According to eMarketer, native ad spending will exceed $3 billion in just three years. Publishers are trying to take advantage, of course, with nearly 75% now offering online native ads across their sites. Any why not? BuzzFeed, the poster child for native, is both profitable and growing at a time when many media companies, new and old alike, are finding it increasingly difficult to do either of those things.
Still, native advertising only shared annual buzzword honors with programmatic buying. Programmatic is expected to account for nearly 30% of all display ad spending by 2017—or over $9 billion. That’s because 85% of advertisers use it, with 91% expected to do so in the next two years. And like native, publishers are going where the money is. 72% now have programmatic offerings in place. Long-term growth for both native and programmatic is clear. But the two categories are still very young. Over the next year, how might the way in which we use them change? Here are a few predictions.
- Standardization is coming: With the recent release of the IAB’s Native Ad Playbook, we’ll see continued standardization of native ads and native ad serving. Remember—while native spending will likely hit $3 billion in just a few years, the concept is, again, relatively new. Implementing structure and a consistent framework will only help both buyers and sellers maximize opportunities and take full advantage of the trend.
- “Answering” the scale question: The next big hurdle in native advertising will be to close the programmatic-native gap. The pressure is on figuring out how to automate native, similar to RTB and programmatic, so that publishers can create custom content quickly and with little overhead, to drive actual scale.
- Expect greater regulation: Disclosure and transparency in native advertising will continue to be top-of-mind for the industry. Expect stronger guidelines and standards to be considered by the FTC in the New Year, with the industry encouraging self-regulation, as seen with the IAB’s Native Ad Playbook.
- Native will be more data-driven: Successful native campaigns will be heavily reliant on the data and insights gleaned from programmatic initiatives. This means that understanding how creative functions and drives programmatic performance will become increasingly useful in planning native campaigns.
- Buyers will grow into tech experts: As automation and programmatic continue to take center stage, media buyers will become increasingly technology-proficient to interpret data and provide strategic insight to clients.
- Premium programmatic will be key: The industry is still confused about what programmatic, and especially premium programmatic, really means. As more and more publishers adopt programmatic strategies in 2014, the emphasis will shift from understanding the medium to progressing it. This means more emphasis on “premium programmatic,” mobile, video, etc.
- Marrying programmatic and native: 2014 will be the year we see native and programmatic begin to court one another. In 2013, we created a false dichotomy between the two formats, with native on one side, programmatic on the other. Rather than separate the two, we need to understand how they can work together, plugging each other’s gaps—scale and quality, for example—to improve message delivery.
- Direct sales will go programmatic. With more dollars moving towards programmatic buying channels, I expect greater pressure on the direct sales teams in the New Year. As a result, one of the things we will see is direct sales teams working hard to acquire the skills and relationships needed to drive premium programmatic deals.
The future is obviously very bright for both native and programmatic. In 2013, they solidified themselves as key growth areas for the long-term. In 2014, however, we can expect evolutions in each category, with more synergy between the two to better deliver for advertisers, marketers, brands and publishers.