In the past 10 years, media publishers have faced major challenges thanks to disruption from tech giants: declining ad revenue, consumers’ decreased willingness to pay for content, and fragmented attention as publication loyalties diversify. Media publishers’ reliance on the major technology platforms has been a double-edged sword. Amazing technology and even more amazing distribution is the promise.

But the reality is that one product manager’s decision in Menlo Park on an algorithm or revenue share policy can completely change a well-thought-out business plan. Facebook, Google/YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat have become the dominant players in the advertising market, leaving publishers on the bench.

To fight against these technology giants, publishers need to continually invest in new media and advertising formats for their advertising partners. As the new content standard shifts from flat to immersive experiences, this means adding 3D and AR ad units to the arsenal.

Facebook and Snap continue to drive innovation in ad formats

Facebook and Snap’s dominance in brand advertising goes beyond their ability to micro-target a well-engaged (and young) user base. They have excelled in ad format innovation, capitalizing on this new  immersive content wave.

Take Facebook. Facebook has evolved its ad products from News Feed display ads to include Collections, where products are grouped together to optimize the mobile shopping experience, and Canvas, a text/video/photo combination that focuses on brand storytelling and enables 360 degree experiences.

And now it’s giving brands even more new content formats, with its 3D Posts. While not a direct ad product offering, brands can distribute branded 3D objects on Facebook that encourages user interaction. These 3D experience can launch into the Facebook camera for an augmented reality experience as well.

Above: 3D posts on Facebook

Snap’s 3D and AR content formats are more direct ad products. Snap has evolved from offering static filters to AR Trial ads and custom Lenses to add “functionality” to the “fun” of AR.  The company works with brands on a one-to-one basis to create custom activations, like its BMW AR ad.

Publishers are catching on

When Facebook changed its algorithm to deprioritize publisher and branded content, publishers that had previously heavily invested in social media distribution now face the need to rethink their viewership and monetization strategies.

To do this, publishers must pour resources into their own properties, both in content and in ad innovation. It’s critical to offer advertisers new ad formats equally as compelling as what they can get from social media outlets.

Some publishers are already working with immersive content and ads. For example, The New York Times offers interactive 360 degree ad units to advertisers and just started incorporating AR into its journalism. Two weeks ago the leading digital media outlet unveiled a hardcoded an AR ad experience in partnership with BMW. Oath is gunning to be a competitor to the Facebook/Google ad duopoly with its many media brands and ad tech acquisitions. With 70 percent of Oath’s audience on its mobile platforms, this contender is looking to bringing AR into its ad product offering as well. The acquisition of RYOT and hiring of Kathryn Friedrich to run the immersive media studio highlights the companies focus on driving its business forward with more immersive content and more innovation in its ad tech stack.

Publishers should embrace 3D and AR ad offerings

As Facebook and Snap increasingly focus their technical prowess on 3D and AR, publishers should double down on immersive advertising as well to ensure they can capture the growth from this new content format by winning more brands dollars.

How should a publisher fight back and own the 3D and AR ad space? Here are four key recommendations:

  • Encourage brands to invest in creating 3D assets: Illustrate how 3D and AR can help tell the best brand stories. For example, 3D and AR help enable product try-ons or help a user experience what a product looks like within a room (vs. simply on a screen). These formats can bring a brand to life and jump off the page.
  • Help brands distribute and scale their immersive content: The biggest challenge facing this new industry is scale and distribution. A brand may create a 3D asset and only deploy the experience within the walled gardens of Facebook and Snapchat. That same 3D asset can and should be used within publisher ad inventory, too. Give brands the bang for their buck and help them diversify their media spend by offering premium ad inventory for these new formats.
  • Offer ad units on both web properties and native apps: Both publisher apps and web properties can house 3D and AR ad units. Provide options for more distribution based on a brand’s desired targeting and media campaign.
  • Build a seamless experience: Allow users to access ad units seamlessly from within articles. Having to download an experience or launch a specific application will not deliver the expected or desired user experience.

Publishers should embrace emerging technology and ensure they don’t become overly reliant on the tech giants for enablement and distribution. 3D & AR content is what brands and agencies are demanding today, and publishers have the opportunity to bolster their ad offerings for advertisers.

Immersive content is here to stay — it’s time for publishers to own this space and monetize to regain their ad revenue dominance.

Ara Parikh heads product marketing at OmniVirt, a 360 degree VR advertising platform for brands and publishers