When executing an advertising plan the single largest expense is usually media. Often, the media budget dwarfs the spend on strategy, creative etc. And if the media does not hit the target audience at the right time and with enough frequency then the best creative in the world will not save the advertising campaign. Today, a large portion of the media is digital marketing, which usually means programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising has changed digital marketing success rates and gets better every day.  But what is programmatic and is programmatic advertising for everyone?

What is Programmatic?

Programmatic advertising is the use of automation to buy and sell digital media. That can include display, streaming audio and video as well as digital out-of-home. Buyers and sellers of media are connected by an exchange. In that exchange advertising is bought and sold with computers (AI) using data to decide which ads to buy and how much to pay for them, often in real time. It was predicted that 81 billion dollars would be spent on programmatic in 2021.

In the early days of buying digital ads the advertiser defined who they wanted to reach and then made educated guesses as to where to find them. If you sold golf bags you bought advertising from publishers that wrote about golf. A direct contextual relationship. As the internet grew publishers such as Golf.com found they had more advertising space than they could sell on their own. They used ad networks to try and sell their excess inventory. Ad networks then created “verticals”, channels of advertising that had inventory of similar interest. While verticals reached large numbers of similar people it failed to consider that golfers have different incomes and may not all buy the same gear. And, golfers probably spend more time on websites other than those focused on golf.

How It Works

Enter programmatic advertising. Instead of planning your advertising buy on individual websites or verticals, you start with a focused client avatar, an objective and then reach that audience wherever they are. Using Artificial Intelligence programmatic technologies analyze a consumer’s behavior allowing for real time campaign optimizations towards an audience more likely to convert. In other words, you may find that it is more optimal to reach that golfer on a news or weather website. If that is the case, the algorithm will direct more ad spend to those sites.


Advantages of programmatic advertising are numerous. Programmatic algorithms continually work to improve performance towards your campaign’s KPIs, increasing overall ROI. The algorithms are continually gaining insights into your customers behaviors. This becomes new first party data which is highly actionable. Because of superior targeting, new consumer insights and granular control of the bidding process, programmatic is very cost effective. You can target precisely by geography, so there is minimal waste. And, buying media in this fashion is highly scalable, allowing advertisers to cover any geography and thousands of websites.


Advertisers should enter this world with some caution. They must understand how their DSP works so that they get the advertising they want. A DSP, or Demand Side Platform, is the platform that allows advertisers to purchase inventory on the open market. Some DSP’s offer inventory that is extremely high quality, but also offer inventory that is less so. You pay for what you get. Ad fraud is still a big concern in digital advertising. Often, with poorer quality ad space the ads themselves mostly fall below the fold or are in some way not viewable. And brand safety is a consideration. Speak with the company through whom you are advertising to discuss these concerns.

Programmatic For Everyone

Programmatic opportunities now extend well beyond digital banners and video. OTT and CTV, the online TV viewing of cord-cutters is now served by programmatic. Streaming audio, whether through platforms such as Spotify and Pandora or local radio station groups can be accessed programmatically. Digital Out-of-Home boards from highway bulletins to subway platforms to taxi and elevator cars are all delivered through programmatic platforms.

Because you can target by audience, geography, behaviors even time of day, the sophistication is unparalleled. And results are following. Digital marketers can feel much more secure that their ad spend will deliver. Some programmatic platforms are constructed with only large advertisers in mind. But there are plenty that provide great service and are available to smaller marketers. Truly, programmatic advertising is for everyone.

If you want to learn how programmatic advertising can improve your results, contact us today.