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Blending in is the new standing out: Nitin Mathur of Yahoo on native advertising

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In the midst of the noise about native advertising, where publishers and advertisers are still getting used to this new format, Yahoo has taken it upon itself to educate people about it. With 200 brands advertising with Yahoo through the native format already, the publisher has acquired an ease with it in the span of less than a year. The aim is to get other publishers to use Yahoo’s native advertising solutions . In conversation with Nitin Mathur, Senior Director, Marketing, Yahoo APAC, Rashi Bisaria delves into the advantages of native advertising, the growth it has seen in the last few months, issues of transparency and choice and the challenges of personalizing the experience. Edited excerpts:

How much has native advertising picked up in the Indian market in the last one year?
We have been in the Indian market for almost 8 months now. This has become the fastest growing advertising revenue steam for us at Yahoo. It started with the need of a certain segment of advertisers . We wanted the right experience for the clients and hence have been treading carefully. Today, we have more than 200 brands using the format. The adoption rates have really grown across segments. On the performance and e-commerce side of advertising, brands like OLX, Flipkart, Amazon, Shaadi.com and India Property are some of the names we have on board. Auto companies like BMW, FMCG companies like HUL , are already there, so the adoption rate has cut across categories. In fact, we want to take this technology to other publishers to help them monetize their offerings. It brings additional supply to the network and the demand is already there. We want to increase the supply to bring about the right mix and enable publishers to use our native advertising solutions. They should simply plug Yahoo stream ads into their own content and start monetizing it. We are opening doors and actively starting to talk to other publishers who want to use this solution and get into a revenue share model with us.

Which sector is most easily adapting to native advertising and what is driving this trend?
Initially, we were choosy ourselves but right now the adoption is all across sectors. There are a couple of key factors driving this growth; firstly, internet consumption on different devices means that the experience for the user has to be seamless. Traditional ad formats are not suited to connected devices. Native advertising has emerged as a format that transcends from a PC to a mobile to a tablet to a phablet. Mobile, in particular, is driving native advertising.

Secondly, Yahoo believes in display advertising but at the same time understands the challenges associated with it. People have started identifying advertisements and ignore them. They are demanding formats which are less intrusive, which take into account the form factor and blend in well with the content. Blending in is the new standing out. These ads are non-intrusive and work well within the environment.

Thirdly, native ads score due to plain effectiveness. Studies have shown that people really notice native ads and want to click on them as they feel they are contextual. They do not cover the user’s experience. Also, these ads provide some value because of the way they are written and described. They are more effective due to their click through rates, ability to deliver more impressions at a lesser cost.

So what is Yahoo’s advantage?
We have a distinct advantage. We are the largest publisher of content on the web. Nobody publishes as much content as we do. We have a great depth and breadth of content and can play stream ads well in context.

Secondly, Yahoo provides personalized content. For example, your homepage will not look like mine. When we can personalize your experience around content, we can also personalize your experience around ads. It becomes a very powerful combination.
Thirdly, our targeting options driven by analytics make these ads very powerful

How is Yahoo ensuring that the end users get a superior experience?
Advertising is also about content. We ensure that end users get transparency and choice. Transparency means clearly demarcating these ads as ads. We ensure that ads are called out as ads.

The second aspect is choice. Most of the Yahoo ads have an ad choices button which helps you, express your like or dislike for the ad. You can give us feedback and our engineers will fine tune and make it smarter. The right experience will give good results.

So do you think in the near future, it will overtake the regular display advertising?
44% of the ads which we served on Yahoo in Q3 were native ads. If mobile is growing native is bound to grow..

Is advertising on Yahoo as compelling as content?
In part, we don’t really control it. Our job as a platform is to share audience insights with our advertisers. We are personalizing the ad experience as well. We have a responsibility. Advertisers want their ads to be delivered and they have certain creative guidelines. Our job is to ensure we provide the right advertising experience. Our advertising algorithms really work to show the right ad at the right time. We don’t control the creative but we control the context in which it is shown and to whom it is shown. If we do that matching really well then I think the advertising content is going to be comparable.

What are the media properties on which you are providing these ads to advertisers?
Nitin: Yahoo front page across PCs, Mobiles, Tablets, all screens. We also provide it on Yahoo mail across mobile, web as well as app. We have introduced it on some modules and media properties as well.

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