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CBS Interactive Is Ramping Up Its Native Programmatic Advertising Game

Network is 'bullish' on automated selling in 2016

CBS Interactive says programmatic advertising is playing a bigger role for its websites in 2016. CBS Interactive

In a sign of the times, CBS Interactive has inked a deal to increase native programmatic advertising on the majority of its websites. Bidtellect, a native advertising exchange, has an exclusive contract to backfill in-feed native ad inventory across 18 of CBSi's properties on desktop and mobile.

David Morris, chief revenue officer of CBS Interactive, said he's "bullish" on programmatic and has "seen substantial growth within our native programmatic channel quarter over quarter." 

"Our proxy is that any way an advertiser wants to connect with CBS Interactive or connect to a consumer through CBS Interactive, we want to connect those pipes," he added.

One of the top Internet companies in terms of audience size (270 million global unique monthly visitors for its 21 websites), Morris said the majority of the company's revenue still comes from direct sales. However, CBSi has increasingly integrated programmatic selling into its ads system and has seen it become a larger part of the overall pie as a result. That's especially the case in terms of display advertising, he said.

According to Bidtellect CEO Lon Otremba, advertisers are continuing to think more and more like publishers. He said one of the most common initial concerns from brands signing on is whether they'll have enough content.

"If you've got a really good ad, the consumer's happy, first of all," Otremba said. "The publisher's happy because you have a happy consumer, and the advertiser's happy, so everybody is happy."

Morris wasn't always a believer in programmatic, and while direct-sale display ads still provide higher cost-per-thousand (CPM) rates, he said the company plans to increase its programmatic play in 2016. 

"I thought it was an oxymoron," Morris said. "It just didn't make sense to me that you would be able to scale a native ad across many different sights, but then when I saw the technology and how it runs on our different platforms, I saw the opportunity."

It's been less than a year since Bidtellect raised roughly $22.4 million to build out its technology and expand its sales and marketing teams. In the last 12 months, Bidtellect has seen inventory shift increasingly to mobile from desktop. However, desktop still beats mobile when it comes to performance, Otremba said.

Other publishers using Bidtellect's platform also say they're seeing good returns. Purch—a digital publisher with 100 million monthly visitors—said its audience is increasingly going to mobile, especially apps. Purch still generates more money from online sales. However, the automated advertising that does run through its various tech publishing websites sees between two and four times better CPMs in native apps than they do on the mobile Web.

"What we're finding is the train has left the station, and it's driving toward mobile," said Marc Ropelato, director of programmatic revenue at Purch.

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