The changing banner ad market has brought about the rise of a new breed of digital advertising. Here, Mark Howard, chief revenue officer at Forbes Media and speaker at FOLIO:’s MediaNext event, October 28 to 30 in New York, talks about native advertising solutions, building audience engagement and leveraging sponsorships into direct sales.
FOLIO: How have you seen the role and effectiveness of the banner ad change over the last few years?
Mark Howard: There’s been a lot of emphasis on the change mostly driven by the comeuppance of the programmatic world. What we’ve really seen is that there’s been a whole bifurcation of the marketplace where a lot of the advertisers are starting to focus a lot more specifically on direct response versus branding initiatives. While that’s always been the case, I feel like there’s even more focus around that as budgets start to become allocated for a lot of the tactical buying that takes place for their programs.
There’s been a much greater emphasis from a direct sales standpoint to build out programs using different types of units and leveraging sponsorships and custom programs to drive value through that type of relationship and direct sale. We’re finding that for a lot more of that mid- and lower-funnel activity the programmatic channels are able to accomplish what the marketers have been looking to do in a much more efficient and effective way.
Brand marketers want to know how they can use bigger and more interactive units. How can they engage audiences by leveraging these bigger pieces of real estate? Rather than focus on how you drive a click back to the brand site, the emphasis is turning toward how do we make the unit engaging enough so that you can either pull forward content from the advertiser’s landing page and present that in the unit or, if they don’t have that, how can they leverage some of the assets of the publisher to be able to drive that type of engagement?
With that, a whole other level of accountability and analytics has arrived where not only are we focused on impressions and click-through rates, but there’s this other set of analytics in the middle around exposures and engagement. How long were the ads in view? How are you able to prove that somebody interacted with the unit and, if they did, for how long?
FOLIO: How should publishers investigate new opportunities for ad sales other than traditional displays?
Howard: The main focus in the market right now has really been establishing some sort of native advertising solution. It’s clear that marketers are really looking for ways in which they can find an audience for the content they’re producing. From our perspective, native advertising represents the ability to promote and distribute content marketing. Content comes in all sorts of different shapes and forms. Native ad has really created a marketplace where you now start to see these paid ads in the editorial streams and content wells that were previously off-limits to paid advertising. As these new placements are being created, it represents a new pool of inventory that publishers are able to monetize that never existed before.
FOLIO: What are the current big trends in digital advertising and how do you see the marketplace evolving over, let’s say, the next two years?
Howard: The two most dominant forces in the market right now are programmatic and native. In the past, they had been viewed as being at odds with each other. It’s really the technologies that drive the exchange businesses and their ability to be part of the standard planning process, as well as, the ways in which the distribution of native ads and the automation of converting content into these native ads that we’re starting to see a convergence. While they each individually represent their own market opportunity for any publisher, it’s the efficiencies and the effectiveness of the programmatic technologies that can help drive your display business on a guaranteed basis. That’s where the real opportunity exists to create a whole new set of revenue streams.