The convergence of social, video and mobile technology is rapidly changing the face of advertising. Just over a decade ago, search and display ads were all a company needed to reach their target audience online. Today, with Google getting the lion's share of search traffic and raking in ad revenues of $79.4 billion for 2016 alone - small businesses need a creative and out-of-the-box approach in order to stand out online.
A countless number of startups have emerged to meet the demand, many in the native advertising space. In fact, many industry and business leaders are hailing native advertising as the next big thing. A recent study found that users viewed native ads 53 percent more frequently than display ads. Below are five companies whose innovations helped shape the native, and overall, online ad space:
HuffPost - Digital Advertising
The Huffington Post is a news and opinion website and blog that now has both local and international editions. It was founded in 2005 by Andrew Breitbart, Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti. The site offers news, satire, blogs, and original content and covers politics, business, entertainment, environment, technology, popular media, lifestyle, culture, comedy, healthy living, women's interests, and local news.
The Huffington Post was launched on May 9, 2005, as a liberal commentary outlet, blog and an alternative to news aggregators such as the Drudge Report, and it continues to maintain a politically liberal stance. In February 2011, AOL acquired The Huffington Post for US$315 million, making Arianna Huffington editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. In 2012, The Huffington Post became the first commercially run US digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Outbrain - Sponsored recommended content
Founded in 2006, the company is headquartered in New York with a presence in a growing number of locations globally, including the U.S., U.K., Israel, Singapore, Japan and Australia. Currently, Outbrain is the world's largest discovery platform, bringing personalized, relevant online, mobile and video content to audiences while helping publishers understand their audiences through data. Outbrain serves over 190 billion personalized content recommendations every month and reaches over 561 million unique visitors around the world.
TripleLift - Sponsored images
TripleLift is is an image-based advertising platform which aims to replace banners with meaningful and engaging native image-based ads. The TripleLift platform repurposes a company's images from social networks like Pinterest and turns them into ads which are designed to blend in with the other images on a webpage. TripleLift tracks the popularity of different images on social networks and repurposes only the most popular images. On the average day, TripleLift analyzes over 24 million images from brands such as Martha Stewart and H&M . Currently these native image ads can be found on sites like Foodgawker and Pictacular among others. Gucci also used the platform to launch its Fall/Winter 2012 digital campaign.
Disqus - Sponsored link
Disqus is a commenting service platform which can be integrated seamlessly into websites and blogs for interactive and engaging discussions. The Disqus platform adds a feature-rich comment system to sites, offering a host of community management features including social network integration and advanced administration. Disqus also offers a Promoted Discovery feature which appears in a box below the Disqus comments section and highlights other articles readers might like. This feature increases the number of pages viewed on average by 56 percent and time spent on pages by 166 percent. The platform has been well received and is being used by companies such as MTV , American Express AXP +0.13%, Citibank and Intel to advertise their brand.
Songza - Sponsored playlists
Songza is a music platform which provides listeners with playlists tailored to their mood or current activity. In this way, Songza hopes to provide listeners with the best music for any particular situation. The tailored playlists are compiled by Songza's team which includes music journalists, critics, DJs and musicians. Songza also offers a unique advertising channel which it calls Branded Moments, where any brand can sponsor a life moment such as driving or working out. Some of these life moments have already been sponsored by companies including Nissan, Samsung, Victoria's Secret and Colgate. By sponsoring a playlist, brands are inadvertently interacting with consumers and getting them to associate positively with the brand.
The online browsing experience is becoming increasingly sophisticated and personalized. Online ads that hope to engage users need to adapt accordingly. The reality is that there is increasingly less room for intrusive online ads. These and other start ups are beginning to usher in an ad revolution.