Native advertising platform ADYOULIKE has recently teamed up with Trinity Mirror in an exclusive partnership to work on native in-feed advertising. The platform will provide the UK news publisher with ad units to deliver native traffic, video and native story products.

PerformanceIN caught up with Dale Lovell, UK MD and chief digital officer at ADYOULIKE, and head of digital partnerships at Trinity Mirror, Russell Carter, to find out more about the collaboration and current trends in the advertising space.

First of all, native advertising has been touted for several years as increasingly “the next wave” of digital advertising. Could you give us a quick summary of the state of this channel in 2017 and whether it’s living up to early expectations of “user-friendliness”?

Dale Lovell: If truth be told, native advertising was initially an ad format that was given little respect and criticised heavily – I think this was largely down to a lack of understanding on the part of publishers and advertisers. It’s a broad term that previously caused confusion.

Today, things are different. Native is now helping publishers like Trinity Mirror to enhance the online customer experience – and most publishers have native advertising formats – and native is estimated to capture 30% of the global ad spend by 2020, with global investments in native advertising expected to reach $85.5 billion, a growth of 213% from 2016.

One of the biggest successes behind native advertising lies in its ability to create a meaningful connection between a brand and its target audience, through immersive experiences across text, audio, and video.

This is especially true of the generations who grew up in the era where computers and smartphones became ubiquitous and part of everyday life. An IAB study found that younger consumers, aged between 18-24, perceived native advertising as more appealing than traditional ads, with over a quarter feeling published brand content was most likely to make a brand appeal to them, than other forms.

As famed adman Howard Luck Gossage once remarked decades ago: ‘The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad’ – we feel this perfectly sums up what native advertising has and will continue to achieve.  

Could you tell us how this will be rolled out across Trinity Mirror’s titles and in what format, and if it will differ from what we’ve seen before from native ad companies across publishers?

DL: This partnership will see ADYOULIKE providing native in-feed ad units across Mirror Online and all Trinity Mirror regional news brand sites. These advertising units, which are compatible to deliver native traffic, video and native story products, are rolling out to all of Trinity Mirror’s news sites. The scale is truly impressive.

The partnership also means that Trinity Mirror has access to the ADYOULIKE DNA exchange platform, which is currently the largest native advertising supply-side platform (SSP) available on a global scale. The platform allows for any form of content to be automatically customised and distributed seamlessly to any device.

Russell Carter: We wanted a solution that could be implemented at scale across our whole digital portfolio, and one that gave our sales teams the flexibility to offer the best solutions to our advertising clients.

More publishers are moving into programmatic advertising; Trinity Mirror, for example, has had its own in-house specialists. Does this complement your efforts, or are you competing against this format?

DL: This really does compliment Trinity Mirror’s own efforts as the in-feed advertising units are also being used by its direct in-house solutions teams to power its growing native advertising requirements. Trinity Mirror will benefit from access to the ADYOULIKE DNA exchange and the adoption of ADYOULIKE’s ground-breaking native SaaS technology. These capabilities mean that ADYOULIKE is uniquely positioned to help Trinity scale its offerings and monetise opportunities that did not exist before.

RC: This partnership is a great compliment to our efforts as we want to offer our partners and advertisers a range of solutions that are customised to their needs. ADYOULIKE’s technology enables us to maintain and develop those relationships and meet those needs.

Dale, consumers are becoming savvier, but they’re also becoming more aware of the importance of “value exchange” – how publishers need to monetise their content. Is this evident in how Adyoulike’s native efforts are being received, or are there still challenges to overcome?

DL: Native advertising is all about respecting the value exchange. Native works best when it is promoting good, engaging content that consumers actually find interesting. The fact the formats are non-intrusive means that success is only achieved by ensuring you target the right audience with the right content. ADYOULIKE’s native offering helps publishers monetise their content and audience in a way that respects the needs of consumers – looking at the value exchange.

Do you see native advertising as a necessity for publishers, or is success dependent on specific criteria, such as audience size or demographics, or the vertical of the publisher, for example?

DL: Native advertising is a necessity for all publishers. I’m of the firm opinion that within five  to 10 years, all digital advertising will be native. The surge in mobile inventory – and the fact that native is the only format that really works on mobile – combined with continued content-led advertising, means that native is going to be the go-to format and ad medium in digital. If you are a publisher not looking at any sort of native advertising, then your financial future will be bleak.

RC: I believe native is now an established part of a publisher’s advertising mix. Criteria like audience size or demographics influence specifics of integration, but not whether native should be implemented, as such.

What sort of successes have you seen so far, and what kind of metrics do you use to gain a benchmark of that?

DL: This will differ from campaign to campaign and we, as an ad tech vendor, are typically tasked with a multitude of metrics when it comes to measuring success. These can range from campaign metrics such as impressions, click and view-through rates, through to performance metrics such as leads, sales and footfall. In comparison with other digital formats, native advertising stands up well works across the entire sales purchasing cycle. When you have highly visible native ad units, such as those we hold exclusively with Trinity Mirror, combined with great technology and a programmatic targeting capability, the ability to hit the right audience with the right messages at the right time, really is extremely powerful.

What do you see as potential future trends or innovations for native advertising?

DL: Native advertising will continue to evolve. One of the great things about native is that it is so fluid; the fact it can be difficult to define means that it’s not restricted by standard formats or thinking. In the short term, we can expect to see some creative adjustments in terms of previews, bringing native ad formats up to speed with some recent editorial design changes.

We can also expect to see continued innovation in native video; this is an area that is growing rapidly. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will grow – ADYOULIKE was the first AI-powered native ad platform when we launched our integration with IBM Watson in October.

Longer term, native advertising is the natural format for virtual and augmented reality, which will deliver new and interesting styles of native as these technologies make truly immersive digital ad experiences a distinct possibility.