How Mobile-First Publisher Quartz Measures Native Ads

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Joy Robins QuartzNative advertising doesn’t fit into a 300x250 box. But as the category has taken off, so has the need to gather meaningful metrics in a manner similar to standardized display advertising.

So when mobile-centric publisher Quartz developed a special native ad campaign for US Trust touting the bank's sponsorship of the Aspen Ideas Festival, it also wanted to gather intelligence for its advertisers

At Quartz, an Atlantic Media-owned digital publication aimed at business influencers that launched in 2012, native advertising was always part of the plan. Designed as a “tablet- and mobile-first, desktop-second” platform, Quartz was also designed to carry just two ad formats.

One is “Engage,” a large, non-IAB standard banner that’s impossible to miss and often showcases above-average creative. The other is the “Bulletin,” a native ad format that borrows from Quartz’s editorial style, with interactive graphics and opportunities for engagement.

For the Aspen Ideas Festival/US Trust campaign, which was timed to the late June festival, Quartz created two different “Bulletin” units that showcased the credentials of the speakers.

Campaign organizers “asked us to cover it from a way that would resonate with our audience, business executives, and we took a direction and angle of coverage that made sense for our audience,” said Joy Robins, Quartz's VP of advertising and strategy. The interactive “Bulletin” that resulted allowed users to see how many speakers had authored a book, their gender or if they had their own Wikipedia page.

“We take cues from editorial,” Robins said, noting that Quartz maintains a clear separation between editorial and advertising. “What we see perform well, we apply to the native content pieces we do."

When it comes to measuring performance, Quartz uses the same content management system in place for its editorial content and shares metrics with advertisers according to the KPIs they set, which can include things like views, video completion rates and time spent.

It also relies on SimpleReach to measure the social impact of native advertising. SimpleReach's solution goes beyond just counting retweets and Facebook shares, instead focusing on the amplification of the message and using algorithms to measure total reach.

With more brands running native ads across a variety of sites, there's a growing need for standardization of analytics. According to SimpleReach’s CEO, Eddie Kim, companies should focus on using native content to drive revenue, not just for branding.

“Right now there is too much conversation about content metrics and not enough about business metrics,” Kim said. “We can go and drop a conversion pixel into whatever you’re optimizing for, and find out if they ended up signing up or created brand lift. There’s no reason why every technology currently used to measure display could not also be used for content.”

Kim says of Quartz, “even though they are small from a uniques perspective [5 million a month], their sponsored program punches way above their weight class. If you go to Quartz, there are four things to click on, and one is a sponsored post. Because of the design of the site, it actually delivers as well if not better than a lot of other sites."

Additionally, Kim said, “Quartz has the benefit of zero baggage. They built this from the ground up knowing this was going to be their business model." That makes native on Quartz a more natural fit than for many other publications.

Designing a native campaign through Quartz is “very consultative and high-touch,” Quartz's Robins explained.

“We treat advertisers in a way that we take all their KPIs and strategy into advisement before starting the process, to make sure that we hone in on and design each execution based on what their measure of success looks like,” added Marissa Hayes Aydlett, executive director of marketing.

That high-touch approach means Robins doesn’t see much potential for the same content to be distributed across a broad network of sites without evaluating to make sure sponsor content resonates with the audience of each site.

“Standardization of native is almost counterintuitive, and an oxymoron. If something is going to be native to that site and organically experienced, it shouldn’t look the same," she said. "I think that when advertisers are looking to execute sponsored content, the question they should really be asking is ‘How are your readers using your site?' That's how they’re going to see the best results.”

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