Native advertising has fundamentally shifted the way publishers and brands have distributed their content via paid ad formats, largely with in-feed ad units on Content, Social, and Product feeds. We spoke with some members of the IAB Native Advertising/Content Committee to get their take on where native advertising is headed in 2017. What we found was that while much is expected to stay the same, some shifts and new direction are anticipated in 2017. There are also some continuing challenges that the industry must address to ensure that the paid distribution of content via native advertising remains a viable and sound option for publishers and brands alike.
Below are some of the key areas brought up by IAB members which provides a snapshot of what 2017 may look like for native. Most of these revolve around Mobile, Video, and Data. There is certainly a lot to consider as we move into the New Year and there is likely more that we cannot even envision at this date.
Where is Native Headed in 2017?
|WHAT STAYS THE SAME?
|WHAT’S NEW or EMERGING?
Click on each headshot to read individual IAB member predictions from AdYouLike, AOL, BBC Storyworks, Bidtellect, Centro, Flipboard, GumGum, IDG, IGN, InMobi, ironSource, Jumpstart Automotive Media, Leaf Group Ltd., Lonely Planet, Meredith, Merkle, Mixpo, Platform.io, PopSugar, PubNative, Pulsepoint, Sensewhere, Sharethrough, Triplelift, Unruly, Vertebrae, Verve, and Vibrant Media.
At Adyoulike, we see 3 main challenges that Native will have to overcome.
The 1st frontier is about automation: the industry will have to quickly embrace SSP and DSP Native platforms (in OpenRTB) so that the buying and selling of Native really come simple, efficient and scalable.
The 2nd frontier is about contextualisation. Native Ads are all about being in the middle of a content feed, very visible. The editorial content and the Native Ad endorse each other, that’s the power of Native. In other types of digital ads like banners, the ad placement is next to the editorial content and not inside, content and ads stand at a defined place and they don’t endorse each other, which makes the contextualisation less mandatory.
For classic advertising (banners, pre roll ect) contextualisation is a nice to have, for Native Ads, it’s a must have and advertisers are asking for that for a long time.
The 3rd frontier is about creatives. As Native is component based, we don’t see great Native visual integrations yet. Native Ads deserve to have a better visual rendition, more beautiful, more engaging, more dynamic. At the moment most Native Ads look like a grey box with a tiny image and a black title.
We believe that in 2017, the quality of storytelling will be paramount to native advertising success. Data and technology will play an increasingly important role in helping to inform, distribute and measure these stories, but it will be critical to create content that instantly evokes emotion and inspires action. Immersive formats, like 360 and VR, will accelerate this by allowing viewers to become a part of the stories themselves.
The most important aspect of native content is that it effectively delivers on client goals and objectives. In order to do so, it must be accurately measured, flexible in format, and above all engaging. In order to maximize engagement, native content must reach the right people, in the right environment, and create the desired emotional impact.
As such, I see the following trends for 2017:
1) Continued focus on channel specific content strategies – the same story told in multiple formats across facebook (no audio, text overlay), Instagram (highly visual, < :60), snapchat (vertical)
2) Increase in 360 video and VR as costs begin to decrease
3) Focus on greater content engagement and performance analytics for both publisher owned and third party platforms
4) Year over year increase in overall investment in native content
In 2016 brands, agencies and publishers continued their shift away from standard display toward Native. As Native ad formats continue to gain widespread adoption, it has become clear that they are more than just another ad unit, but a vehicle to facilitate content marketing and the best format for brands’ broader content distribution strategies. There is a pervasive shift occurring in how brands reach and engage with consumers in a more substantive way, and it is being driven by paid content distribution strategies. Smart marketers now know, if consumers engage with their content, they engage with their brand. Moving into 2017, content discovery will be what Native really means.
Right now, the industry is treating Native Advertising and Content Distribution campaigns the same as traditional display, but in 2017 brands will seek more meaningful ways to determine how consumers are interacting with their content and consider deeper engagement metrics.
