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Debunking the Myth that Native Cannot Be Programmatic

December 15, 2014 — by Michael Goldberg    

This guest post is authored by Michael Goldberg, Director of Marketing at TripleLift. TripleLift is a MediaMath OPEN partner that enables advertiser to purchase native ads programmatically.

Over the past couple of years, the industry has obsessed over two unique trends: native advertising and programmatic media buying.  Both have given marketers cause for excitement.  Native promises an opportunity to engage customers with custom, integrated ads that don’t look or act like ads, while programmatic intends to make media buying more efficient, more targeted, and most importantly, more cost-effective.

The idea that programmatic marketing and native advertising can be combined, on the surface, seems like an oxymoron.  Programmatic is designed for large scale, automated media buying, while native is so custom, each buy must require manual execution.  So it’s no surprise that many believe the two concepts would work together as well as water and oil. But as the saying goes, opposites attract, and it turns out the combination of native and programmatic is more like chocolate and peanut butter; very sweet.

The excitement around programmatic should come as no surprise.  Whether it’s digital, TV or even radio, we are moving to a world where media buying will be strictly automated.  Advertising spend in this area is expected to increase by 52 percent to $21B globally, according to research from Magna Global.  And, it seems everyday we hear about more and more companies going to an all-programmatic model. 

On the other hand we have native advertising, the little advertising strategy that could.  Despite debate on what it really is (I will get to that momentarily) everyone wants a piece of it.  Business Insider just released a report that found spending on native is expected to reach $7.9 billion this year and grow to $21 billion in 2018, rising from just $4.7 billion in 2013 and steadily matching the investment in traditional display. The fact is native will be an important part of the overall digital strategy. Whether it’s on desktop or on mobile, marketers will need to plan to incorporate native in their plans to ensure they are effectively engaging consumers while they are immersed in like-minded content.

That said, you may wonder how it will jive with programmatic, which will be the preferred method to buy media over the next few years. Good question.

First, it’s important to understand what native advertising really is. Too many people confuse native with content marketing, which I believe is a big reason many feel it cannot be bought programmatically, and rightfully so. Content marketing is the technique of creating valuable information to influence or educate a clearly defined audience.  Content advertising is the method of distributing and sharing the information so that it is in front of the right audience within the right context.  And native advertising is just one of the methods of sharing content that can be employed.  That does not mean native advertising is the bearer of the content itself. Native is simply a way to distribute messages across the web that match the look and feel of the site it is on.

Think Facebook and Twitter. The sponsored posts you’ve likely seen delivered in your news feed are actually native ads; native because they match the look and feel of those particular sites. In fact, Facebook was the first to open up their ads to be bought and sold programmatically through its exchange. At TripleLift, we’re doing the same thing, except across hundreds of sites.

By opening up our in-feed inventory across platforms like MediaMath, the opportunity to buy native advertising at scale in real-time is a reality. Our proprietary platform seamlessly integrates brand images and content into a website’s unique layout, generally through techniques such as computer vision and dynamic templating tools and employs the use of statistical analyses and machine-learning algorithms to inform targeting and optimization decisions that the individual buyer can manage.

Long story short, native is programmatic. The two methods can coexist, and if done right, can produce significant results with very little effort.