As part of our blog series on mobile advertising and mobile formats we spoke with Ionut Ciobotaru, Co-founder & Managing Director of PubNative to find out more about this native SSP and how native mobile advertising - specifically video, is evolving.
We know mobile is exploding in regard to advertising, especially video - can you explain what role PubNative plays in mobile advertising and exactly what service you facilitate?
PubNative is a global mobile supply-side platform (SSP) that’s fully focused on native advertising. We work directly with mobile publishers to understand each app’s needs in terms of UX and business objectives, and to provide ad monetization solutions that enable sustainable revenue growth. Mobile native is a growing market so focusing specifically in this area gives us an actionable specialization.
We aggregate a considerable quantity of demand in order to create good competition within the PubNative marketplace and maximise the eCPMs that we provide to our publishers. Our business model is based on a revenue share with publishers, where depending on their size, they can receive up to 90% of the revenue generated through our platform.
In terms of video, we’re working on some native and in-feed video ad placements. This is a really interesting area and it’s something we’ve worked hard on to understand and document the native video market on mobile. It’s changing pretty fast but definitely offers an exciting future.
Tell us about the ‘native’ side of the business and how you differentiate native mobile from other mobile ads?
At PubNative, we see native advertising as a framework. Adverts should fit the form of the context (i.e. the UX), but also the content (i.e. the content that is currently being displayed or read by the user). Through this combination, native ads should actually enhance rather than disrupt the experience of users.
To provide a little more detail on this, let me explain these two points further. Firstly, in terms of UX, as the ad has to fit the app and not look out of place within it. Inherent in this means not disrupting the experience of those using the app. If we look at a platform like Instagram, the native ads fit seamlessly into the app feed and therefore don’t interrupt users when scrolling.
In terms of context, it is about delivering relevant advertisements according to the profile of the user. To take the example of Instagram again, they use information about a user - for example, an early 20s woman from San Francisco who follows a lot of fashion accounts. With this information, they are able to use adverts that fit the context of that user’s Instagram feed, for example with adverts for related fashion products on ecommerce sites.
How do you best work ads around UX for gaming apps?
This is actually something I covered relatively recently in our blog, looking at several examples of in-game advertising. Overall the issue is about following the principles of fitting the advert to the content and context of the games. In real terms this means a consideration of the way a game is built, amongst others.
For example, users are likely to be more receptive to downloading a similar game at the stage in which they have just completed a level rather than halfway through. By considering factors like this, we can boost UX and improve installs.
What is the biggest challenge for mobile advertisers at the moment?
One of the biggest challenges is educating mobile advertisers, especially the brand advertisers. Since mobile native is still in its relative infancy, it’s really important to spread the word to advertisers and publishers. Because many marketers are inherently conservative and like to stick to what they know, this is about showcasing why native is the option for the future and illustrating its qualities in comparison to more traditional formats like banners and interstitials.
To what extent do you think mobile publishers are being affected by ad blocking? How do you approach this problem?
I would say that mobile is being marginally affected by ad-blocking. There are two cases to consider: Mobile in-app - which can’t be blocked so easily - so impact is minimal, and mobile web - where all the ad-blockers can function - but despite the buzz of its initial launch, its impact is limited. On top of that, Google recently removed Samsung’s ad-blocking tool from the store, showing the influence of major players in the market.
With movements like the Acceptable Ads Manifesto, the industry is evolving in a way that both advertisers and users can live happily ever after. For those of us working in the native sector, this is about making sure our adverts work with the form and the function as well as providing superior value and relevance to the viewer.
With this kind of combination, we should increasingly see adverts deliver the requisite value to the user and in turn, remove factors such as irritation and intrusion that so frequently cause the use of ad blocking software in the first place.
You have global offices, what is the scale of PubNative and are you seeing any particular trends based on geography?
Our HQ is based in Berlin and we also have offices in San Francisco, Beijing and Seoul to serve all of our major markets (EMEA, APAC, NA). We’re expanding fast and Berlin gives us the ideal location of working between the two time zones.
APAC is one of the fastest growing markets for us. Smartphone penetration is particularly high there and some of the emerging markets are mobile first or even mobile only - in terms of consumer adoption of technology. Still because of its maturity - US remains the highest revenue generating market.
In-app and mobile web are significantly different when it comes to ad serving - do you service both mobile formats or do you deal purely with apps?
Most of our clients are mobile app publishers but we also work with mobile web publishers. With so much search being conducted through mobile web, it is still a significant source of traffic for advertisers.
Mobile web can be seen as falling somewhere between desktop and mobile app. Whilst it often employs resized ad formats used on desktop, it has to be optimized for the smaller screen and provide good UX.
If you work with both is there a particular advantage one has over the other?
It really depends on the user base of mobile web and apps. At the moment I would say that there are more native formats for in-app native rather than native ads on the mobile web.
Regarding the mobile web - because it is an application of the desktop environment to mobile, this means that the content is being consumed in similar ways - i.e. through news websites, blogs, portals, etc. This means that native on mobile web is a direct replica of native on desktop, so underpinned by the six formats laid out in the IAB Native Advertising Playbook.
Another factor is simply mobile optimization. Whilst there remain companies who fail to adequately optimize their sites for mobile, ads on these sites are unlikely to provide good UX or ROI for advertisers.
Mobile apps, on the other hand, have specific functionalities, such as games, utility, entertainment, etc., and the UX is very particular to each function or app. In turn, this means that in-app native advertising has to be much more flexible in terms of format.
Do you encounter many issues with transparency and how do you tackle viewability, brand safety and fraud issues within mobile?
Ad tech is a fast-moving space that has evolved incredibly quickly. In an industry that moves so fast, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone follows best practices and plays by the rules that can often lag behind the market.
The issue of fraud, in particular, has certainly been a topic of conversation lately. In fact there are a number of different fraudulent activities that have taken place, one of which is the issue of click spamming. We need to come together as an industry to ensure that we legislate and advise to reduce the frequency and impact of issues like ad fraud.
As well as fraud, there a number of other issues that affect the industry. In terms of viewability, the MRC has actually just released a paper on the viewability of native ads, so this part is already happening. Increasing transparency on both the publisher and advertiser side would also go a long way to helping issues like fraud.
What is your mobile advertising prediction for 2016 - is this finally the year of mobile - at least when it comes to advertising?
As the mobile native advertising ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace, 2016 is going to see advancements in technology in order to support an increasing demand for control and transparency from all players in this industry.
While mobile advertisers are requesting more guarantees over the execution of their native programmatic campaigns (viewability, fraud), mobile publishers are rightfully demanding more transparency in pricing.
In this context, we should inevitably see the emergence of independent, third-party technology solutions - unified platforms - that aggregate all mobile native demand, enabling publishers to price their inventory at the correct market value and maximize their revenue while facilitating enhanced transparency for advertisers.
About the author:
Ionut Ciobotaru (Co-founder & Managing Director of PubNative) started his career with a web development company and several technology related blogs. After years of entrepreneurial work in fields like eCommerce, digital marketing and collaborating with brands like Orange, Vodafone, HTC, Microsoft, Ionut sought a new challenge in the mobile space. He joined AppLift where he successfully developed company’s product suite for publishers and media partners. In order to fully focus on improving solutions for mobile publishers he founded PubNative, a mobile publisher platform fully focused on native advertising.