In 2013, IAB published its ground-breaking Native Advertising Playbook which provided the industry with a framework for considering and discussing native advertising options which were, at the time, beginning to gain traction in the marketplace. Since then, IAB has released numerous companion pieces to the Native Playbook and IAB Tech Lab has developed important native technical specifications such as Native OpenRTB, while the original Playbook remained unchanged. Until now.
Sixty-nine members of the IAB Social/Native/Content Committee assembled to discuss what updates were needed to the Playbook. While the group agreed that many parts of the Playbook had stood the test of time, other parts needed updates or modifications to reflect current marketplace thinking on native ad formats and evaluation. The result is the IAB Native Advertising Playbook 2.0 which we hope will stand the test of time for the next five years or longer!
Industry Changes: The Prelude section of the IAB Native Advertising Playbook 2.0 outlines the five key trends that have helped shape and/or enable native advertising growth since 2013:
The Definition of Native: Even with these industry changes and the dramatic growth of native, the one thing that DID NOT CHANGE was the definition:
The Core Native Ad Types: The original Playbook featured six core, distinct native ad types. Playbook 2.0 now includes three core types as follows, noted in green:
The Playbook details rationale for the changes based on current marketplace thinking, e.g., Promoted Listings are native, but they are considered In-Feed, so for simplicity sake, these can be considered as an In-Feed native ad vs. having its own distinctive native ad type designation. It is important to note that this does not preclude other formats not listed here from being considered native, they simply are not considered to be a core native unit at this point in time.
The IAB Native Evaluation Spectrum Criteria: With the on-going evolution of different types of native ad formats, the IAB Native Evaluation Spectrum Criteria is deemed more important than ever to help advertisers understand whether a native ad type will meet their objectives. The continuum framework is meant to allow buyers and sellers to share a common language to discuss ad products in the context of native, not to provide a definitive scaling mechanism for the industry. The key factors have been simplified and now include four key factors for a marketer to consider: Design, Location, Ad Behavior and Disclosure. These are described in the Playbook with visual examples to show variation between native ad unit types and even within the same native ad type, based on the execution.
Some members of the IAB Social/Native/Content Committee shared their predictions for native advertising in 2019 and beyond. What is clear from their responses is that native advertising is not only here to stay, it has become mainstream. In fact, “by the end of 2020, advertisers will devote almost two-thirds of display budgets to native ads” according to eMarketer. As you read member predictions, you’ll see some common themes emerge:
Click on the headshot to read individual IAB member predictions from ADYOULIKE, Bidtellect, The Foundry @ Meredith, GumGum, Influential, Jumpstart Automotive Media, Nudge, PowerLinks, Sharethrough, Spaceback, StackAdapt, Taboola, TRIVVER, and WHOSAY @ Viacom Ad Solutions:
Social Media Pioneered the Feed but Advertisers are recognizing the importance of context & premium publisher environments. Research published by AOP & NewsWorks shows that while social media brings high levels of immediate attention, long term brand value and engagement reach is questionable. The opposite is true of premium publisher environments. Social media is associated with high levels of immediate attention. Ads perform better in a premium editorial environment. It has been researched that engagement is 50% higher on premium editorial sites than during general free browsing. Better contextual targeting of native advertising is likely to be increasingly driven by advertisers in 2019.
1. The first wave of Native adoption has mostly been centered around the ad format itself, and how the ad renders across Publishers’ sites. This is mostly tactical0 and has been useful to prove the effectiveness of Native as a new digital format. The next wave will put more emphasis on the broader creative and content strategy that is being activated by the media execution.
2. The fusion of content and distribution will further break down some of the silos that are holding back broader adoption of Native, and help shift the mindset of Native as a format to Native as a strategy.
3. Advertising disciplines that are highly correlated including Branded Content, Programmatic Native, Content Marketing and Social will also begin to converge, opening up new areas of opportunity for Publishers and Marketers.
4. As the light shines on data practices and consumer privacy, better ad experiences to the end consumer are required. Native will play a big role in moving in this direction, including more relevancy and contextually aligned ads that don’t need to identify a specific person to be effective.
Native Advertising is maturing and with this growth, advertisers will demand a data and insights led approach across all project phases. The data and insights spotlight will require proof that the right content is being planned, that the correct optimizations are being administered in flight and that KPIs are being measured to determine ultimate success.
Advertisers already consider disclosure transparency, high-quality content, and brand safety to be the cost of entry. 2019 will be the year of “prove it.” Those who have the teams, technology, taxonomies, and expertise to remove any doubt of success will succeed.
Between the rising tide of governmental scrutiny on Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data usage and increasing interest on all types of contextual targeting, we see “native” as really what all advertising should be. Advertisers’ practice of allocating budgets according to fixed categories should fall out of favor. Instead, advertisers will emphasize performance and consumer sentiment in determining where and how budgets are spent. Native will, thus, become intrinsic to every ad placement, rather than demanding a separate and specifically “native” ad budget.
