Native + Programmatic: Friends or Foes?


May 27, 2014

Native Advertising. We started using the term only about three years ago but have spent the last two years taking steps to define it - a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed. We’ve seen native as a display advertising success story especially in comparison to static banners. eMarketer noted, Native ads registered 18% higher lift in purchase intent and 9% higher lift for brand affinity responses than banner ads. However, is the idea that one could automate the process contradict what native is at its core? Would turning native advertising into programmatic units destroy the way publishers and advertisers collaborate to create quality content? PulsePoint CEO, Sloan Gaon, spoke on the recent OMMA Native panel “Rise of the Robot Natives: Oxymoron or Solution?” which addressed these questions. Afterwards, we caught up with panel moderator Steve Carbone, Managing Director, Digital & Analytics, Mediacom and panelists Ben Lampert, Associate Director, AOD, VivaKi, Lon Otremba, CEO, Bidtellect and Judy Shaprio CEO & Founder, engageSimply to get their thoughts on the conversation and key takeaways.

Native is still in its early days and people are already throwing it under the bus. It takes time for the market to fully grasp new innovations. Were you surprised by any of the responses during the panel?

Steve Carbone: While there should be no debate that a programmatic solution needs to be a part of Native's future, I was surprised of the immediate acceptance without pushing for more guidelines to keep Native at it's original intent. In my opinion that is the Yahoo Native model, and not the Buzzfeed model. Both are Native executions but Yahoo delivers what I consider a more legitimate Native experience. I guess I'm just an old school purist at heart.

Lon Otremba: Not really, because many of the opposing points of view have been articulated by various players in the industry over the past several months, particularly those who say Native and programmatic are mutually exclusive. However, what is somewhat surprising is the fact that, despite rapid evolution of the technologies, strong demand-side momentum, and emerging standardization of Native ad formats, the debate even still exists.

We touched on some of the big brands that are doing native well like Meredith, Yahoo, Exxon Mobile and some that we’ve seen fail. What are your predictions for the future of native?

Steve Carbone: I think native advertising will continue to flourish, if we define native as content that enhances a person’s web session. As [a] content and connections agency, we need new forms of client content to distribute and optimize, and it’s not the standard IAB banner. Creating Native content can be digestible bites for a client as opposed to constantly updating a whole web site. Native advertising for media planners means that we need to strategically understand the customer mindset and purchase journey. The idea of native advertising proposes that there will be more opportunity for engagement/sharing of content, which is what we want as media planners. Publishers will offer more and more native placements, albeit at a premium.

Ben Lampert: Native inventory will grow as more publishers adopt a stream based content design. As a result, content creation and the creative messaging for campaigns will become more flexible than with banner ads. Trading desks, DSPs and SSPs will have to become much more comfortable supporting a range of creative formats and choices, while adhering to brand guidelines and publisher design guidelines.

Judy Shapiro: Native is an archetype for how digital advertising needs to evolve. Digital banner advertising became virtually useless because technology’s brutish muscle was too blunt to manage the two “intimate” pillars of great marketing – relevancy and context. Native is like the industry’s attempt to get digital advertising right second time around.

One big takeaway was that there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what Native is and how it can co-exist with Programmatic. What was the biggest takeaway for you?

Steve Carbone: It was very clear to me that as an industry we all need to remain involved and vocal about our individual feelings and thoughts on all the new channels moving forward. If we just let technology lead, or just let marketing lead, the net result will not get us to the best place for the Brands, Publishers, and Users.

Lon Otremba: One of the biggest implications of Native going programmatic is that it will allow for massive scale. A key component of effective Native advertising is content, specifically brand content, as an effective tool for consumer engagement. Content is king. As I said during the panel, if content is king, scale is King Kong. Technology – through platforms and Native exchanges - now allows large numbers of advertisers to access large amounts of truly Native ad inventory that reaches massive audiences.

Judy Shapiro: The panel helped me realize that struggle of the industry to absorb the binary nature of tech (and by association programmatic buying) is hard when considering the more fluid, human powered nature of marketing. This debate is being played out in native advertising because everyone is dealing with the reality that impressions don’t buy – people do. 

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