Big Publishers Can Learn A Lot About Native From Their Smaller Counterparts

hadrienbouchrara-sellsiderThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today's column is written by Hadrien Bouchrara, solution architect, Facebook Audience Network.

Native advertising isn’t just the wave of the future – native is creating real business value for marketers all over the world at this moment.

But many global, large-scale media publishers aren’t seeing the results they were hoping for from their native placements, and they’re starting to wonder why.

The answer is simpler than it first appears. The qualities that delineate big publishers from their smaller counterparts – access to greater resources, operational efficiencies and headcount – may be the qualities that are holding them back from native success.

Fortunately, a solution is within reach. By taking a page from the smaller publisher playbook and learning to operate with a developer’s creative mindset – assigning the same resources to ad design UX that they already apply to primary content – bigger publishers can adapt to the unique demands of native and build placements that drive long-term success.

The Advantage Of Thinking Small

Why is the small-publisher approach to native delivering results at a faster rate? It may come down to the size of the organization.

Compare the siloed structure of a major publisher – “ads” in one bucket, “content” in another – with that of a small or mid-size startup. Ad ops decisions at smaller pubs are driven by employees who wear multiple hats; they’re not just traffickers, they’re developers, designers and content managers, too – sometimes all at once. For a business of this size, monetization and content truly go hand in hand.

Since these personnel are protective of the user experiences they’re creating, they’re also more likely to implement native APIs firsthand. This DIY mentality has a double benefit: Not only does it ensure truly native implementation and the results that come with it, it provides a baseline against non-native performance that can serve the business down the road.

The Challenges Of A Large Publisher

By contrast, major publishers with an established history of strong monetization performance often approach new ad formats in a completely different way. Their ad ops and creative teams typically connect on content only after the revenue success of a new format has been demonstrated and further investment has been approved.

Since ad ops teams are tasked with direct sales management and yield optimization, their goal is ultimately to maximize CPMs while using as few development resources as possible. But new tools require a new mindset. This resource-light approach to monetization may work for standard formats, but it simply doesn’t scale for native.

I’ve seen trafficking teams at large publishers attempt native placements using ill-suited templates without consulting the in-house content team. Instead, they’ve used standard ad placements to publish new, so-called “native” ads, even though the final execution appears virtually identical to their normal, non-native ad slots.

Since not all programmatic buyers support the IAB’s oRTB 2.4/native 1.1 standards, this approach delivers minimal change in performance and can lead to the misguided conclusion that the new placements aren’t working. Instead, they weren’t implemented correctly to begin with.

Without close communication among ad ops personnel, designers and developers, native’s added value and improved user experience become diluted – and the company loses out as a result. The perceived failure of faux-native placements that were never really native to begin with discourages future investment in the format, and can have harmful long-term consequences for ad revenue.

True Native = Monetization + Content

When a publisher’s monetization managers, developers and content managers are all on the same page about native implementation, their user experience and revenue goals align as well. This can make all the difference between successful native implementation and underperforming placements with disappointing results.

Big publishers should view their native ads as the developers at smaller publishers do: an opportunity to improve user experience and build for long-term value and retention. They can buck the current trend by mirroring their smaller counterparts and involving both sides of the business — monetization and content — from the get-go.

Coding and creative input from nontraffickers are crucial for native success, no matter the size of the publisher. Since the driving principle of native is to reinforce quality and generate more long-tail traffic, true implementation can’t happen without help from the personnel responsible for a site or app’s user experience.

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