The biggest native advertising trend in 2017 will be scale for the niche vertical publishers. The top tier and mass market publishers have been on boarded for native, so believe next year’s focus will be on getting the local, B2B and other vertical-specific publishers up to par. In addition, I expect to see even more shifting away from the traditional content amplification activation that was deeply rooted in this space. Ad sellers will begin to lean-in and start flexing the full funnel power of in-feed placements in the same way Facebook has with the evolution of its ad product.
Fueled by trends in mobile, content marketing and programmatic, the stars are aligned for native advertising to boom in 2017. On mobile devices, where consumers spend most of their online time these days, native ads create a better user experience than banners. And as the number of companies with content marketing initiatives continues to grow, so does the need for distribution of this brand content. The arrival of native programmatic, together with IAB’s new specs, will ensure that the two things that have defined the success of native ads, authenticity and relevant context, will be preserved.
Virtual Reality Will Make Advertising Better
Virtual reality is hot, it’s happening, and advertisers are eagerly experimenting with how they can tap into the opportunity. But what if, in this case, advertising was truly enjoyable? I see VR as a bright light in the future of native advertising, perhaps even an opportunity to offer ads that are helpful and welcomed by the consumer. TOMS is one brand that capitalizes on VR’s ability to tell a story. The flagship store offers the opportunity to put on a headset and experience a TOMS “giving” trip, allowing the consumer to see the positive impact of their shoe purchase. This is the way native advertising should be, so immersive that no one cares it’s meant to get them to buy more. I predict that more brands will tackle the opportunity of VR to create more immersive story-like experiences that engage the consumer on their path to purchase and loyalty, versus alienating them as traditional ads have proven to do.
For 2017, budgets aligned to native marketing initiatives/campaigns will continue to grow at even a greater pace than we saw in 2016. This is largely due to native’s ability to drive higher levels of user engagement, responsiveness and conversion. As such, budgets will shift from other forms of traditionally-oriented advertising.
With native, content is the creative and we will see marketers focus more attention on the creation and use of visual content (video, infographics, snackable images). We’ve already seen how well visual content plays out and performs across online, social and mobile platforms – so expect to see much more in 2017. We should also expect to see publishers further develop and innovate how and where visual content gets surfaced on their sites – both physically and from a hyper-targeting standpoint.
As native grows, marketers will also face significant challenges integrating more native initiatives into their plans. Marketers will become increasingly challenged in creating quality content at scale and linking it into their overall content ecosystem. Marketers will also need to be reminded that the most effective native content is content that is contextually relevant (informative) and a valuable extension of the environment in which it’s placed. However, as native continues to displace traditional advertising we will see tendencies of many marketers to create more promotionally oriented sales/advertising content which is something that the FTC will be watching closely.
Where will native go in 2017?
Advertisers will start thinking more about engagement with the content rather than impressions. We will see a shift in pricing models from CPM to CPV.
Publishers will have to figure out better ways to drive traffic to content in order to show high engagement while keeping the amplification costs down.
In order to mitigate ad blocking and low viewability rates premium publishers will host their native products on their own CMS rather than relying on 3rd party platforms.
We thought 2016 was going to be the year of in-app native buying, but DSPs were quick to de-prioritize when they realized this year was actually all about their clients wanting in-app video.
Results from our recent programmatic survey sent to InMobi buyers, showed that video will see the largest increases for in-app mobile spending, immediately followed by Native for the remainder of this year. This means DSPs will need to prioritize supporting in-app native buying in order to allow their clients to run this demand.
With a large desire for mobile in-app video from buyers, we predict Native display ad formats will also be used as native video placements, in order to extend video supply.
We’ll see the definition of native expand in the coming year, as publishers look for ad units that do more than mirror the look and feel of their environment, but which actually function as a seamless part of the digital content economy.
In its initial incarnation, native promised to solve the problem of intrusive and disruptive ads that didn’t fit with their environment. At it’s best, native is advertiser-sponsored content which provided users with actual additional value. But with ad blocking adoption continuing to grow and users continuing the find the digital ad experience lacking, that value exchange still needs work.
