Q&A: Justin Choi, CEO of Nativo, Explains Native Advertising and Nativo’s Platform

Justin Headshot OfficeNative advertising platform Nativo (www.nativo.net), launched only last year, has grown to running hundreds of millions of native ad impressions on partner web properties. They have recently announced a $3.5-million Series A round of funding led by Greycroft Partners, and a strategic partnership with VivaKi, the technology innovation arm of Publicis Groupe.

We spoke to Justin Choi, Nativo’s CEO, about native advertising and how both publishers and advertisers can turn it into a very efficient tool.

Otilia Otlacan: Could you give us an overview of what Nativo does?

Justin Choi: Nativo is the leading, most advanced native advertising platform for publishers and brand marketers.

For publishers, Nativo makes it easy to activate, scale, and deploy native ads across both desktop and mobile media properties. The platform is easy for publisher account managers and ad ops teams to use, and provides the same flexibility and controls they have with display, thus making it easy to monetize native inventory placements across all site types and devices without all the manual work that has traditionally been required in deploying these campaigns.

Nativo works with over 1,500 publications—including premium publishers such as The Street Inc., USA Today Sports Media Group, Entrepreneur Media, and Readers Digest. These publications use Nativo technology to power their own native advertising sales.

For marketers, Nativo is the easiest way to distribute brand content to in-stream native placements across hundreds of publications simultaneously with targeting, performance optimization, tracking, and data analytics.

O.O.: What makes native advertising such a sought-after advertising format?

J.C.: For marketers, authentic consumer attention has become impossible to buy; click-through rates on display have declined to almost zero and comScore says over 50% of display ads are not even viewable, YT says skip rates on video ads are as high as 85%, and interruptive advertising tactics only result in a negative consumer experience with the brand.

Native is an opportunity for brands to truly influence consumers vs. speak in interruptive sound bites. Native advertising allows brands to reconnect with consumers via relevant content that puts the consumer first and adds value in the form of information, education, entertainment, etc. Native enables brands to tell deeper stories and generate true, authentic engagement, all of which drive KPIs such as discovery, awareness, consideration, favorability, etc.

For publishers, native unlocks a new premium revenue stream, and enables improved audience monetization without degrading user experience. Native also effectively addresses mobile and tablet monetization, where the use of intrusive ads can elicit an even greater negative visceral reaction from consumers. Native also allows publishers to innovate their ad products portfolio and expand their performance capabilities for direct brand clients.

The Online Publishers Association found that 70% of its members offer native advertising today. They expect that to reach 90% by the end of 2014.

Native ads are a powerful option for the industry because they deliver better results for advertisers, meaningful revenue for publishers, and add value to the consumer thus improving their experience. Native drives discovery, awareness, consideration, and activation all within a single engagement. These lead to down-funnel benefits such as click-through rates, purchase intent, and even sales.

The proof is in the pudding: Nativo campaigns deliver 5 to 20 times higher click rates than traditional display ads, and users engage for over 50 seconds on average.

O.O.: What does Nativo do differently?

J.C.: Four major differentiators to highlight: we have the widest support for 100% fully native integration, we are the most automated, we are the most flexible, and we are the most experienced.

a) We integrate seamlessly with publishers and enable native ads that identically match each publication’s site layout. This means native ads look, feel and behave like surrounding editorial content, regardless of site type or device. The hardest and most important part of this, for publishers and brand marketers, is we ensure the entire brand experience takes place within the publisher domain. This is all done in real-time, simultaneously across hundreds of publications.

The platform works with desktop sites, mobile sites, responsive designs, and even Android and iOS apps. Our rapidly growing reach exceeds 60M users across hundreds of millions of monthly native impressions.

b) Our platform enables real-time deployment of native ads across all site types and device types. The system automatically A/B tests headline and other creative elements, and auto-optimizes campaigns based on user response and performance. Impressions automatically shift to the best response and the system provides analytics by headline – and this is the tip of the iceberg; we have some amazing features on our product roadmap specifically designed to make brand storytelling easier and more compelling.

c) Our platform integrates with third-party ad servers, supports other in-stream and companion ad units and provides features and flexibility for publishers to execute native strategies across their media properties. We are a seasoned, publisher solutions team committed to providing the best native platform technology and customer support available.

d) Finally, Nativo provides best-practice guidance to publishers to ensure they are always aware of how to best leverage native for their client campaigns. One example of this is to ensure native ads are always clearly disclosed as “sponsored” or “promoted.” This is important, because readers must see that distinction. Reputable publishers have built their reputations on providing quality content and distinguishing between ads and editorial is a big part of maintaining consumer trust and loyalty. So transparency is another way we’re different.

O.O.: Can you tell us if there are any entry barriers – particularly for publishers – into the Nativo platform?

J.C.: No entry barriers that we have discovered to date, beyond driving education and awareness of the native value proposition, and providing proof points on how best to execute a native strategy using technology to quickly and easily achieve scale.

From a tech perspective, our team has a very strong product expertise and client focus; we’ve worked hard to remove all points of friction to the publisher onboarding process. In fact, a consistent positive we hear from clients (ex: The Street) is they were up and running with little to no involvement from their internal technology team. This has also been a big contributor to our client growth.

O.O.: What metrics does a Nativo advertiser have access to? Is there a sample dashboard or report you can show us?

J.C.: We track all metrics relative to the native campaign. Today we publish reporting on viewable impressions, click rate (AKA read rate), article reads, video views, interactions, average time spent, total time spent, click rate to external, and social sharing. As the native category matures, we will expand our reporting to reflect the full breadth of data we track.

O.O.: Could we see some Nativo ads in action?

native advertising

O.O.: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

J.C.: Native advertising is a chance for the entire industry to rethink how we approach digital advertising. The banner ecosystem does not adequately support content creators, is not an adequate solution for mobile, delivers poor results for marketers, and most importantly, is a bad experience for consumers.

We have built technology whose purpose is to support and facilitate a healthier online advertising ecosystem – one that delivers a truly positive experience and outcome for publishers, marketers, and audiences alike.

About Justin Choi

Nativo is the third company Justin has founded, and has fast become the premier native advertising platform for interactive publishers and advertisers. Nativo’s technology enables scale, measurement, and control with native ads, accelerating the rapid shift of media dollars into this new digital advertising category. Nativo provides the widest reach, greatest automation, and deepest insights of any native ad solution. Nativo already works with more 1,500 publications, including The Street Inc., USA Today Sports Media Group, Source Interlink Media, Kiplinger Washington Editors Inc., Internet Brands, Entrepreneur Media Inc., Investor Place Media, Reader’s Digest, Sandusky Newspapers and dozens of major brands, including Mazda, Ford, P&G, T-Mobile, Plantronics, Symantec .

Prior to Nativo, Justin founded two other successful companies: Cie Games, 60-person social/mobile game studio with a Top 10 Facebook app and two Top 25 mobile titles to its credit that pioneered the practice of brand integration within social games, and Cie Studios, highly profitable interactive agency he bootstrapped and started while putting himself through college at Cal Poly Pomona.

About Nativo

The Nativo platform (www.nativo.net) is an end-to-end native advertising technology solution for publishers enabling them to easily activate, deploy and manage native ad placements across all of their media properties. For marketers, the Nativo platform enables the distribution of branded content cross-publication and cross-device with scale, control, and relevancy. Nativo provides the widest reach, greatest automation, and deepest insights of any native ad solution. Already leveraged by top agencies and over a thousand publications, Nativo has established itself as the leading technology platform enabling the next generation of digital advertising.