The Power of Native: Q&A with Lee Gibson, Adyoulike

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on April 5, 2018, on and is written by Sonja Kroll.

Industry veteran Lee Gibson recently joined native advertising specialists Adyoulike, fronting the company as UK MD. ExchangeWire took the opportunity to discuss with Gibson native’s share of the advertising market, brand safety in the context of native, and the future of native advertising.

ExchangeWire: Has the power of native been fully realised by advertisers?

Lee Gibson: While banners have previously dominated the digital advertising landscape, native advertising is wasting no time in catching up. According to the IAB UK, native and content advertising spend – including paid-for sponsorships, advertisement features, and in-feed distribution – hit £563m in the first half of 2017, accounting for 28% of display ad spend, 82% of which is in-feed.

Although native has been fully utilised to date, there is still work to be done. All too often, new advertising formats run in isolation from overall campaigns. There are many reasons for this – sometimes advertisers’ budgets for experimentation operate outside of the core campaign objectives, for instance, or they don’t like to rely on new formats for key strategic campaigns. In order to fully realise the power of native, advertisers need to embrace programmatic, which makes rolling native advertising into any and every digital campaign much easier. Native advertising no longer has to live in its own ‘content’ or ‘native’ silo – it can be incorporated across all digital plans.

Is native a sustainable solution for advertisers?

While native advertising is still very much in its infancy, much of the technological groundwork required to make native advertising work is now complete. This foundation opens the door for more display money, which is primarily bought and sold programmatically, to move directly into native advertising formats. Native is still evolving, but I certainly think it’s a sustainable solution for advertisers for years to come. The pipes for native video are even newer, but it’s a huge growth area, one where native can show true engagement and be unobtrusive to the user. In light of this, Adyoulike recently acquired AI-Powered Video Platform Pulpix, a company that helps deliver better engagement for brands combined with a powerful recommendation engine for the world’s leading brands and publishers.

Brand safety is of paramount concern for brands, agencies, and vendors at the moment. What can be done to improve this?

Advertisers are right to be asking questions—technology and platforms have brought scale and targeting; but context and the environment in which advertising messages are being consumed have been overlooked. Just recently, Unilever threatened to pull ads from Google and Facebook over concerns around appropriate ad placements; and the Bank of America has gone as far as to appoint a chief safety officer to protect the brand’s integrity. I firmly believe that technology, specifically artificial intelligence (AI), can help improve overall brand safety, and make CSOs’ jobs easier. As AI continues to improve, integrating these solutions will be critical for agencies, specifically, to implement in order to maintain trust with brands and vendors. AI adoption is so widespread because of the scale and scope it can achieve. AI technology has the capability to analyse and provide a detailed analysis of hundreds of thousands of webpages within seconds and each piece of data associated with these pages. This information is captured in real time, which allows brands and ad-tech companies to really take control of a campaign.

How can technology help improve transparency within the advertising industry?

Advances in AI and machine learning will enable the simplification of traders’ technology, which will in turn enable them to get back to advertising basics and leverage creativity, intuition, and data. Streamlining this technology will make it as straightforward to buy advertising on the open internet as it is to buy on Facebook, bringing more transparency and accountability to the process, which will mean better results for advertisers. Even outside of the digital advertising sphere, AI technology can be used as a force of good against prominent issues such as ‘fake news’. ‘Fake news’ strikes at the core of online content and brings into question its legitimacy, eroding trust between advertisers, agencies, ad-tech companies, and consumers. In this case, AI can be used to protect brands, strengthening consumer trust, preventing the rise of fraudulent news, and improving transparency.

What can we expect from native advertising within the next three years?

Programmatic is unifying the way digital advertising is bought and sold; it is without a doubt, the future of trading in all advertising. Technology and formats will continue to evolve, allowing ever-more campaign optimisation and targeting to take place alongside maximising scale. Yes, programmatic has its challenges. But, at its heart, programmatic is just a tool – albeit an extremely powerful and profitable one. Once advertisers and publishers understand how to use programmatic more effectively, it will be embraced fully by all advertisers.”

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