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 simpler, more targeted, and most importantly, more cost-effective.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Michael Goldberg, senior director of marketing at TripleLift.

The idea that programmatic marketing and native advertising can be combined, on the surface, seems like an oxymoron. Programmatic appears designed for large scale, automated media buying, while native is so custom, each buy must require manual execution. So, while these two trends do not seem to have much in common, the industry is already betting that these two strategies can coexist.

According to a study by content and commerce company Purch, conducted by Advertiser Perceptions, 42 percent of marketers plan to purchase native advertising through programmatic platforms within the next six months and 79 percent expect to do the same within the next 12.

With regards to the travel industry, programmatic is looking like it too will receive a lion’s share of marketing dollars according to a recent survey conducted by PhocusWright.

Will you be among those numbers? Before you answer, let me explain once and for all what each of these strategies really means, and why they are perfect for the travel marketing vertical.

Programmatic ad buying is not really new. It’s been done on Wall Street for some time. With regards to advertising, it typically refers to the use of automated technology to purchase digital advertising inventory, as opposed to the traditional process that encompasses a whole lot of paper work and manual labor.

Programmatic advertising technology offers a more efficient and cost-effective ad buying strategy. Simply choose the sites you want to be on and the specific audience you want to target, submit your creative, and you’re done.

Native advertising, which seems to have several different definitions depending upon whom you ask, is really quite simple at its core. It’s advertising that aligns itself stylistically with the content of its host publication. In other words, it’s commercial content that matches the look and feel of the site its on. It can be editorial content, visual content, video content, etc. It can be served directly in-feed, or as a sponsored post.

Why Programmatic + Native Matters For You

The travel industry is one of the most volatile industries. Any number of variables and circumstances can effect pricing and inventory, which means travel marketers must stay ahead of the curve and offer the latest and most accurate information to potential customers.

What’s more, they must present information that customers want, meaning it is important to not only understand your business, but also identify what your customers are looking for and where in the buying stage they may be.

With the ability to integrate all types of consumer data, programmatic helps travel brands identify who the best prospects are and where they go online so buying in real-time based on informative information is quite simple. Want to target families looking for beach resorts? It’s easy to find them and run digital ads that will reach them when buying programmatically. Of course, at the end of the day, your creative has to be able to entice users to book with your brand.

The good news is you can still serve up beautifully integrated native ads that are unique to specific sites, and do so programmatically. This allows you to not only create numerous variations of the same ad, but also modify creative on the fly if needed.

The ability to leverage programmatic for native creative allows travel marketers to adapt to evolving marketing conditions and be sure to have the best, most accurate information in front of the most receptive customers. It is the perfect way to achieve customization and scale.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when looking to purchase native ads in this fashion.

Don’t optimize your content for clicks, optimize for your brand goals.

This is where the term quality over quantity plays a crucial part of the equation. Sure, you can drive a lot of clicks if your linking to something along the lines of “21 Inanimate Objects That Look Exactly Like Justin Bieber” but what does that do for your brand?

Optimize for awareness, recall and brand lift based on your brand’s vision. Buying programmatically, you can fine tune campaigns in real-time to ensure you are meeting these goals, but content should always be vetted to ensure meaningful brand lift.

Let performance dictate goals.

Machine buying translates to machine learning, so pay attention to what the numbers are telling you. Are some sites performing better than others? Then double down on those sites. Cut the losers, and focus on the winners. Adjust your spend so your budgets are equal to performance. And yes, this can be done with native ads!

Even better, some vendors support RTB valuations and can automatically calculate price as a function of expected performance on each native impression. Finally, it may make sense to measure the impact of a display campaign against a native campaign – if the native campaign outperforms, the time is right to consider shifting budgets to native.


Don’t look at native and display performance the same way. For example, viewability is a far different beast for native than it is for display. Similarly, what is the impact of your non-click users – display ads always have some branding up front, but certain native ad formats are less transparent. This means the brand impact for your non-clickers is significantly impacted.

Put context in context.

When building out your campaign, select contextually relevant sites first and foremost. Native ads perform better when served in similar contextual surroundings. If it’s relevant, it has a better chance of being read.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Michael Goldberg, senior director of marketing at TripleLift.

NB2: Travel search image via Shutterstock.

Original author: Special Nodes