That takes resources, especially for smaller ad tech startups.
“You see some, who are 100- to 300-person private businesses, in maintenance mode and who want to lock down their core business,” said Dan Greenberg, CEO of Sharethrough, a native ad exchange. “To them, sometimes native or in-feed ads are just another format to add to the road map.”
But Greenberg, unsurprisingly, anticipates native will be a predominant form of inventory as mobile and in-feed environments proliferate. He argued native is a category as significant as banner and pre-roll.
And as buyers increase their spend, DSPs are also increasing their capabilities. In other words, Omnicom’s Katelman added, buy side support for native is not stymying the flow of more demand dollars to native exchanges.
Certainly not every DSP has been slow to integrate native. Buying platforms that focus on video and branding opportunities see the value in native (done respectfully) to aid in storytelling, while those ingrained in direct-response might be focused on other outcomes that require, for instance, app install ads.
2016: Video Before Native?
For some DSPs and programmatic marketing companies, native was a 2015 development priority. For others? Not so much.
In a way, this sentiment toward native hasn’t changed all that much in a year. While the supply side notes buyer investment in native programmatic has been deliberate (or plain slow), sources say it’s not so much a disconnect between buy- and sell-side tech vendors as it is realizing true advertiser demand.
Some of this is partly due to semantics.
"I think there is confusion to what native actually is," commented Rob Griffin, chief innovation officer of the Boston-based agency Almighty. "A lot of 'native' is just rich media in the form of native. Then there are additional requirements for the advertiser [to provide] relevant messaging that fits the context of [the native spec]. That touches the overarching issue with programmatic overall - the sheer lack of programmatic creative and dynamic personalization."
Aaron Kechley, SVP of products at DataXu, noted that RTB access to native inventory still isn’t the top agenda item for most advertiser clients. Instead, they are far more focused on “video everywhere,” the marriage of cross-device technology and video.
Similarly, while native is a road map opportunity for Rocket Fuel, according to CTO Mark Torrance, “one of our top priorities (for 2016) is our video offering, which is in lock step with demand we are seeing from our clients.”
Turn acknowledged that, aside from FBX, native volume on its platform is not high compared to mobile, video or display. Still, it will make key native workflow enhancements in the second half of the year (after its video ramp-up).
MediaMath said it saw roughly 110 billion native ad impressions a month. Both display and video are key channels for MediaMath, “but social, mobile and native are growing rapidly,” according to Eric Picard, MediaMath’s VP of omnichannel media. “Native is one of our top priorities, particularly as dynamic creative takes off, and we are investing heavily in growing the capability.”
BI Intelligence predicts native ad spend will explode, growing from $7.9 billion in 2015 to $21 billion in 2018.
With that uptick, Lewine expects players and formats that aren’t inherently native to bucket themselves in an increasingly lucrative category.
The stakes are especially high for native. The FTC is cracking down on native ads that may be misconstrued, particularly around sponsored posts or social influencer campaigns that are insufficiently disclosed as such.
But those seeking to connect supply and demand through native exchanges say the very market they’re looking to propagate is often associated with a word that’s thrown around too loosely.
“We exclusively do in-feed native ads,” Lewine reiterated. “We don’t do any standard IAB formats. You, however, see some rich-media or high-impact players doing flash and pop-and-expand takeovers with tiny x’s to click out, masking as native.”
Sharethrough’s Greenberg concurred.
“We don’t do banners, pre-rolls, interstitials,” he said. “As users become more in control of their ad experiences, in-feed native mobile won’t be a small niche part of the market. We see it as the most material inventory source across the whole web.”
Lewine also predicted more of a blurring of the lines between performance and brand campaigns, where native is more of a no-brainer right now.
Once buyers can plan and test native ads alongside banner ads through the big digital exchanges, “native will be a part of every campaign,” Lewine said. “The future DSP has video, native, mobile, cinemagraphs … and the DSP will decision accordingly.”
Correction: Lewine is a current co-chair of the IAB's Native Advertising and Content Committee, along with Greenberg, not its working group as previously stated. The story has been updated to reflect that change.