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Programmatic Native Advertising: Definition, Benefits, and Tips

Annoying ads and popups are so 2008. Audiences are tired of ads and the bad user experience that they bring. The pop-up creator even had to publicly apologize for having such a bad idea. The most common reason why users don’t like certain sites is too many annoying ads interfering with editorial content.

That is why programmatic native ads have become a new trend. Digital marketers give away 61% of the digital ads budget to native programmatic to promote advertisements. Even though these ads sometimes require more work on creativity, advertisers are still willing to use the ad format to be less annoying and more trusted.

In this article, we are going to explore what programmatic native ads are, how they can benefit your business and what are some best practices in programmatic native advertising.

What is programmatic native advertising?

Let’s break this term down into two key terms: programmatic advertising and native advertising.
Programmatic advertising is digital advertising based on the real time bidding system and leveraging machine learning. Basically, an advertiser sets up a creative, defines their target audience, budget, and capping. The self serve advertising platform does the rest: while the user opens the content URL or completes a search, the system analyzes the user and what ads can be interesting for them. Then it chooses the most relevant ad and displays generally related content to the user. With programmatic ad buying, advertisers can avoid negotiations with publishers, they can run display ads only for relevant users and reap all the benefits of cost effective advertising native ads.

See how programmatic advertising works down below:

Now, let’s move on to the question of what is native advertising. Creating native ads means fitting them into the look and the feel of the website or app where they are displayed. The only way you can tell that it is actually an ad is by finding a small “promo” or “ad” tag at the bottom of creative. The tag is barely visible. It comes in different formats, depending on the platform. For example, it can be an article headline in the news outlet, a post with a photo in the Instagram feed, or a video on YouTube.

mobile native advertising

Martech advisor and similar sources often feature interesting stats about native ads performance. The infographic below illustrates the benefits of native advertising over banner ads.

native ads effectiveness

Contextual targeting and programmatic buying is a powerful combination. Applying both is a technique designed to enable advertisers to create non-intrusive ads which would be shown only to relevant users without much effort on your side. If you create native advertising, not for social media but websites, demand-side platforms will automatically find the best placement to locate the ad in the content of the publisher: you just provide your creative or video. Read our other article to learn what is demand-side platform in detail and how it differs from supply side platform.

Types of native ad formats

DSP can offer different native ad formats, for example:

  • In-feed: displayed in the publisher’s feed, alongside their regular surrounding content. The creative matches the type of content that the publisher produces. For example, a tweet with a picture or video and a link on Twitter. This one is increasingly popular among SmartyAds users.

in feed social ads sample

  • Search: ad appears at the top of search results and looks exactly like other results. It is a popular native search ad offered by Google.

native ads search

  • Recommendations: it looks like recommended articles and videos that appear beneath the piece of surrounding content that you read. After the user clicks on the recommended link, they are taken to the other website. Sometimes these widgets contain links to other articles and sometimes they have ad materials. Recommendation widget natives are also available at SmartyAds DSP.

native ads recommendation widget

  • In-app native: designed to match the feel and look of the apps where they are placed. Here is an example of a native in-app video (mid, pre, and post-roll). In the corners, you can see additional contextual ads from YouTube.

in-app native ads

Benefits of programmatic native advertising

If you want to make native digital advertising, you’ll need to put lots of effort into designing the creatives. You have to create pieces of content rather than overly selling banners and make sure that they match the publisher’s feed if it is displayed on social media.

Using programmatic and native advertising has multiple perks in the long run. Below are some examples of why programmatic advertising boosts viewable impressions!

  • Better user experience and brand engagement

Programmatic native display ads are non-intrusive, unlike banners and pop-ups. It means that users do not feel like they are attacked with ads as soon as they enter the website, get on social media, or open an app. If the user has to close the 100th pop-up, they will probably remember your brand name and brand logo but in the context of being extremely annoyed with them. With display ads native, you will be able to fully adhere to user preferences.

  • Ad-block friendly

Because of intrusive advertisement, more and more users turned to ad blockers that ban all the banners and pop-ups on the website. Ad blockers do not detect native advertising though because it naturally appears in widgets, as sponsored content, etc. So you will have an opportunity to reach even those users who try to actively avoid advertisements.

  • More trustworthy

Users are prejudiced toward ads: they simply ignore the bright pictures and barely read text on them. Native display ads are not so openly selling so users are more likely to pay attention.
Users also admit that native ads are usually more creative and thought-provoking than a traditional banner so they feel more attracted toward this type of ad. The relevance of such ads is intensified with machine learning and contextual signals.

