Native is great. But it’s not without flaws.

For those who don’t know, “The basic philosophy of native advertising revolves around making ads appear less like ads. For instance, while browsing through the food section of BuzzFeed, you may come across a story titled “The Evolution of Pizza”, which has been sponsored by Pizza Hut.”

[Related reading: Top 7 Native Ad Networks for Online Publishers]

This is great for brands driving increased awareness and recall. Not so much when it comes to moving product itself.

Attribution in native has always been a challenge.

“Native advertising is most commonly used by brands to promote awareness and establish themselves as a thought leader. But as many digital marketers are used to tying ads to sales results, à la search and direct-response marketing programs, publishers are hearing more demand for native ads to demonstrate proof of performance. As a result, more call-to-action buttons are showing up in native ads.”

– via Digiday

Vitaly Pecherskiy, co-founder of Stackadapt, looked at how native ads and branded content fit into a user journey:

  1. The user reads a piece of content distributed through a native advertising channel and visits the brand’s website.
  2. The user adds a product to cart, but doesn’t make a purchase.
  3. A retargeting company working with the ecommerce brand then displays ads to the user to get him/her to come back and make the purchase.
  4. Some days later, the user is engaged by more branded content and decides to return to the site, this time using Google to find the home page.
  5. The user completes the purchase.
  6. The retargeting company gets a conversion based on the “last ad seen” post-view attribution model.

In that scenario, it looks like native advertising is nothing but dollars down the drain. Even though a brand invested in production and distribution of branded content, it would look as if the content had no impact on the conversion whatsoever, based on popular attribution models.

Add mobile to the mix, and the trouble increases tenfold. 67% of marketers say that they can’t even measure their ROI on mobile, much less native on mobile.

Native ad networks decided to prove their ads work by adding attribution platforms to the mix.

“Giving mobile app advertisers detailed attribution capabilities is what they need to scale with direction and purpose,” said Jon Mitchell, VP of Advertising at Revcontent.

Measurement is a Problem for Mobile App Marketers

Attribution is also a problem for mobile.

This is because, first, there is no standard tracking methodology. In mobile, third-party cookies get blocked and privacy regulations limit device tracking. As a result, traditional ad servers are limited to reporting on last-click conversions (when possible), leaving the rest to a game of averages and estimations. AppsFlyer, a leading mobile attribution platform, even cried foul at this two years ago while offering multi-touch mobile tracking as an alternative.

But that’s just mobile web. There is a special layer of hell for marketers seeking to drive app installs, since even that last click attribution is futile as soon as app stores enter the fray.

If you are trying to advertise and attribute your iOS application across different networks, it would be nice if you could simply use the App Store’s URL. However, this strategy is out of bounds since this type of URL does not support user click attribution. When a user taps into an app store network, it’s like entering a black box, information exchange goes silent; there is no way to know the source of an app download or which campaign is responsible for it.

Attribution for mobile apps is a whole other ballpark since cookies and pixel tags won’t be able to track app installs and in-app events like repeat app launch, level completion, in-app purchase, etc.

This is where mobile attribution platforms come into play, which employ one of the two common methods of measurement:

  • Device Fingerprinting: This method uses basic information from a device to redirect a user from an ad click to an app install. Fingerprinting works by using a measurement URL that gathers data from the device to create the fingerprint.
  • Unique Identifier Matching: An attribution tool using unique identifiers will match that identifier from installs to clicks with 1:1 accuracy when passed app to app. This process is automated and done in real-time.

Mobile app marketers now rely on these attribution platforms to figure out which ads (and consequently, networks and channels) have resulted in conversion events. It shows marketers where spending money is most effective.

Proof of Performance: Tying Conversions to Native Ads

So when mobile marketers wanted deeper audience insights and attribution for their native ad spend, recommendation engines answered the call.

Earlier this year, Revcontent integrated with three major mobile attribution platforms — TUNE, AppsFlyer, and Kochava, to prove its native ads’ ROI to app install marketers. Their advertisers have already started driving their app install campaigns based on the type of content people are viewing (instead of basic demographics).

Our partners are already seeing the results, as they can achieve and attribute the ROI directly to the installs they get from Revcontent ads. This has allowed the largest app developers in the world to massively increase installs and massively decrease cost per installs, combining it with other powerful Revcontent targeting options.

— Jon Mitchell, Vice President of Advertising, Revcontent

Taboola, another major content recommendation platform, also gave app marketers a way to track and optimize their ad spend with mobile attribution platform integrations. and InnoGames are currently using the technology.

Meanwhile, Outbrain has made no news about integrating with mobile attribution platforms. Given the rumours making rounds on the internet of a possible Taboola-Outbrain merger, it may not be necessary.

With the huge growth in mobile ad spending and native’s own roadblock out of the way (attribution), we might even see YoY growth in native spending.

Here’s hoping.