Why Branded Content Is Poised to Take Over

IAB's head of brand initiatives discusses native ads, viewability and the future

As more publishers launch branded content divisions, native advertising is taking over a larger part of digital marketing.

Adweek caught up with Peter Minnium, the Interactive Advertising Bureau's head of brand initiatives, to talk about the trend, which was the topic of a panel he recently moderated the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Phoenix.

The central question he posed to the panel was whether publishers, agencies or brands would create the best ads in the future. We revisited that topic, along with several other hot issues like measuring viewability, in our conversation with Minnium:

Adweek: We're seeing a growth of publishers creating their own in-house agencies.

Minnium: It's absolutely a trend. The IAB sees digital advertising falling into three buckets going forward: concept ads, commerce ads and content ads. Concept ads are upper-funnel, awareness-driving and used to create new desire and demand. Television commercials are a perfect example, as are the more creative uses of the IAB Rising Stars. Commerce ads are the good-old-fashioned universal ad package, bottom-of-the-funnel ads that present a single offer and often live on the margins of the page. Content ads are the ones that are growing like crazy. Native advertising is the biggest form.

Traditional brand agencies "own" concept ads. They know how to tell a story and how to build interactive advertising. New-world digital advertising companies, including a lot of technology companies, know how to do commerce advertising unbelievably. An example would be Criteo. That is direct marketing on steroids, technology- and data-enabled.

The new area that's growing is content advertising. There's a land grab going on because no established player "owns" it. We will absolutely begin to see a shakeout over the next year to 18 months as traditional agencies begin to learn those skills and bring them in house. We're seeing interesting models now: Grey, DigitasLBi and Starcom MediaVest have groups. I think we're going to see a shakeout as publishers who are rushing into this space begin to realize how hard creative services is. Brand agencies have years of understanding how to optimize the process. As we move forward, brands are going to be more selective. They're going to want to put more money into working media, less into content creation. They are going to squeeze the margin of these publishers. It's a difficult, tricky business.

We're also seeing a lot of brands combine concept and content ads into a larger cross-platform campaign.

Absolutely, the best campaigns that are done today are a system of creative assets that work together and find distribution in the most appropriate places. We all know how to tell linear stories, but the creation and distribution adds another dimension. The Skittles Super Bowl story is partially taught by the press conference, by the 30-second commercial and by the website. The IAB is focused on creating actual ad standards in 2015 that enable all of these assets to be brought together into a single standard that enables dynamic combinations of those assets to be distributed to the appropriate places, called the Dynamic Ad Campaign Guidelines. That's our goal in 2015, to be announced at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in February 2016.

The IAB recommended that the benchmark for viewability be set at 70 percent, since 100 percent viewability measurement is not yet possible. What is it doing to improve that?

Viewability is part of a process that the ANA [Association of National Advertisers], 4A's [American Association of Advertising Agencies] and the IAB are engaged in. We always knew the technical limitation of viewability would be a bump in the road. Publishers are working hard on best practices for viewability, which includes potential things like ads only loading when viewable and dealing with creative file weight issues, which create latency. There was also broad agreement that we need more education, which the IAB, 4A's and ANA are going to work on. There is also a movement for us (IAB and 4A's) to incorporate viewability into the standard terms and conditions.

People now want to think about what's next. If the viewable impression is just a currency, can we use that technology to understand the value of ads? What are the brand metrics that matter beyond one second, 50 percent? We're working together to really get everything set in 2015 because we all know that marketers' patience will end by the end of 2015.

Some view branded content as a way to get around viewability measurements. Is that a good thing?