Publishers' branded content is going programmatic. Today, Sharethrough and AppNexus are rolling out real-time bidding for Sharethrough's news feed-like promos.
Publishers like Forbes, People, Men's Health and USA Today Sports work with Sharethrough to set up ad formats that slide between articles to distribute sponsored content and native ads. Ultimately, the ads are sold by the media companies to brand marketers including American Express, Pepsi and Intel as sponsored content.
Now, agencies will be able to buy those ads through AppNexus' programmatic platform, which is already a big player in display and video programmatic inventory. It's the latest sign that the creative and programmatic worlds are joining forces for marketers, but the deal is also intriguing because Sharethrough powers native placements, which brands started investing in a few years ago as an alternative to ads sprayed all over the Web. In theory, the boost to publishers' native ad businesses also means they'll be churning out more sponsored content for brands.
"We're now taking something that everyone thought was bespoke and custom and standardized it to be bought and sold programmatically," said Dan Greenberg, founder/CEO of Sharethrough. "The appeal [of native] is that it's custom, but the budgets that we're talking about [aren't] small budgets. We're talking about major content budgets and major distribution budgets."
Pat McCarthy, svp of marketing at AppNexus, added, "If you're Ford and you want to buy car ads all over the Web, you're not going to create custom ad units for every individual publisher out there that has their own native unit. What we're doing is bringing scale."
Indeed, tech companies are trying to turn native advertising into bigger media buys. Per eMarketer, 56.2 percent of display ads this year will be bought programmatically, increasing to 69.3 percent next year.
Just yesterday, in-image startup GumGum announced that its ads that appear in Web images are now plugged into demand-side platform The Trade Desk.
"Over the past year, the big question has been whether or not native formats will be able to go programmatic," said Tim Sims, vp of inventory partnerships at The Trade Desk, in a statement. "In this partnership we've been able to answer that question convincingly."