At first blush, it would seem that native ads and programmatic ads would come together like oil and water.
The former answers a brand’s need to speak on a personal, authoritative level to their audience. The latter allows rapidly expanding brands to reach a huge demographic while still targeting by interest. One is almost always in a natural format, while the other typically takes the form of banner and PPC ads.
These two formats are not diametrically opposed, but they do seem to address different needs. But as ad networks expand and programmatic capabilities advance, the line between programmatic and direct ads is blurring — opening the opportunity for native ads to join the programmatic bandwagon.
Are Brands Spending on Programmatic Native Ads?
The short answer is: yes. A surprising amount, actually.
MediaRadar saw that over 6,500 companies have placed native ads programmatically in the first two quarters of 2019.
On one hand, most native ads are still placed with a direct partnership with publishers. Out of all native ads placed in the first half of 2019, just 15 percent were placed programmatically. On the other hand, that proportion is up 50 percent YoY — just 10 percent of native ads were placed programmatically in the first half of 2018.
These numbers make it clear that programmatic native ads are only gaining popularity. Even better, their popularity seems to span industries. The top companies spending on programmatic native ads were financial firms and banks, media companies and retailers. The top buyers in 2019 so far reflect these specific industries: LendingTree, Amazon, Verizon and Procter & Gamble.
In other words, the draw of programmatic native is not limited to those reaching a B2B audience or offering specialized knowledge. It can work well for any brand willing to adapt its messaging accordingly.
What Does Programmatic Native Advertising Offer Brands?
Publishers and advertisers alike should be looking at the promise of programmatic native advertising. In the past, brands have had valid concerns about programmatic translating into a poor fit or a risk to brand safety. But the pros are starting to outweigh the cons.
For brands, the approach offers two major benefits: cost effectiveness on two fronts, and better targeting with contextual advertising.
Programmatic native ads are more cost effective because they both automate an otherwise time consuming process and result in higher-converting ads. “Doing native ads programmatically means you get many of the benefits of programmatic display: automated media buying, effective targeting and audience insights for further optimization,” writes Grace Kaye at Marketing Land.
According to one study, in-feed native ads received twice the attention of in-feed banner ads.
The higher conversion is often due to combing the power of contextual ads and native ads: users are not only seeing highly relevant banner ads, they are seeing highly relevant content. “Programmatic adds more power to native ads by leveraging machine learning and contextual signals to customize them according to user preferences and placing them at appropriate places,” writes Vandita Grover at MarTech Advisor.
Native ads already reached more qualified leads, particularly when placed with niche publications. With advancing ad tech, that reach can become both more expansive and more targeted.
Some of the top programmatic platforms that can place native ads include:
- Outbrain is arguably the most established native placement platform out there, making 275 billion monthly recommendations and covering 80 percent of the “world’s premium publishers.”
- Nativo offers Dynamic Creative optimization and A/B testing to ensure native ads are well-placed. Major brands — from Walmart to Disney — are using the platform.
- Taboola: The platform has agreements with MSN, Business Insider, Fox News and plenty of digital properties in between. Their goal is to make brands the next story on the page “in moments when people are looking for something new.”