In that sense, we might see native ads take on elements of rewarded ads, transforming into a micropayment service for digital content, where users get real, concrete value in exchange for engaging with an ad. This is already happening – particularly within mobile games which have an evolved in-app economy – but it’s not difficult to imagine a world where ads are not only non-disruptive, but sometimes welcome.
Native Predictions: Video Will Redefine the Online Experience
We’re very excited about the future of native video. As people increasingly rely on video content for everything from morning news to ideas for dinner, it is truly transforming the online experience. This medium gives consumers the ability to quickly and easily learn about the products, services, and information they’re interested in and it gives brands the power to connect with their audiences in a visually immersive way. As smartphone and tablet usage continues to dominate, we’ll also see a strong demand for high quality, easy-to-consume content that is designed specifically for the mobile device. But like all advertising, native video must be relevant and useful to the consumer. Native content, specifically, needs to be clearly labeled, and not only look and feel like editorial, but also be contextually relevant to the editorial content that surrounds it. And no matter how seamless it is, if it doesn’t add value to a consumer’s personal journey, it will not resonate. These points are crucial in maintaining the integrity of brands and publishers and the trust of the reader—native should drive brand engagement without disrupting the consumer’s online experience.
Video will be a driving force in redefining digital advertising in 2017.
In 2017, native advertising will continue to grow as a percentage of advertising revenue as premium publishers look to further enhance and optimize their display inventory. With standard display CPMs beginning to stagnate, many publishers are turning to native ads to differentiate their inventory from the competition. Not only do native ads offer higher engagement, it allows publishers to build more robust product offerings, in addition to providing greater flexibility in the design and layout of the page; ultimately this could mean less ads and better creative, which improve the user experience and aesthetics of the property. The custom nature of native ads will drive more collaboration between brands and publishers and allow those more invested to create high quality and unique offerings at scale across all monetization channels without sacrificing UX for revenue.
Measurement – The ROI of native advertising is difficult to prove – data benchmarks for success are hard to measure in any sort of context, and proving brand lift and real-life results are even more difficult without the help of time-intensive and expensive third party surveys. Publishers are faced with the task of taking the available data and making it look compelling, but advertisers are increasingly seeing through this.
Scale – Publishers struggle to provide organic scale to native content. In order to hit advertiser targets, traffic often has to be acquired through paid social or content discovery tools, which often dilutes the publisher’s unique audience. Additionally, how many pieces of native content can a publisher promote at any given time before they begin to cannibalize performance?
Integrity – where do you draw the line with advertisers in order to protect editorial integrity and also provide a branding opportunity for the advertiser? How do we create a native product that protects our publisher brand, when other publishers have less stringent guidelines for advertiser input?
Cost – Native is costly. Advertisers pay a high price and publishers have high overhead for content production and traffic acquisition. At the end of the day, the resulting piece of content can be beautifully written and integrated, and still not justify the expense – at least, not in the sense that native is going to save the digital publishing ecosystem.
2017 will mark the collision of two major trends that will drive native advertising campaigns and results.
1) A rise in native advertising quality: In 2017, advertisers and audiences alike will demand an increase in the quality of native advertising. Native advertising is still a relatively new medium and the past has been littered with poor quality content that is simply moved to a unit that sits in the middle of the page and is thereby called “native”. Advertisers will gravitate toward media partners that have the consumer trust, Native Advertising pedigree, effective development processes and editorial know-how to deliver content that produces demonstrable results. Media companies will demand proper briefs from their advertisers to help them find the balance between their audience and the brand objectives. This all will come together in 2017 to drive better Native Advertising quality than ever before.
2) Data-Driven Creative: Native advertising is about results. And media companies that can develop and distribute native advertising that is data driven will be able to answer advertising needs quicker and more efficiently. There are two places where data will drive native advertising: planning and optimization. Successful native advertising campaigns incorporate content planning processes grounded in proprietary insights. Furthermore, data should always drive content optimizations in near real-time. In 2017 data will help shape the type of native advertising created and how much engagement occurs in a much bigger way.
