Programmatic Media Buying – Is Watching You!

Programmatic media buying – it is about real-time buying and selling of online advertising using software (which allows the automation). It is expanding to OTT, cable, music, & it has been in news and native for quite some time. Moreover, it is not just ‘online.’ Programmatic is available on Spotify, Hulu, and even TV inventory which is attracting brand marketers. It is not just for direct response anymore. Brand vs. Direct response is another article though.

Media buyers are trying it out, and not doing it right. Programmatic is not a typical media buy. Programmatic Media buying requires in-house skill; it is not a quick media buy. Don’t settle for the failed results of one programmatic test – mediocrity – fewer ads, higher fees and higher fraud levels. Digital marketers are doing it right (sometimes), while many digital marketers are doing it in steps, including testing it successfully, rolling it out with agency support, and then moving it in-house, and managing it themselves.

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Facebook has 2.2 Billion users

Facebook & Instagram use Facebook Ads Manager – limited to Facebook businesses. However, it is a powerful tool that reduces your external costs – you do not have to pay ‘middle-men’ and ‘brokers’ when using Facebook Ads Manager. You get the scale of a huge part of your customer’s daily social media habit (but not all, and not for every customer – did you know many young adults do not use Facebook – some people even delete it).

SEO, SEM, digital, google, PPC
Google is the dominant Search Engine

Google Display Network/AdX and AdWords give you significant reach for your advertising dollar, and it can lower your costs by running self-service ‘programmatic’ directly through Google and the Google Display Network. But, it is not the entire Internet.

internet, social, digital, marketing, seo, sem, ppc, programmatic
Facebook & Google are not the entire Internet

You miss automated advertising options if you only focus on Google & Facebook – I know that is an odd statement (for some of us forget that the world is much more than Google & Facebook). I’d suggest that you are leaving up to 50% of programmatic advertising on the table if you just focus on Google & Facebook. Studies show that Google & Facebook are 60% -75% of the total US online advertising market and much of the growth year over year. But, that focus is true but not accurate. Other sites and programmatic options are outside of Google & Facebook: OTT such as Hulu & Spotify, and let’s not forget native platforms like Yahoo! Native & Taboola. Don’t put all your eggs in Google & Facebook advertising if your goal is scale and growth. You can expand into many other avenues, and while Google & Facebook are behemoths taking in ad dollars, many ad placements are left on the table elsewhere at competitive prices. I recently ran a huge Yahoo! Native campaign over two weeks and it cost 1/5 of a Google AdWords and GDN campaign – and performance was incredible!

Many companies can do a better job of seamlessly automating your re-targeting, and programmatic media buys across the web. Don’t be encumbered by one network’s limitation. Be aware that some costs might be higher because you are dealing with ‘middlemen’ and ‘brokers’ now. However, you can lower costs by going directly to specific platforms (like Yahoo! native using Bright Roll, Google Display, and Facebook). However, each time you choose lower advertising costs (by going direct), you are increasing your costs to manage, and you lose synergy between platforms. The cross-platform bidding strategy that programmatic allows optimizes your bidding across the web. It learns over time, and adjusts your bidding for you, vs. having you manually manage bids. It can significantly lower your bidding costs on inventory – which is one of the major selling points of programmatic – you get scale volume, lower costs and more conversions (or leads), and you are not missing portions of your audiences in blind spots on the web.

Here are some programmatic options that can help automate bidding over more of the web, each has limitations and upsides. Some platforms have do-it-yourself options, and they give support options at various spend levels. You can dig into your own needs and your own priorities in your search for programmatic vendors. Here is a short list of 15 – 11 reflected on a recent Gartner study of best DSPs:



Amobee DSP (formerly Turn)

BrightRoll from Yahoo!

Centro (Basis DSP)




DoubleClick by Google


Sizmek (merge w/RocketFuel)

Rubicon Project



The Trade Desk

Programmatic will be the standard method to purchase media in the near future. It will have limitations when using unique customer data (GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation in the EU & UK), but it is here to stay. The May 1st GDPR deadline will have its challenges to businesses, but that is what AdTech is all about, facing challenges head-on, and solving them for you (for a price). That price might be a fraction of a cent for an ad placed times 1 Billion transactions – it will be worth it for you, the advertiser, and the platforms, and the consumer. Don’t muck it up! Test & Learn, don’t sign a long-term contract, be ready to fail, be ready to re-test, be ready to re-negotiate, and if you are looking for more unique placements, programmatic will solve that for you too!

One other oft-forgotten piece of the programmatic – scaling puzzle. Don’t forget to have large inventories of creative, and think about storytelling using videos too. Improve the mobile experience with video, and variation will keep your ad creative alive in the users’ mind. A current re-targeting client campaign has 55 different ads for a small client, between prospecting, site & CRM re-targeting.

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