Programmatic Advertising: What It Is and Why It’s the Future

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There was a time when television was the best medium for ads, but now that seems like such a long time ago. More and more advertisers are now shifting their focus to the internet and its over four billion users. The technology is quickly becoming smarter and more powerful, too. With the likes of programmatic advertising, it has become more possible than ever for advertisers to maximize returns while keeping your spending to a minimum.

Programmatic advertising – a smarter way to advertise

In traditional online advertising, advertisers bought ad space from publishers. The best ad space was one that offered the highest number of impressions from your target audience. In most cases, you would need to negotiate with publishers before you can actually roll out your ads. The entire process was slow and could easily become expensive for advertisers.

With programmatic advertising, advertisers select and purchase ad space using software. This effectively automates the ad buying process, allowing you to:

  • Skip the middleman and shorten the process
  • Save time and money and roll out your ads sooner
  • Access a larger pool of publishers

Programmatic advertising employs complex algorithms to maximize the accuracy of ad targeting. The software can also help you keep better track of your ROI.

Three brands doing it right

Technology is a double-edged sword. Just as it allows you to reach out to more customers, it also allows users to block ads and keep unwanted brands at a distance. It is, therefore, all the more important that you deliver relevant, timely, and useful ads that meet your customers’ needs and that they are not likely to reject.

Here are three names whose example you can follow for your own brand:

Topman programmatic advertising

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  1. Topman

Topman ran a creative campaign to promote their khaki collection. They used photographs of five models, each one representing the brand’s core customer type. All of the models sported a variation of the khaki look that matched the customer segment they stood for. By running each ensemble across different media channels, Topman eventually identified which outfit was matched to which media channel.

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  1. The Economist

In order to appeal to “intellectually curious” readers who may be hesitant to read their magazine, The Economist created content tailored for their intended customers. They then crunched different types of data, including cookies, content preferences, web/app usage, and other information to match customers with engaging content that contained an invitation to subscribe.  Figures in the U.S. shored marked improvements: a 64 percent jump in awareness, 22 percent in willingness, and 10 percent in willingness to recommend.,format,&crop=faces,entropy,edges&fit=crop&q=60&w=780&h=519

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  1. Missing People

The charity, one that specializes in locating missing persons, used to advertise via print. Because of print’s limitations, they could make only one missing child appeal per week, which was displayed across the entire U.K. They eventually invested in programmatic advertising, which allowed them to run more location-specific appeals. What’s more, the organization’s new system allowed them to replace their appeal once a child was found. Before investing in programmatic, just 50 percent of children in their appeals were found alive. After the investment, this figure rose to 70 percent.

The best programmatic model could be hybrid

Many businesses are adopting an in-house model for programmatic advertising rather than depending on agencies. Cost seems to be a major concern. Indeed, running a dedicated team means not having to pay extra, as well as having more control over the budget of your campaign. However, issues like transparency and the prevalence of ad fraud also seem to have considerable influence on the trend.

On the other hand, utilizing the agency model means working with seasoned marketers and advertisers. You will need to choose the members of your in-house team carefully to equal the years of experience that agencies bring to the table. In fact, some businesses recognize this, too, and so are resorting to a hybrid approach. This is especially the case with big companies that can afford to have both an agency and an in-house team.

Five tips for running programmatic ads

  1. Do not be afraid to ask questions

If you choose to entrust your programmatic advertising to an agency, then do not be afraid to ask hard questions. You will be working with people whose output will affect your brand, so make sure you know them well. At the same time, keep in mind that they are experts and that you can also ask them for insights about your own campaign or that of your competitor’s.

  1. Cast a wide net

If you are rolling out a campaign for the first time, you can’t be sure who your audience is exactly. For the best results, it’s best to use a broad target in the beginning. You can start narrowing down your audience once you have gained more insights from the campaign.

  1. Make every pixel count

Set up conversion tracking no matter what type of campaign you may be running. Identify valuable areas in your site and set up retargeting from there.

  1. Match your content, target audience, and channel of choice

Certain channels work best with particular types of content and are accessible to specific branches of your target audience. The channels, content, and strategy you use ultimately should depend on your goals.

  1. Experiment with channels

Programmatic advertising lets you work with multiple channels to maximize your ROI. Do not shy away from exploring channels, even those you haven’t tried before, and seeing how they can benefit your brand.

Keep an eye on the numbers

Programmatic advertising maintains a rather repetitive aspect – find the product ads, sites, and channels that are the most successful and keep investing in them. To know which segments warrant your attention and which ones need further investment, you need to pay constant attention to insights and analytics. Doing this will also allow you to identify areas to improve, as well as opportunities to save money.

Data as your customer

As a business owner or advertiser, you will be dealing with three types of data. First-party data refer to your own data about your customers, second-party data pertain to the information gathered by someone (such as your agency) besides yourself and are being shared to you. Third-party data are information gathered by someone else that are available for a price.

All of these data need to be seen as a customer or, at least, an opportunity to gain new or loyal customers. For instance, your own data can be used for retargeting. You can also use them to grow your customers by finding prospects with similar traits and values as your existing customers.


Programmatic advertising has been around for years, but its potential remains solid thanks to continuous development in internet and communication technologies. With its continuously improving capabilities, it just might be the future of advertising.

What do you like about programmatic advertising? Tell us in the comments.  

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