How to Use Programmatic Native

by | Sep 30, 2019 | HOW TOS

Programmatic Native Feature Image

Editor’s note: this is a quick-hit high level overview of programmatic Native advertising. If you want to do a deep dive, give IAB’s Native Advertising Playbook a read.  


Programmatic native advertising can get a bad rap, but used in the right circumstances, it can make all the difference.

Hannah Wilson, one of our Account Managers, will explain the nuances of programmatic Native and how it works with other channels.  

What programmatic native is

What is programmatic Native advertising?

Native advertising is advertising that is designed to look like the content it lives within. For instance, a sponsored article on an online publication. 

Put another way, Native ads aren’t supposed to look like ads. They blend in as much as possible to present a seamless experience.

As a concept, Native advertising has existed for over a century. Wikipedia has an example from 1901: 

Native Ad 1901 Screenshot

In the 2010s, Native advertising has really taken off with the rise of social media platforms and as online publications adapt to the internet age. 

Most Native advertising these days appears as recommended content at the end of articles, advertorials, sponsored content and more.

Programmatic native funnel fit

What is programmatic Native’s funnel fit?


“Native’s core function is to engage the reader with great content, which makes it a solid mid-funnel strategy.” Hannah says.

As a mid-funnel strategy, Native isn’t necessarily driving a ton of conversions on its own. First and foremost, it needs to provide value to the reader and leave them with a good impression of your brand.

Some Awareness

Depending on your objective and the content of the ad itself, Native can also be used for awareness. But, Hannah says, “It’s difficult to scale Native, which makes it not very well suited for broad awareness tactics.”

Native is difficult to scale mainly because of one reason: its effectiveness is tied directly to the quality of its content. And quality content is not easy to produce on a large scale, which serves as both a strength and a weakness of Native advertising. 

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Programmatic native strengths

Programmatic Native’s strengths:

“Native fits with how users interact with the internet. It provides something of value to the user. Done well, it’s compelling and great for brand lift.” says Hannah.

One industry that illustrates the strengths of Native particularly well is travel and tourism. Hannah says, “In order to be effective, Native ads need context.” 

For travel and tourism, context is easy to find because people tend to spend a lot of time researching. Say your audience is researching Hawaiian getaways. If you’re a new hotel/resort, you could write a guide on the best “hidden spots” to check out on the Big Island and put it right within the content your audience is already reading.

Not only is your ad providing significant value to your user, your audience will have a positive interaction with your brand. Even if that user doesn’t convert, they may save that article to share with others who will. 

This example hits the digital advertising holy grail of “right audience, right time, right place, right message.” This is Native advertising at its best. Now let’s get into some things to watch out for.

Programmatic native - what to watch out for

Things to watch out for:

Creative Quality

Native’s strength is a double-edged sword. “Everything hinges on creative quality and context in which the native ad is placed.” Hannah says. “You need a good headline (preferably with a number in it) and useful content — you need to inform users on information they’re already looking for.”

Will Lapointe, LumenAd’s Senior Director of Media Services, jumps in: “On that note of ‘useful content,’ it’s vitally important for programmatic Native ads to link to strong, valuable content as opposed to a purchase page or short landing page.”


Much of what determines the success of Native advertising is the context in which it’s shown. Programmatic Native can introduce some hurdles on that front.

You need to keep close tabs on where your Native ads are programmatically served and ensure they appear in proper context by regularly reviewing inventory reports.

Programmatic native with other channels

How programmatic Native works with other channels.

“Overall, programmatic Native advertising is growing,” says Hannah. According to eMarketer (which lumps in some Paid Social with programmatic Native), Native advertising will account for “62.7% of total US display ad spending in 2019.” 

What this means is that new opportunities will open up in the coming years, but the tenets of successful Native will remain the same: quality and context come first.

As this relates to other channels, Native can and will continue to be a solid mid-funnel tactic for certain industries. 

An example from Hannah: “Display could be the initial first touch. In tandem with other channels the user might see another four ads and the fifth time could be Native.

Because they recognize your brand and trust the information you have to say, they may be curious enough to engage.” 

In particular, using retargeting can be highly effective for Native advertising if you have a highly engaged list that cares about what your brand has to say.

Success - Display

Measuring success with programmatic Native.

“There is a lot of debate on what makes a Native ad good,” says Hannah. Their success is dependent on many factors that are difficult to control for in a programmatic environment. But overall, because Native is a solid mid-funnel tactic, you’re ultimately measuring engagement. 

Engaged sessions is a solid metric to start with, but as with the creative itself, Native’s performance needs context. 

LumenAd is a platform designed to do exactly that. It brings all channels and data together and puts performance into context so you can understand what’s happening in your campaign, why and what to do about it.

Schedule a demo today to find out how.

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