Interview: Sharethrough’s Hanz Kurdi Discusses the Importance of Native Advertising Inventory

Sharethrough has recently announced the hiring of Hanz Kurdi as senior director of publisher strategy and operations. Hanz will play an integral part in Sharethrough’s push this year to develop more native advertising inventory on media sites: placements that look and feel like the site’s actual content.

Otilia Otlacan: Congratulations for your new role at Sharethrough! Can you tell us what your priorities will be over the following months?

Hanz Kurdi: Thanks! I am really excited to be at Sharethrough. In the next few months our efforts are to grow our partner network via our native experience. We have had a tremendous response from large publishers as they continue to see the value of Sharethrough’s native monetization platform. We have numerous channel partnerships in the pipeline that will extend our reach and offer really unique video experiences for brands.

Otilia Otlacan: I understand that this year Sharethrough will focus on what is known as “native advertising inventory”. Would you mind explaining the basics beyond this concept and tell us why there is a need for this type of inventory?

Hanz Kurdi: The difficulty of advertising is trying to find new ways to engage users beyond the constant barrage of banner ads and interruptive pre-rolls. In many ways, consumers have been desensitized to the impact of such ad experiences. This is why Sharethrough has been successful in its approach. Advertisers can reach an engaged audience through our platform because it is comprised of native video placements. From the start, we’ve looked to create a platform that offered video placements that fit naturally with publisher’s content and are folded within the fabric of the site. This bodes well for the user experience and how the publisher content is consumed. The other side of this equation is that we are delivering the highest quality, engaging brand video content. We think that we can create a reality where ‘every day is like the Super Bowl’ — in the sense that brands create genuinely entertaining content, and people actively choose to watch and enjoy ads.

Otilia Otlacan: I imagine quite a few publishers will raise what may very well be a legitimate question: if the ads blend very well into the content, will this not lead to a negative user experience? Will the ads not run the risk of causing unintentional user engagement?

Hanz Kurdi: On the contrary, we think that brand content running through native placements enhances the overall experience of a site for consumers. We’ve run studies on the same videos placed in standard auto-play and interruptive placements vs user-initiated, native experiences and consistently found that brand metrics were lifted higher by the latter. All of our placements are always called out as being sponsored, so there is no concern about consumers being confused, but we make the effort to work with publishers to find sponsored placements that make sense within their individual site.

Otilia Otlacan: We see more and more signs that the industry tries to break away from the traditional metrics in measuring the success of an online ad campaign, particularly the click-through rate. What metrics and pricing models do you see as most relevant for campaigns running on native advertising inventory?

Hanz Kurdi: We are increasingly seeing the shift to CPV pricing, though we are always open to publisher needs. We have been very successful with our campaigns that our publisher partners fully understand the CPV pricing model very well and in fact prefer this method. There is a great value in the social aspect of what we do and how viral and engaging the content has been. Social engagement rates (SER) on our video placements have always been of paramount importance to advertisers, as it directly correlates to earned media. There is tremendous value for the advertisers based on post engagement and publishers enjoy the quality of content their users get to experience.

Otilia Otlacan: In your opinion, which one between the ad creative design and the ad placement on the page is more important in driving engagement?

Hanz Kurdi: I think this is equal parts creative and placement. You need great content in the right place to drive engagement. A step up would be what platform can deliver this seamlessly and that is why Sharethrough has been very successful.

Otilia Otlacan: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Hanz Kurdi: A successful company is one that creates value and delivers on that value aggressively. One point that is hardly mentioned is what happens behind the scenes. I feel compelled to tell you how amazing the company culture has been in hiring a great team dedicated to delivering this value to our partners.

About Sharethrough

Sharethrough is the first advertising technology platform built exclusively for native advertising and brand video content. Fortune 1000 brands and their agencies work with Sharethrough to guarantee audiences and maximize social engagement for their original video content and social web publishers partner with Sharethrough to create native, non-interruptive brand video placements. Sharethrough is used by many of the world’s leading brands, including Sony, Microsoft, General Motors, Victoria’s Secret, Nestle and LEGO, as well as top agencies such as Pereira & O’Dell, Universal McCann, Evolution Bureau and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Founded in 2008, Sharethrough is a privately held company based in San Francisco, Calif. For more information about Sharethrough, please visit www.sharethrough.com.

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