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Metamarkets today becomes the latest component in the digital ad ecosystem to announce its support for the new native ad standard.

The San Francisco-based company provides analytics for digital ad exchanges, buyers, and sellers. It will now include data relating to the programmatic (automated) selling of native ads, as described in the new OpenRTB 2.3 standard recently approved by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Mike Driscoll, Metamarkets’ CEO and founder, told me that his company is the first ad analytics platform to join this parade.

“These are still the early days,” he said. “The first step was for the marketplaces to adopt the spec,” such as Sharethrough’s recent announcement.

Now, he said, “everyone is on board” at least conceptually, as the programmatic industry starts implementing the increasingly popular format.

Native ads look similar to their editorial surroundings in Web and mobile sites, and in apps. That’s their strength, but it’s also been the key criticism of the format — that a slightly different color or a “sponsored” label is sometimes not enough to keep readers from thinking that post about Sony TVs is actually from the publisher, when it’s from Sony.

But native ads perform terrifically, with higher clickthrough rates than other kinds of ads. Publishers also like that the ads, ensconced in the content flow, are less disruptive to a reading experience than, say, a banner ad plopped atop a page.

The key issue with growing this type of ad has been scaling them. Since they’re designed to resemble the unique look of their editorial surroundings, they’re customized and therefore hard to implement on a mass scale.

A Metamarkets screen, showing stats for Native Ads

Above: A Metamarkets screen, showing stats for Native Ads

Image Credit: Metamarkets

But a few months ago, the standards-setting IAB released its specification for native ads, making it possible for programmatic ad platforms to buy, sell, and deliver them.

How can unique ads be served en masse? By describing the content — headline, thumbnail image, body content, and so on — with metatags, and then serving them into publishers’ unique templates.

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Computerized buying, selling, and placement of the ads will drive a greater adoption of the format. Driscoll also pointed to some other differences.

Programmatic native ads, he said, allow the publisher to sell multiple impressions in one block, instead of the one-by-one sale of impressions common for banner and other display ads.

Banner ads are already built when they are delivered to the site or app, Driscoll noted, and their loading sometimes slows down the page.

By contrast, he said, native ads are assembled in real time according to the publisher’s style, often within the feed or content flow. Publishers are therefore more willing to sell multiple impressions at once, because it supports their content and doesn’t affect loading.

He described the programmatic handling of this new standard as “a bridge [connecting] a world built a couple of decades ago with banners” to a more customized world of unique ads for high-end sites. In between, Driscoll said, is the new programmatic delivery of native ads.

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