerging video ad formats:
As publishers continue to look for ways to cut through the clutter, and consumers continue to seek engaging content experiences, video developed with special functionality, such as AR/VR, interactivity, animation, and for us specifically at CNN, live branded content, will be on the rise.

Increased focus on brand metrics:
In addition to time spent, completion rate and engagement metrics, there will be a greater focus on branded content’s accountability to measure and deliver on brand attributes, such as awareness, perception and lift.

Shakeout on the horizon for smaller, social-only publishers:
Heavy competition in branded content will start a shakeout among smaller, social-only publishers. Bigger, established media companies are now entering the space aggressively, and with clients pushing for quality and audience credibility, smaller players will struggle to fund the robust operations required to compete.

Photo of Steven Sottile
Steven Sottile
Unruly
Photo of Steven Sottile
Steven Sottile
US, President

Increased machine learning capabilities means that 2018 will be the year smart marketers use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to harness data and create more personal ad experiences.

The industry is demanding greater personalization, in both dynamic content and custom targeting. Brands that create personalized experiences using digital technologies and customer data on average see revenue increases of 6 – 10%.

But with 90% of the world’s data created in the last two years, analyzing all this increased information is a major challenge. In 2018 we’ll see more businesses step up to the plate and unpack big data in clever ways.

Photo of Francis Turner
Francis Turner
AdYouLike
Photo of Francis Turner
Francis Turner
Co-Founder, US GM & CRO

Native continues to prove it’s a viable and worthy format. This year we should see native display ads topple banner in total ad spend for the first time ever. And artificial intelligence (AI) will become more sophisticated in 2018. AI lets us scan and analyze text and video content on a much faster scale. It eliminates ad waste and delivers content that’s contextually relevant, more precise, and ultimately better for the user. AI can also help ensure brand safety. This has never been more important, and initiatives like ads.txt (Authorized Digital Sellers) will help the industry filter out unauthorized and fraudulent activity.

In addition to AI, we’ll see marketers increasingly experiment with Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO). DCO means that situational data, environmental factors, time-of-day, the weather, live information, and a host of additional third-party user data can all be added to increase relevancy and the performance of campaigns.

We’ll see more and more marketers embrace the Holy Trinity of digital advertising in 2018: high performance native ad units that engage customers; deep AI analysis, targeting, and data; and dynamic, hyper-personal creatives. This is the future and 2018 is when we’ll see these products and services become ubiquitous.

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For more on native advertising, join us at the 2018 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting (February 11-13) and attend sessions such as “Brand Safety in a Programmatic World” and “AI & Machine Learning. Fact or Fiction? Hype or Opportunity”. Learn more at www.iab.com/alm.