  • Delivers value

Creative native ads are not just selling the picture of a product. It is usually some type of explanatory article, storytelling video, or infographic. You can barely learn anything besides the product information from the banner ads but you can get interesting insights from the native ones. Programmatic native ads display only interesting, engaging and relevant content.
Numerous case studies highlight that providing value serves as a good incentive for boosting brand engagement and driving traffic without higher investment needed.

  • Device-responsive

Since phone screens are very narrow, you have space only for the main content, text with occasional pictures that break the article, they are not placed alongside the text. Native ads are different – they work perfectly well with any mobile device since they are just a part of the main content. Mobile native ads are user-friendly because they are displayed in the appropriate places, such experience doesn’t interfere with content. Moreover, native units generate user likes and this is something that banner ads can’t do.
With the constantly growing mobile use that is rapidly outpacing desktop, leveraging machine learning and programmatic ad buying will help brands boost their mobile ad revenue.

  • Great for brand awareness

Programmatic native advertising is usually branded as informative content. Thus, it works the best for the top of the funnel where customers just discover that they have a problem and look for solutions. If you can become the expert who helps them better understand their struggles, you will win their trust as an expert. Also, if a customer discovers you from the very beginning of their journey, they will simply see your brand more often and, therefore, remember it better.

  • Higher click-through rates

On average, native advertising just performs better as it uses machine learning and contextual signals. Their click-through rate is 40 times higher than that of traditional display ads. Combining better user experience and valuable marketers’ messages, native ads capture the attention of the user and offer actually interesting information.

  • More power over ads performance

That is where programmatic comes in. For example, if you were to create sponsored content with a news outlet, you would not be able to choose who to show the piece to. You would also have to put so much effort into negotiations and article creation to just win over the audience of a single source that not all your target audience might be reading. Programmatic native ads allow you to control who, where, and when you will show the display advertising to, and it is done with just a couple of clicks. With such functionality, you can achieve much better performance as programmatic adds relevance to the impression.

Best practices in programmatic native advertising

Programmatic native advertising works only if you know how to use it correctly. These simple tips should help you gain all the benefits of this ad type and produce creative native ads.

  • Know your audience

It is probably the rule of every display advertising but it is still ignored all too often. You have to know your audience for three main reasons.

Firstly, you need precise targeting. If you do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on showing ads to irrelevant and uninterested users, you have to understand the age, location, interests, and gender of your target audience.
Secondly, you need attractive content. The definition of attractive content is quite different for different demographics. If some enjoy colorful videos with lots of action and funny lines, others are keener on reading an informative article with statistics and infographics. You have to know what your audience prefers to digest and deliver the right type, look and feel of the content.
Thirdly, you need the right platform. Where does your target audience spend time – is it Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, news portals or particular websites? Suit your native advertising specifically for particular channels.

  • Avoid hard selling

Native ads are not big on hard sells, with luscious product descriptions and overly promotional headlines. In order to not be ignored as an annoying ad, we recommend offering actually valuable content – offer advice, tell stories, share interesting facts. For example, avoid headlines like “our product will make your hair shiny” but opt for “5 tips for shiny hair” instead and include your product in some of the advice. Both the user and the publisher will benefit from such interactions since users will read actually relevant pieces of information and you will get more clicks and opportunities to showcase how exactly your product works and can help with the dull hair problem.
However, hard sells and coupons in programmatic native ads will go well for customers who are already at the bottom of the funnel.

  • Experiment, track, optimize

Accommodate programmatic native ads to have a lot of room for the experiment. With such an approach you can work with different audiences, platforms, and content types. So do not hesitate to try different things to see what works best for different goals (brand awareness, sales, leads, etc.). A/B testing does not work in a traditional way here. You have to do different types of content (videos, articles, photos, search, audio) and do the testing within each category. Change one thing at a time, compare the results, keep the good change and move on to the next one. After you have perfected the native ad, you can compare different content types and decide what works better.

  • Make it a part of the ad strategy

Don’t work with programmatic native advertising alone. You also need equivalent banner ads, content marketing, working with influencers to fully capture the audience at all steps of their customer journey. All the ad types should work together to create an effective marketing strategy.


Now you know the main native advertising trends and native advertising best practices. With smooth consumer experience and high click through rates native ads create a win-win environment for advertisers and customers. Don’t know where to start with native advertising? Check out SmartyAds demand-side platform! We offer 5 types of programmatic native ads and a plethora of publishers to work with!

Raise effective native campaigns on SmartyAds DSP!


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