What is Programmatic Advertising?

Learn about the ways in which automating your advertising and media buying can enhance your returns using programmatic advertising. 

Programmatic Advertising Secrets

Standing Out in A Crowded Marketplace

In a world filled with advertising messages, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. We have found ways to put advertising messages everywhere, and adverts are so ubiquitous nowadays that we often see the images and information that advertisers want us to see without even realizing it. Increasingly, the demographics that advertising is targeted toward is getting narrower. Social media, buying habits, and even our conversations offer advertisers insights into our lives that allow them to target us directly with the most relevant products for us.

There are almost two billion websites online, and within many of the larger sites, there are entire worlds of data channels. All these digital realms are viewed across a wide selection of different channels with continuous round the clock access. 

So, when it comes to media buying and placing an advert online, it can be daunting. Working out where your marketing messages should be placed to reach the maximum effectiveness is key. Using separate platforms for placing advertisements and then capturing the attention of your targeted consumer within the digital ecosystem that exists today can be a complicated task. 

Programmatic Advertising is a way of easing these issues. Programmatic advertising is a system in which you can automatically buy and sell online advertising. By moving to an automated system, you will have far greater control over your digital advertising while consolidating it into one platform

What Is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic Advertising

Put in the simplest way, programmatic advertising is the buying and selling of ads through machines. Programmatic ad buying is like online stock trading in the way that advertiser uses technology to purchase ad impressions.

Programmatic platforms have been growing their databases and reach so much that any format and any advertising channel can be accessed for automated programming. These channels include mobile, laptop and desktop computers, tablets, smart speakers, outdoor visual adverts, and more. 

By using targeting tactics, it is possible to segment the audience. This can be done by using social media data to give full and accurate targets. Whereas previously advertising would be put out for all to see, meaning that the majority of consumers viewing it would find it irrelevant to them, using programmatic advertising, it is possible to deliver specific adverts to just the people who will be the most likely to appreciate it.

The ad buying is completely automated through algorithms; this makes the who process of placing them much more efficient and saves a considerable amount of time in getting the ads out to their target consumers.

To understand what programmatic advertising is, it may be helpful to learn about how it works.

An advertiser is looking to promote a new vegan restaurant; they hire a programmatic advertising platform to assist them in finding the right audience for their new product. They will be able to make decisions around whom we see the advert, as well as where, when, and how.

Consumers can be identified by demographics, so as far targeting goes, it will be aimed toward a demographic of men and women aged between 18-50. The users can be targeted by their geography and their proximity to the restaurant, so you can target consumers within a radius of 10 miles. The interests can be selected, so if they have food, veganism, eating out, socializing, vegetarianism, and liberal political interests listed, then they are likely to be a good match. The time of day that the consumer typically goes online will help to decide the times and days that they should see the ad as well as the days of the week. You can pick the type of device that the ad will be displayed, too, so for this market demographics, then the smartphone would apply. Other data points can be utilized, such as the weather on the days that the advert will be seen.

The algorithms set themselves to work using real-time data to pick out the best audiences for the campaign. It will then automatically buy the digital ad based on the demographics and keywords that it has established. The purchases of the ad inventory will be made via an auction.

From the campaign, it will then be able to learn from the data and the way that the selected users are interacting with the ads that have been generated. These insights will help in further optimizing the campaign and will help to improve the quality of the performance of the algorithms in the future. 

How Much of a Difference Does Programmatic Advertising Make?

When it comes to deciding where to put your money in terms of media buying when it comes to programmatic advertising, you may wonder whether this is the way forward. The growth in the contributions to the digital advertising market using programmatic advertising has been phenomenal. With rises from $17 billion USD to $25 billion USD between 2016 and with this figure set to rise to $45 billion USD for 2019, you can see that this represents a hefty proportion that is rapidly growing. 

While older, more conventional routes to delivering your advertisement messages lack the finesse that programmatic advertising does, it is important to understand the true value of the datasets that the programmatic platforms make use of. This invaluable data is the culmination of a wide range of sources and examines the browsing habits of individuals on an ongoing basis. It establishes patterns and changes in interests. It considers people’s viewpoints on a whole host of matters. It can learn a lot from the things that people do and say when they are online. 

