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Publishers have long felt the pain of selling audience against standard creative where it hurts most — in undervalued CPMs — because audience-based buying fails to capture the premium nature of the web’s top websites.  

That's why today's top publishers are turning to directly sold premium advertising in the form of ad products, which allows them to realize the full value of their audience without seeing it commoditized and undervalued.

Instead of selling inventory simply as audience, ad product strategies deliver true value to advertisers — content, context, a premium experience...and an audience.

But as the market for premium advertising heats up, publishers are looking for ways to differentiate their inventory and win media buys. For those trying to get ahead, five key trends are heavily influencing ad product development this year.

1. The proliferation of screens

Slide from Mary Meeker's Internet Trends Report at D11.

Ad product teams should stop thinking of ads a single format that comes in only one size.

The rise in media consumption across devices — what Shazam’s David Jones describes as a “second screen revolution” — is creating tremendous opportunities for publishers to fill an advertising need.

Mobile usage is also vastly outpacing ad spend in that category, creating a 4 billion dollar opportunity. By offering consistent experiences that go with an audience but can propagate across any screen, publishers can seize this underutilized revenue opportunity.

2. The scale of creative production

Being able to assemble ads quickly and address formats problems without technical hurdles at scale is a major part of expanding premium ad sales. Smart ad products are supported by a workflow that allows a team to snap together ad experiences that work.

Publishers who make investments in ad product teams, ad platforms and APIs to scale their premium ad businesses are earning dividends in the form of better margins and higher CPMs.

3. Sales through measurement

Example of in-depth ad performance metrics.

How to communicate an ad product’s success to advertisers is often the last detail to be considered, and yet it is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Ad products must be thoughtfully and consistently measured. In most cases, click through rates won't be enough to demonstrate the ads full value.

Ad the end of the day, measurable performance is what advertisers are paying for. Always develop ad products with your success metrics in mind and make sure everything is wired to up to measure them properly.

4. Social media in ads

Example: Twitter embedded in a display ad

Combining ad content that is share-worthy with social buttons offers potential lift to a brand’s message that extends beyond the impressions served.

As brands invest heavily in social media, they are looking for ways for these investments to see new light. Creating more social ad products can be a simple and effective way to leverage the social trend and provide new value or features.

5. Native ads

Image Credit: Tech Crunch

Native advertising is probably one of the biggest trends in digital advertising this year. Those companies that do it right will reap large rewards.

When properly executed, in-stream ads that blend in with a site’s content can generate interest for the consumer without interrupting their experience.