The Programmatic Era of Native Content: 5 Ways to Maintain Quality in Native Ads

The native advertising world recently reached an important milestone. Last month, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released OpenRTB 2.3, the first set of programmatic guidelines for in-feed native ads, shaking up the process of real-time bidding and automation.

One of the major changes OpenRTB 2.3 has ushered in is support for native ad units. Publishers can auction native impressions and receive bid responses from buyers that include the ad components (title, description, thumbnails, and URL). With new technologies, publishers can assemble these components into native ads that integrate seamlessly into their site’s specific design and web layout.

While these guidelines have huge potential for increasing the viability of programmatic native ads, publishers are feeling the pressure to maintain quality standards and preserve the reader experience.

How OpenRTB 2.3 Could Impact Ad Quality

With Facebook Exchange, Facebook was the first player to combine native and RTB. The social media site is perfectly poised for programmatic native, using its vast data-reaping and targeting capabilities to get advertisers in front of interested consumers.

With the new programmatic standards, native ads will move into the realm of banner and video ads on a much broader scale. Unlike banner ads, native ads take coveted spots in feeds, at the end of articles, and within articles, so limited creative regulation could present major quality challenges.

A certain level of control is possible. Publishers can set parameters to regulate bid responses, thanks to blocked advertiser categories and domain standards set back in 2010. But since then, few regulations have been set for buy-side creative.

The updated standards also mean that native can transition into places with existing banner infrastructure. Buyers who already have the infrastructure to transact banners can add workflows to start supporting native. Anyone who bought on Facebook in the past can use those workflows to distribute the same assets in the open web.

Although quality control looks like it could be problematic for publishers, automation software is already presenting itself as a solution. Currently, platforms such as Contently, NewsCred, Scripted, HubSpot, and Kapost help brands push out their content to owned channels on Facebook, Twitter, or corporate blogs. Then, the marketing team works with a content distribution partner to distribute it. With programmatic pipelines and analytics in place, this broken model could be fixed — feeding relevant, high-quality native ads to publishers.

5 Ways Publishers Can Mitigate Quality Issues

Native ads give publishers the unique opportunity to monetize their sites, but upholding their editorial standards will remain a challenge. However, there are a few precautions publishers can take to avoid compromising quality:

1. Leverage Internal Resources

Most publishers already have access to creative, versatile copywriters and original, high-grade images. For custom, direct-sold native ad campaigns, they can tap into those existing resources to improve the look and feel of their ads.

2. Take Advantage of Native Agility

Unlike banner ad creative, native is super nimble. Publishers can optimize low-performing ads by swapping out creative, updating headlines, or making other creative tweaks on the spot.

3. Sell Their Own Units

A new breed of technology is now available to help premium publishers sell directly to advertisers via programmatic pipelines. Cross-selling into in-feed native units is a great source of extra revenue and allows publishers to control and regulate content quality.

4. Choose Tech-Savvy Partners

Publishers working with a partner to grow programmatic native revenue can boost and protect their interests by doing some due diligence. They should ask their partners how they’ve maintained quality in the past and how they propose to do it moving forward.

It’s also important to know the ad types that a partner can supply. A premium publisher, for example, might be willing to accept video and story native units, but not app installs. Knowing a partner’s media menu will set expectations for the type of content that will flow through a publisher’s site and app.

5. Incorporate Video

Native units are great containers for video and have the potential to close the gap between organic and native quality. With video budgets set to reach close to $5 billion by 2016, this is prime space for native. Plus, video is user-initiated, so completion rates and CPMs are high, and a well-designed native video campaign can keep the user engaged just as well as the Facebook or Twitter experience.

Native programmatic challenges all sides of ad creation and publishing by pushing native content up against organic content and demanding higher quality. The next iteration of RTB native specs needs to add protocols so sellers can get more granular for sensitive categories that they can or can’t accept and so buyers can adhere to those. In the meantime, publishers capitalizing on native ads should take precautions to keep their quality — and reputation — intact.

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