While many may criticize the obtrusiveness of these tactics, it is important to realize that the algorithms have a blind interest in the information and that the technique is fully automated, meaning that nobody is physically looking at the data, and as such, there are no ethical concerns here. 

The streamlined process that is involved in the programmatic advertising ad buying experience saves considerable amounts of time for any company, be that those that have created the product or service that is being advertised, or any agencies that are acting as intermediaries. This time saving and efficiency translates to cash savings across the board. Saving money and time will allow all related businesses to grow their concerns in other ways too. 

In addition to the economic savings due to the streamlined process involved in targeting specific consumers on an automatic buying platform, there is also the increased income that will come from a more accurate and targeted advertising campaign. Your sales will be directly improved in relation to the amount of investment that you are putting into your advertising campaigns. 

A Summary of the Features and Benefits of Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic Advertising Represents an Economic Decision

Programmatic advertising will be a service that meets the needs of your budget. When it comes to inefficient marketing strategies that fail to yield the targeted results that the automated programmatic advertising platforms can achieve in abundance, then not only do you see a greater return on your investment, but you also make more productive use of your brand’s time. 

Programmatic Advertising Has the Technological Edge with A Greater Range Of features

When it comes down to it, programmatic advertising strategies offer so much more than any other advertising technology platform. You may struggle to find any others that will allow you to target across so many different tactics, devices, web browsers, and all of this can be analyzed in real-time. 

An Easy to Manage Digital Advertising Campaign

By bringing all your campaigns into one single platform, you can monitor your performance between different datasets and devices targeted. The ease of use makes programmatic advertising the best choice for a digital marketing campaign. 

How to Succeed When Using Programmatic Advertising


Getting your programmatic advertising right will ensure that you get the best out of the money that you spend. When it comes to any advertising campaign, it is important that you are not just blindly spending money where you are not achieving the results. One of the best features about programmatic advertising, though, is its innate ability to learn how to improve itself and the ways in which it can go after the campaigns, which will offer the biggest return against your real-time bidding (RTB) buy. 

When considering the success of your programmatic advertising campaign, it is first relevant to discuss what success looks like. There are obviously going to be many markers of success, and it will also be measurable in relation to something else that is relevant. Success for one company may not be so for another. If you want to measure success and to know what a successful digital advertising campaign looks like, then you will need to think about it in relation to your own adverting objective. 

Setting Your Objective

Determining your advertising objective is of great fundamental importance when it comes to achieving success within the field of programmatic advertising. Your primary concern may be to drive a greater number of direct sales. You may be looking to retarget previous visitors and entice them back with a new product, service, or offer. Brand awareness is a common objective for many businesses as you will be looking to achieve longer-term results rather than immediate sales.  

Success Metrics in Programmatic Advertising

Once you know what your objective is, then you will be able to determine the way that you will measure your success. There are several tools that you can use to see your performance in this area. The click-through rate (CTR) is of great significance when measuring the success of certain campaigns. The conversion rate of these click-throughs is also important. But, when it comes to generating long-lasting brand awareness, then the number of impressions that you get from your ad campaign will be important. The more of these you can achieve, the more likely you are to attract your audience to use your company later.

Targeting Your Audience

In order to achieve the highest level of click-through and conversions or to create the impressions that you are looking to achieve, you will need to use precise, accurate, and relevant targeting. That way, you will be able to reach your ideal customers and will not be trying to engage with people for whom your products and services hold no relevance. Finding a perfect match with your ideal customer will depend on the data that you have access to. These may include:


Demographics offer a broad range of data that will be useful for your targeted campaign. The commonly found sub-categories within demographics include age, gender, location, race, marital status, sexuality, education, income, religion, etc.


A person’s interests offer a deep insight into them as a person. For some people, the information that you have on their interests may be as vague as ‘shopping’ or ‘music.’ But with many data sets, you can delve deeper and find out specifically what someone shops for and from where. You will be able to find out the bands or singers that a person listens to. All these data points create a useful map when it comes to pointing your ads at the right people.

Utilize Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike audiences can be a good way of learning what will work in terms of targeting. If you have had a high degree of success delivering your products and services to a certain type of customer, then by looking for people with similar attributes to your existing customers, you can achieve success.