Native advertising will continue to grow and in 2017 the cream will rise to the top in big and bold ways.
2017 Native Advertising Predictions:
– Increasing spend (at least 2-3 folds) in Native Advertising
– Ability to cross device target native ads
– Clients will create more content for native ad experiences
– Ad servers such as doubleclick will be able to “ad serve” native ads, that are responsive within the ad server platform
– Google adx will be a prominent supplier for native ads
– Animated/video native ads will be in demand by marketers
2017 will be the year native video advertising takes off. Content marketing is hot right now and native advertising is one-way marketers get their content in front of the right audience. The problem is that while video is a top content marketing tactic*, marketers are hamstrung by the fact that producing quality, original video content is hard, and that premium, native video ad inventory is limited.
This is beginning to change, however, with more high-quality DIY production tools (Apple’s ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign) and new video ad formats that are redefining where video can be placed. Where video was once relegated to pre-roll, more and more publishers are following in Facebook’s footsteps by reinventing the video ad, with vertical video, outstream, and mobile-first video ad formats to name a few.
The increase in efficient, quality video production and native video ad inventory provides new ways for content marketers to get into the native advertising game, and think beyond the typical eBook, guide, or infographic. Video has always been the beloved medium of choice for storytelling, and the solving both the placement and creative problem breaks open what’s possible.
New players will bring new ad formats and much better contextual targeting.
There are still huge untapped opportunities in messenger apps (i.e. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp) and p2p marketplaces (i.e. Uber, Lyft). We are going to see a lot of innovation from these players that will happen in native ad formats and contextual targeting during 2017. New interactive formats and targeting based on 1st party data will accelerate the further shift from interruption to recommendation. After all what is native advertising about if not the perfect customer experience?
These new players are going to face both business and technical challenges when entering advertising industry. Having in mind that the chances for the new inventory and ad formats to appear on current ad exchanges are next to none, we will see even more demand for custom advertising infrastructure development.
The solutions will come either from classic acquisitions and in-house development or SaaS and PaaS ad tech providers that are becoming a more and more favorable option due to high cost efficiency and fast time to market.
Immersive/multi media storytelling continues to grow and evolve.
Now that publishers have gotten the hang of basic native advertising, we are seeing the rise competitively of new storytelling formats across platforms that flex serious content, design, and engineering muscle.
A move towards “micro-influencers”
As well-known influencers are (presumably) reaching their bubble-bursting moment, larger brands seek to align themselves with niche, micro-influencers—known for their unique skill or talent and have cultivated a homegrown audience.
In video, a trend towards the ambient
In the past, we went outside and communed with nature. In today’s overstimulated world, digital consumers are turning to a visual resting place for the mind. From watching paint smear to watching a livestream of the most pristine private beach in the world, this is the video version of “slow TV” across platforms.
Skimming continues to be in style
Attention spans continue to shrink, and the need for creativity in a bite-size format is on the rise. Easy to digest formats will continue to grow from humble email origins to video and beyond.
As mobile will take the lions cut of digital advertising (~60% in 2016) – native ads will take the crown of mobile advertising (~76% by 2020). This growth is mainly driven by Facebook and Google promoting native advertising as well as investing in improving their native advertising products.
Programmatic trading will follow suite, with less fragmentation between advertising assets and publisher integrations as well as increased budgets as advertisers understand mobile and native advertising better.
This will push technology companies to innovate faster, be more efficient and transparent – bringing the rise of mediation solutions, view-through attribution and continuous A/B testing of user segments on the publisher side as well as vertical and short-form video, dynamic creative optimization and contextualization on the advertiser side.
Native standardization by the IAB has bridged the gap between social marketing and the programmatic display ecosystem.
At PulsePoint, our social marketing & sponsored content distribution platform used to be siloed from our programmatic offering.
Native standardization enabled us to distribute native-style display ads across hundreds of publishers, leveraging existing OpenRTB integrations.
