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Several parallel developments are underway that are setting the stage for mobile video native advertising to make an outsized impact on the digital ad space in the coming years.

  • Native advertising continues to grow. eMarketer is projecting $3.1 billion in spend this year, a 29% increase over 2013's $2.4 billion. The Wall Street Journal and mobile news app Circa are among the latest publishers announcing the move to native.
  • Consumers are increasingly watching video on mobile. Smartphones' larger, higher-res screens, coupled with better (read: 4G) mobile data bandwidth, have made video consumption on mobile more tenable. According to Business Insider, mobile's share of online video has jumped from 4% at the start of 2012 to over 14% at the close of 2013. Cisco claims that this amounted to 53% of total mobile data traffic.
  • There's greater appetite for longer-form video. As viewers are more apt to watch full episode- and movie-length video, their tolerance for 30- to 60-second video spots typical for television grows. As one such measure, ads for video content longer than 20 minutes grew 86% YOY, while the same for short- (less than 5 minutes) and medium-length clips (5-20 minutes) saw ad views grow by a more modest 22% and 13%, respectively (source: FreeWheel).

Since native advertising is all about providing richer, longer-form content within the same sets of consumption constraints as neighboring editorial content, and users are continue to gravitate towards video, especially on their smaller screens, there seems to be a perfect storm brewing for mobile native video, still a nascent and evolving format.

With the move to native will come an evolution in mobile video ads. The short pre-roll clip, the video version of a banner, will increasingly be displaced by longer content that provides a more immersive brand storytelling experience that advertisers value. A pioneer in this space, Facebook, which draws a mindblowing 53% of its revenue from its mobile advertising, debuted autoplay (sound off) videos in users' mobile feeds late last year, and announced that it had begun testing mobile video ads with similar autoplay functionality, called Premium Video Ads, earlier this month.

Interestingly, Facebook measures the performance of Premium Video Ads in a way that large brand advertisers are most comfortable measuring them: like television ads. Media is bought using Targeted Gross Rating Points and paid for based on Nielsen (online) delivery ratings. Also similar to television brand advertising, the impact will be measured in terms of "watchability, meaningfulness and emotional resonance." DR-focused metrics, including clicks and conversion, are not part of the picture.

Native ads continue to evolve quickly, especially in mobile, and in parallel mobile video consumption growth seems to know no limit. As mobile video native ads get their foothold, look for content evolution to track that of the best-in-breed native ads: informative and entertaining, similar to editorial content in the same feed, in which the brand enjoys a halo through association with the sort of content users will want to watch.