Supplement Your Data Pool

Second- and third-party data represent information that you have brought in to compliment your first-party data. First-party data is the information that owns about your customers. Second-party data is often provided by other brands that may have synergy and as such, will share the benefits of targeting each other’s customers. Third-party data is information that you can buy pre-collected. While you cannot always vouch for the quality of this data, it can often prove to be of value if it is handled in the correct manner.

Apply the Right Filters 

Building your audience will mean setting up filters relating to these specific data sets. The more filters you apply, the more refined your pool will be. Too small, and you will not have a very large reach. Too wide and you will be wasting your efforts on people who will have no interest or need for the products or brands that you are marketing to them. Finding a perfect balance is the key here so that you manage to have a wide enough net that you can return the level of reach you will need to make the conversion, but without sending out irrelevant marketing messages to the wrong people. 

Learn to Adapt

Success will never be achieved by just providing the launch criteria and sitting back and waiting. In order to create a campaign that will work in the most effective way, data and results will need to be analyzed in real-time. That will provide you with the opportunity to see what is working and what is not. If you are putting money into a segment of your campaign that is failing to yield any meaningful response, then you should seek to invest your money into a different angle.

Your chosen audience’s attributes should influence the decisions that you make elsewhere within your campaign. If you are responsive to the way that your audience is reacting to your ad campaign, then you will prevent ‘ad blindness’ which is where your audiences either consciously, or subconsciously switch off to the presence of adverting on a website. Ad blindness is often a problem in situations where the audience has either not been targeted correctly, or the ad campaign has not used targeting demographics at all. 

Pick the Right Time of Day

maximizing your time management

Timing is everything when it comes to any form of marketing, and of course, programmatic advertising is no different. Picking the right times to share your ads is important in several ways. 

 Time of Day
  • Running adverts at specific times of the day has long been found to yield great results. Ever since the early days of TV and radio advertising, it has long been known that you need to slot your message into the routine of those that you are targetting. The times of the day that historically different members of the family are sat down in front of the TV or are in the car with the radio on would be the time to bring them advertising messages that would be directed at them.

Digital marketing is no different; we all have times of the day that we are likely to be able to interact with advertising. This is an ever more significant area of consideration in the modern ear as we fall into different lifestyle patterns with varied working schedules and routines, in terms of marketing, everyone represents a unique challenge. 

Looking for trends in the times that people are interacting with your marketing content is crucial to its success. There may be some obviously identifiable patterns that may emerge. Business to business advertising may find a greater response rate during conventional office hours. While when it comes to brand to customer marketing, ad campaigns may yield better results outside of working hours or on weekends. 

Understanding the hours that your demographic keeps to and analyzing the information on click-through will allow you to understand specifically when people are online and able to engage with advertising.

 Targeting Specific Days or Occasions
  • Certain brands may have more success on certain days of the week. Larger spend items may find a more willing audience when they are targetted around payday or during the holiday season.

There are some obvious seasonal opportunities for any business and brand to take advantage of if applicable, such as Christmas and Valentine’s day, and it is important to understand when the appropriate times for marketing toward these occasions would be. 

Knowing when your advertisements are the most likely to achieve the maximum impressions, click-through, and conversion will help you to derive the best results possible. If you are throwing your advertisements out at the wrong times of the day, then you will fail to gain impressions 

Determine the Correct Ad Frequency to Maximize Your Media Buys

When it comes to buying advertising, you will be paying for the amount times that your advert will get seen by each of your target audiences. You can determine the frequency that they each see these ads as it is important that you think ahead and make wise choices here. If you have, for example, 15 impressions per user within your ad buy, you will not want all of these to be delivered within 5 minutes of each other. This will be a vastly ineffective use of your resources. To maximize the potential of generating a response from these, then you will need to spread these out evenly over a greater length of time. This will increase the chances of engagement and stop your targeted users feeling as though they are perpetually bombarded with your ads. If you are sending out the same advertising message repeatedly, then your potential new customer will just end up with ad blindness and won’t pay any attention to them anymore.

Effective Retargeting Through Recency 

Looking at how quickly you show ads to users who have visited the brand’s website is helpful. Retargeting the people who have visited, but that did not convert into a sale, is a useful way of reminding, re-engaging, and getting them to head back to your site. 

Following an initial visit to your website, the frequency of advertising can also be considered, and you can change the timings that these ads go out on accordingly.

