Real-Time Real Talk: Native Advertising 101

“Real-Time Real Talk” is an ongoing blog series that seeks to clarify the “what”, “why”, and “how” behind ad tech innovations.


In today's edition of “Real-Time Real Talk”, we’ll be going over some of the basics of native advertising. To learn more, there's still time to sign up for today’s webinar “Meet the Makers: Capitalizing on Native + Programmatic” featuring Dan Greenberg, CEO of Sharethrough.


I’ve been hearing a lot about native advertising these days. So what is it exactly?

Native advertising is a form of advertising where the ad matches the format and function of the website it lives on. That way, it blends in better and becomes a part of the overall site experience without coming across too much like your standard-issue “ad”.

Native creatives are designed to feel less interruptive to the user since they feel like a native element of the webpage (hence the term “native”). In contrast with traditional banner ads and other media types, native ads specify the component pieces of the ad with the onus on the publisher to display it according to the look and feel of the page. This gives publishers a lot of flexibility on how to integrate native advertising within their site or mobile app.

Let’s also talk about programmatic native for a moment. Programmatic ad units get served on an impression-by-impression basis in real-time, leveraging all the data the platform – and the buyer – have to offer. Programmatic native has the potential to deliver a more relevant and engaging ad experience for users due to the ability to serve a unique ad catered to the user’s given interests.

The IAB has identified six core native ad types: In-feed units, paid search units, recommendation widgets, promoted listings, in-ad with native elements units, and custom. If you want to learn more on the specifics of native ad units, we recommend you take a look.

Got it. So, why should marketers consider adding native to their existing marketing mix?

Well, let’s start with a little background. A 2015 report by Business Insider estimated that native advertising – which includes native-style display, sponsored content, and in-feed social— accounted for $10.7B in spend in 2015. And native ad formats are on track to reach $21B in total spend by 2018.

Now that we’ve shown what’s at stake, let’s discuss some of the reasons why marketers are excited about native:

  1. Simplicity: Native ads focus on “what” content the creative should contain – not “how” it should be formatted or served. This makes it a lot easier to set up and manage native campaigns across different platforms. With this simplified workflow, buyers only need to submit critical native ad elements like image, title, and description once only, so that they work across device type and/or different site layouts.
  2. Performance: Because native ads are inherently designed to match the form and function of their site, they often see more favorable performance since they’re less disruptive and more context-appropriate than other forms of digital advertising. In a study of 4,770 consumers, IPG Media and AppNexus native partner Sharethrough found that consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than display ads. Additionally, native ads saw a higher lift in purchase intent (17%) and brand affinity responses (9%) than did banner ads.
  3. Control: For publishers and platform owners, native advertising offers them the opportunity to control the user experience on their sites. Since native ad units mimic the form and function of the site, the ads look and feel like actual platform content – and not a distraction. This lets their editorial content shine through while continuing to generate revenue through ad content on their sites.


Sounds exciting but I’ve got to wonder, what are some of the issues holding marketers back from native?

Just as with any new advertising innovation, there are still some rough edges that providers are working to smooth over. If you’re looking to add native to your marketing mix, here are what we see as some of the biggest issues to consider:

  1. Native vs. multichannel reach: The majority of native ad providers specialize in just that: native ads. If you’re a buyer looking to execute a multichannel campaign, you may need to put in some overtime coordinating audience segments and reporting to see a comprehensive view of your campaign.
  2. Managing multiple ad formats: Multiple native formats can mean working with multiple native partners. For instance, a provider like Taboola specializes in recommended listings and Sharethrough integrates native ads into editorial feeds. Depending on your campaign objectives, you may be juggling relationships with various vendors adding more tasks to your daily workflow.
  3. Nascent programmatic: While some programmatic options exist, the majority of native ad deals are still executed through managed buys. If you’re a publisher, you may not be integrating the most targeted and contextually-relevant ads that you could be if you’d integrated with a programmatic partner. And if you’re a buyer, you could be limited in the data you can leverage to add more value to your media buy.
  4. Questionable inventory quality and relevance: Just as with other forms of digital advertising, quality and relevance should be important considerations for buyers and sellers. As a seller, can you be sure that the message of the native ad complements – and doesn’t distract from – your editorial? As a buyer, can you be certain you’re getting exactly what you paid for?


How can AppNexus solve for these issues?

As with display, mobile, and video, we believe that native programmatic will usher in more accuracy, better targeting, higher monetization, and greater audience reach for buyers and sellers alike.

First and foremost, AppNexus has integrations with multiple native advertising SSPs that represent different global regions, native ad unit types, and publisher sites. Given all that, there’s a better chance we can find you the right audience and publisher to meet your needs. And for those looking to execute a multichannel campaign, you now have one UI that can manage display, video, mobile, and native.

Additionally, we care about inventory quality. A lot. In addition to our automated and data science controls, we manually audit each creative to make sure it’s exactly what it says it is. And top of all of this, we offer buyers the ability to bring their first-party data to the platform so they can make better campaign decisions.

For those already working on the AppNexus platform, a unified UI across channels means you’ll see a quicker path to success. Adding native to your marketing mix won’t require you to adapt to a new UI; everything’s already available on the same Console that you use day in and day out. And it’s all supported by partner-specific documentation to make sure you’re up and running as quickly as possible.

For sellers, the AppNexus Seller Tag is a single tag that can handle multiple placements per page and supports different ad formats including – you guessed it – native.

To learn more about AppNexus’ programmatic native solutions, join us Tuesday, February 17 for a webinar featuring Sharethrough, or send us a note. If you’re already an AppNexus client (glad to have you), contact your account manager to learn more about how you can get started.

Want to learn about how header bidding can jumpstart programmatic native? Read our latest guide here

  • Real-Time Real Talk