WPP’s Xaxis Is Bringing Its Native Advertising Arm to North America

They take on a crowded marketplace

Xaxis, WPP's programmatic media and advertising platform, will soon use its German native advertising arm for the first time in hopes of capturing part of North America's growing native programmatic advertising market.

Plista, based in Berlin, will give advertisers one place for buying outstream video, which plays outside of video content—between paragraphs of text, for example—along with other formats for both mobile and desktop. According to the companies, adding the increasingly popular ad unit to the existing scale of Xaxis will let advertisers use the same data and audience segments for what they already do with digital and display.

Xaxis has been doing programmatic display advertising for years, working with other ad tech players like GumGum. Now, it's looking to fill the gap in its native offerings, believing contextual ads perform better than simple display ads.

"The thing that I think is unique about that is we've focused on audience for so long, and this just extends it to bring them into the contextual environment," Xaxis global CEO Brian Gleason said. 

According to Gleason, revenue from the partnership with Plista will bring Xaxis double-digit percentage growth in total global ad revenue, yet another sign of the growing role native programmatic advertising is playing in marketers' overall strategies.

Brands and publishers are increasingly getting behind native programmatic ads in an attempt to bring more dynamic creative to users. Earlier this year, CBS Interactive chief revenue officer David Morris said he'd become more "bullish" on native programmatic, partnering with Bidtellect to increase use of the format across the publisher's 18 properties.

Plista already is serving ads in 12 countries around the world including Germany, China, Australia and the U.K. According to global CEO Nicolas Bidon, the company served more than 10 billion ads across networks in April—a number that will likely rise with its entrance into the North American market.

Bidon knows his company isn't the first to get into the U.S. market. On the video front, companies like Virool and Teads already have a presence, while others like Outbrain and Taboola have massive reach for native content marketing. Earlier this week, Taboola announced it now reaches 1 billion people a month across 50 countries.

"We're trying to basically address the fact that it's becoming a crowded and fragmented market," Bidon said, "which I think from an advertiser perspective makes it difficult to see what is truly making a difference in a performance plan."

Meanwhile, native programmatic looks to grow this year, though estimates are hard to come by. When it comes to regular display, U.S. programmatic digital ad spend will reach $22.10 billion in 2016, eMarketer said.