Why Creativity Is Significant in Programmatic Advertising

Data really does appear to drive everything, and nowhere does this appear to be truer than when you consider programmatic advertising with its automated use of algorithms, real-time bidding, data sets, targeting, and continual analysis. But of course, a well-targeted marketing campaign that goes out to the ideal customers at the right time of the day, when the user is poised and ready to spend, can still fall flat on its face. 

Why? There could be several faults found in the advertisement. For example:

  • The advertisement that you are sending out does not convey the features and benefits of the product of service. 
  • The use of imagery used was not eye-catching enough to grab the audience’s attention.
  • There is no connection between the imagery in the advertisement and the products or services on offer.
  • The information was not put across in an inspiring way.
  • The advertisement failed to be representative of the brand.

So, even though digital advertising is a sector that is dominated by improvements within the field of technology and data management, there is still as much of a need for creatives as ever. A well-made advertising campaign that covers all the key selling points of the product that is clever, inspiring, or amusing can make a big difference when it comes to converting impressions into clicks. A failure to catch the eye of the user will mean that you will not generate meaningful impressions, and you certainly won’t get any click-through or conversation.

Running A/B Ad Comparisons

A/B Testing

If you want to test the effectiveness of the creative content within your advertising campaign, then you should utilize A/B tests. Also known as ‘bucket testing’ or ‘split testing,’ you can compare the results of variations on your advertising campaign. This is useful for working out where the effectiveness lies in your creative content. By switching one aspect, such as the headline, the images, or even the call to action, you will be able to get the most effective measurement of the success of your individual creative elements. 

Getting the Right Message Across

If you want your message to come through in your advertising campaign, then you will need to develop the right tone for your audience. Get that wrong, and you may well lose them. Attributing the message and copy of your ads with the same level of significance as the creative and analytical elements of managing your campaign will be significant is ensuring you meet your advertising objectives. Again, you can also run the same split testing on variations on your ad copy to find out which message is the most effective. 

Ways to Improve Your Message

There are several different elements that you can apply to your message in order to increase its effectiveness. Here are some suggestions: 

  • USP- Make sure that the content highlights the uniques selling points
  • Add Urgency- There needs to be a reason to buy now- create a deadline or a sense of demand
  • Add Scarcity- If something is in short supply, then let your audience know. Limited edition items sell fast. 
  • Add Proof- Using examples of customer experience or quotes will help build trust.
  • Keep It Simple- Nobody wants to think too hard when looking at an ad. Get to the point straight away.
  • Humor and Creativity- Do what you can to make people smile. Work hard to engage and inspire your audience. 

Make sure that the message matches your creativity. If there is a lack of consistency or through-line, then you may struggle to hook your audience in. 

Include A Call to Action

Whenever you share your advertisement with the world, be sure that you include a call to action at the end. This should let the audience know exactly what they need to do and where they need to go. This call to action is a significant link between your message and the brand website. You need to ensure that this call to action is relevant and enticing. 

Think about the objective that you were aiming for with the ad. Were you trying to re-engage a previous customer, or were you prospecting for a new one? You may have just been trying to build brand awareness. Your call to action should serve to assist these objectives. Think about whether your message is ‘buy now,’ ‘shop now,’ ‘click here,’ or something more subtle. Make your call to action as simple as you possibly can so that you get the right result.

Color Variations

The colors used in your ad are important too. Different moods can be triggered by a variety of colors. Again, create a variety of options and use the A/B split testing to measure the successes of all your combinations. 


The success of a digital advertising campaign clearly rides on several vital pieces. The creative and message will convey the message of your brand using techniques that have been developed over the years across the ad industry, but the delivery method is so vital. 

Programmatic advertising offers the ability for you to fine-tune your ads in a way that you may not have been able to do previously. The real-time performances provided through the analytical data will ensure that you are able to A/B test and perfect your message and creativity. Once you have the right message going out to the right audience, you can perfect the ultimate ad campaign.

No longer will a digital ad campaign just be a matter of putting your advertisement out there and hoping that people engage with it. With the intelligent learning potential inbuilt into programmatic advertising, you can clearly see that there is a great potential for brands and advertising companies alike to streamline their operations and deliver better, more targeted ads. Programmatic advertising is the future of advertising and will continue to evolve and grow intuitively. 


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