1. Data Insights (impressions, benchmarking, etc.) will continue to be leveraged in influencer marketing as a way to drive engagement, awareness, and sales.
2. 2019 is the year of attribution. What’s available data-wise on social media is far greater than any other medium, and the influence of social media will only continue to grow be the agent of change in digital marketing.
3. Talent is becoming ubiquitous – influencers and celebrities will become interchangeable in campaigns.
4. In 2019, budgets will double for influencer marketing — a lot of that money is going towards paid media (because it’s proving to be more effective than native).
As advertisers continue to scrutinize native performance, publishers will demand a higher level of integration within their content in order to augment the user experience and not disrupt it—and they’ll do this by taking control of the styling and execution as much as possible. From manipulating the appearance of the units themselves to leveraging third-party data to tailor advertiser messaging; content providers will push for enhanced native products that provide deeper value to their users.
The year of streamlining
Early adopters aren’t thinking about the medium as “native,” rather they’re focused on the best way for content to be distributed. Smart marketers are working hard to get more out of their existing spend, and as brands navigate and scale operations they need to streamline their operations.
This means less spray and pray and awarding more business to the strongest pitches. On the plus side, this means deeper relationships with those providing transparent, quality, and relationship-driven partnerships.
As consumers focus more on privacy and respect, it will fuel demand for smart thoughtful content delivered natively.”
1. Improved measurement and attribution will highlight the value of content marketing and native distribution in the upper and mid-funnel. In the wake of GDPR and with a keen eye on data quality, the momentum is behind 1st party data and context. Marketers will increasingly build segments based on content engagement and will turn to native to nurture engaged audiences and to generate 1st party CRM growth.
2. Ad Servers & Platforms will extend on their native & social creative capabilities. The industry will start to release the shackles of fixed format sizes and shift to component-based creative, making ad delivery more responsive across all formats, devices & publishers. The word “native” will lose prominence as the minimum expectation becomes dynamic, responsive and respectful creative.
Native advertising will kickstart growth in the display ad market. While native is the fastest growing category of digital media, traditional display has stagnated, with little to no growth in the past few years. Advertisers that spend significantly on legacy banner advertising will recognize that if the goal is the human connection, comprehension, and cognition, those banners must adapt to the new web to fit in more naturally. As a result, advertising dollars traditionally earmarked for display will flow to native display.
Similarly, advertisers investing in traditional outstream video (a video player that appears with no context in the middle of an article) will reevaluate budgets earmarked for traditional outstream video and shift more of that spend to native outstream (video ads with headlines and context).
More closed platforms will launch native advertising networks to widen their reach. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter all have thriving ad networks that bring their ads to users “off platform.” In 2019, platforms like Pinterest, Yelp, Reddit, and Pandora will launch their own ad networks, of course, anchored around native ad formats.
Local news will thrive again. Facebook and Google have each committed $300 towards local news organizations and are motivated to help independent journalism survive and thrive. New business models will take center stage, rooted in native monetization: native ads, as well as subscriptions, in-content e-commerce referrals, and more.
Brands will continue to become increasingly reliant on social media for storytelling and relationship building. As the quality and quantity of content increases, brands will look to new ways to leverage these investments. Rather than remain 2 disparate silos, brands will look to new technologies to bridge the gap between paid and social media. We will see the emergence of “social media amplification” where brands (especially direct-to-consumer) think more about extending the reach of social media content beyond the walled-gardens than traditional display advertising.
In 2013, native advertising was seen as a channel to combat banner blindness. Over the next 3 years, content marketers picked up on the value of the paid distribution — access to hyper-relevant audiences on demand. Starting around 2016, programmatic buying of native ads, with its ability to leverage data for optimization and targeting, pushed the trend into the marketing stack of digital media specialists who often have performance goals in mind — sales, conversions, driving foot traffic. With eMarketer predicting native ads to account for over 60% of digital ad spending in 2019, it is safe to say that native advertising has gone mainstream. Next year we’ll see more agencies build their offering around this ad format — further expansion into content marketing offering, resources to build native-first creative, and onboarding software to automate business processes.
I suspect native will transform the web from some single “native spots” on the page to an endless amount of them—a feed construct that never ends, enabling a consistent native rendering of things people can interact with. Similar to social networks, the rest of the native industry will follow with ad types evolving from a thumbnail/title native feed format, video, and data. This is even more relevant in a mobile environment where video renders beautifully in a feed.
In 2019 we will see an explosion of native advertising being deployed into immersive environments. Augmented & Virtual Reality are great examples, traditional 2D banner ads and video ads drastically erode the user’s 3D experience, it’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole. Product placement where users can learn and engage with brands in a non-intrusive manner within AR & VR is going to have a major impact in Native advertising. Furthermore, this new ‘virtual hands-on’ engagement with native branded content will deliver vital user engagement metrics that will enhance future targeted native advertising.
2019 will herald the re-emergence of creativity at the heart of the success of every native campaign. Great distribution cannot make bad creative perform and as advertisers fully embrace this reality, there will be an increased need in leveraging the power of creative partners and content creators.