Similarly, our DSP partners started scaling up native campaigns without worrying about the how their ads would blend within publisher content, enjoying far greater engagement and reach than with banner.
In 2017, we anticipate native advertising to be our fastest growing channel, slightly ahead of pre-roll video.
In-feed will still make up the bulk of native ad revenue, as many of PulsePoint traditional publishers focus on text-heavy or user-generated content.
We have big ambition for native video for next year. Constraints are mostly demand-side, but both publishers and advertisers are getting more comfortable with embedding video content within in-feed ads, at a substantial CPM premium over static media.”
2017 – A Year of Personal(ised)
We see 2017 as the year of abundant technology and immense opportunities that an open, software-defined mobile future will bring. We see a rise in people’s expectations of seamless automated services. We see technologies that flawlessly run in the background, holding big data and making it easy for users to be efficient, productive and connected in their daily lives. All in all, at the pace we are moving technologically, next year will bring a disruption to the opportunities companies can tap into and exploit commercially.
There is a big shift in the way people interact with each other and how they get influenced as consumers. B2C communication will be changing in order to accommodate high demands for product and service relevance indoors, outdoors, across online and offline platforms – it will become a priority for many companies to facilitate convenient business wherever their increasingly savvy customers are.
The way in which products and services are both targeted and perceived will all funnel into the depths of consumer lifestyle and transform brick-and-mortar stores for ever.
Next year will begin to show the type of impact it can have to deliver dynamic experiences for consumers individually.
In Investor-land: “Ad tech is back in favor.” A new crop of ad tech companies built on a foundation that can last begin to emerge as winners.
In Publisher-land: “Legacy publishing finds a new model.” No modern publishers introduce banner ads, and all major newspaper, magazine and media companies commit to their native ad strategies. Tens of thousands of publisher direct salespeople rejoice in the ability to sell beyond preroll and banners.
In Advertiser-land: “Advertising follows attention.” More ad blocking + more mobile usage + more Facebook dominance + more time in feeds + less linear TV = more uninterruptable people. As ad budgets follow attention, native emerges as the largest form of digital media. Native display overtakes traditional banners on the open web. Native outstream translates TV advertising to the new web, overtaking preroll.
In Agency-land: “Agencies become technology companies.” The media agencies that invest in technology to enable unique and differentiated ad offerings will flourish.
2017 will be the year in-feed native advertising goes programmatic. In 2016 the IAB released the OpenRTB 2.3 spec which provided standards around transacting native ads programmatically technology companies have subsequently invested in building support for this new protocol. By 2017, many major DSPs will support OpenRTB 2.3.
Beyond supporting the new spec, in 2017 DSPs will continue to build tools to make native buying more seamless. These tools may include ways for budgets and pacing to be interchangeable between native and banner ads, supporting new and unique native ad formats and integrating into more sources of native supply.
As more of publisher’s audiences access their content on mobile devices, higher yielding native ad formats will begin to replace traditional banner ad placements. With a greater industry focus on consumer-friendly advertising, such as the IAB’s LEAN principles, publishers may begin considering transforming ad placements previously dedicated to mobile interstitials and pop-ups towards ads that fit in within the existing user experience.
5G Will Super-Charge Native Video
Every major change in digital advertising has been predicated by a jump in bandwidth. From the early text days to basic animation and graphics through to audio, low-res HD video and rich media, ad units have always adapted to the connectivity available.
In 2017, we will again see a dramatic jump in bandwidth as we begin the journey to a gig per second service driven through the rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 cable operators, continued evolution of Google Fiber, the initial rollout of 5G, further deployment of Intersection’s link service, as well as several other municipal web initiatives. The process will emerge over the next 3-5 years, and this extreme ramp up will once again directly impact consumer media consumption.
Video – that is, 4KHD, as well as addressable, interactive and personalized – will be driven by both human and AI and solidify its position as the standard way that marketers communicate with consumers. The investment in data combined with this new level of pervasive true broadband connectivity will ultimately pay off in native experiences. From the look and feel to the tonality and voice of the surrounding content, this shift will lead to more relevant, natural and authentic native video experiences.
New native VR ad formats and questions surrounding metrics will become more complicated in 2017. Determining what an impression is and qualifying consumer engagements in the richer, multi-dimensional, more dynamic VR environments is a challenge industry stakeholders must embrace. We need to think about what counts and why, especially as this sector evolves toward a sustainable, long-term business partly financed by a vital advertising component. In 2017, the VR advertising industry should seek out the forward-thinking publishers and creators, and help them work closely with brands and media buyers to test and discover the best ways to measure people’s experiences within VR environments. At Vertebrae, we’ll continue to work with the IAB Tech Lab and other industry leaders to develop metrics around the concept of gaze. And in turn, the next challenge for advertisers and their agency and ad tech partners will be creating immersive experiences that users will want to not only gaze at, but then explore and share for a long time to come.
What top themes emerge across the board?
Banner blindness. Consumers increasingly avoid ads. Creative agencies and data/tech companies are not coming together to create advertising that can grab the attention of users when they are most receptive. Data matters, so does creative. What’s missing is compelling and engaging formats. It’s science plus art.
• Contextually relevant inline ads are the most powerful native ad solution. Developing article, slideshow and video content allow brands the ability to develop several messaging vehicles to reach a consumer with relevancy.
• Cinemagraph formats and high impact, eye grabbing rich media inline ads that encourage users to engage by applying subtle animations based on the users scroll are an opportunity to get a brand’s message in front of consumers without being totally intrusive.
• Hyper personalization of ad content – relating to a consumer with messaging that targets their needs, wants, and interests – can make a product or service more relatable.
• Lastly, having the native ads take on the look and feel of the site where the ads are running extends the site credibility to the brand.
What are similarities and/or differences between each group?
• Brands and publishers are looking for custom-looking solutions that can scale.
• Brands focus on the content, leaving the targeting and delivery solutions to publishers.
• Brands develop the right message leaving the targeting and timing to the publishers and networks.
• Publishers want to find solutions that allow their consumers to engage without feeling “tricked” in to engaging with the brand. Publishers want to know where to draw the line when to let users know whether the content (if sponsored) is an advertisement or not. Publishers do not want users to feel tricked into reading content.
What are the obstacles and opportunities?
• Scale. Native is done a little differently based on the publisher. Tech companies and publishers need to work closer together to build solutions that allow for an advertiser to build once, and scale it across multiple sites the same way they do with a 728×90 banner on display.
• Relevance. Just because you place a contextual inline ad, that doesn’t make it relevant to the consumer. We should be treating native advertisements the same way we treat any other banner creative-dynamically. By applying user information, like location, we can create dynamic messaging that resonates with the consumer.
• Innovation. We must continue to innovate creative experiences that are not intrusive and anticipate the desires of consumers.
2015 saw viewability dominate the digital landscape, with agencies like Group M taking a staunch approach to 100% viewable trading. Whilst this has contributed largely to a rise in viewable ads, 2016 has gone one step further with the discussion of attention metrics, and what it means for someone to actively pay attention to an advert. It’s all well and good that an ad has been seen, but shouldn’t brands want to know how well it resonated with consumers?
This emphasis on the importance of attention will continue to grow in 2017, and will play a key role in the continued rise of premium, native advertising online, especially as consumers become ever more disconcerted with irrelevant, non-engaging ads.
It is not only a rise in attention metrics that we expect to see, but a continued growth in the areas that consumers place their focus. With the US population spending 25% of their time on smartphones, we expect a continued growth in native mobile, and a development in how brands choose to engage with consumers on mobile devices creatively. Along with a rise of more emotive content, we believe vertical video will really propel. Consumers hold their mobiles vertically 90% of the time and with vertical video being engaged with 9x more frequently than horizontal, we predict marketing strategies to follow. In turn, this is likely to lead to an increase in native programmatic on mobile and video, to fall in line with increased demand and of course, attention time.