The Beginner’s Guide to Programmatic Advertising

October 19, 2020
The Beginner’s Guide to Programmatic Advertising

It seems like digital ads pop up almost everywhere you look—from your social media feeds, to the movies and TV shows you watch online, and even during the podcasts you stream on your daily commute.

But what is programmatic digital advertising exactly, and what do you have to gain from employing these types of ads?

Let’s take a look.

Programmatic Digital Advertising Explained

At their core, all digital advertisements are programmatic.

Programmatic advertising simply refers to the buying and selling of ads in real time via automated bidding systems. Rather than dealing with traditional RFPs, man-to-man negotiations, and manual insertion orders, programmatic advertising makes it possible for companies to purchase ad impressions within milliseconds all thanks to AI-powered algorithms.

Now, your programmatic ads won’t end up on just any old website or social media timeline. Instead, programmatic ad platforms collect data from online users and then use that data to pick ads that are most relevant to the content the users are already searching for and interacting with.

So, what does this look like in real life?

Let’s say you own an animal feed manufacturing company that wants to sell more of its goat pellet feed. You decide to run programmatic digital ads via a Demand Side Platform (DSP), like StackAdapt, AdRoll, Facebook Business Manager, or Google Ads to target online users who fit your ideal customer persona.


The demographics and data points you decide to target include:

    • Gender: Male, female, other
    • Age: 25-55
    • Devices: Laptops, desktop computers, tablets, smart phones
    • Interests: Goats, livestock, farming, agriculture
    • Behaviors: Browses livestock feed online, researches topics related to goat rearing

DSPs use the data points they’ve collected or purchased to curate an online audience that would benefit from seeing your ad for goat pellet feed. Then, the platforms buy digital ad inventory from an auction in places where that audience would see the ad—like next to a blog post that provides tips on raising goats or before a goat milking how-to video on YouTube.

If you’re wondering, that’s why ads seem sneakily particular and pointed to you. It’s all based on your online activity and interests so that ads are relevant to your online experience.


Types of Programmatic Advertising and How to Use Them

With programmatic advertising, you have plenty of channels to choose from, but it’s important to pick the channels that are best suited for your campaign AND your target audience. Many DSP’s have multiple inventory options for creative. So, with a single DSP you can run display ads, video ads, and native ads all within the same campaign!

Here are some of our favorite creative options:

Display Ads

A display ad, also known as a banner ad, can appear in the header, footer, or sidebar of a website. Once a viewer clicks on the ad, they will be taken to a corresponding landing page that you created.

Display ads are wonderful for putting your company in front of your audience to increase your brand awareness and capture a user’s interest through bright and vibrant coloring and imagery. Display ads have also been getting more unique with the introduction of advanced capabilities through HTML5. You can now put fast-loading motion content, interactive advertising, and even form fills inside of an ad itself.

For an example, here’s a case study of how we implemented programmatic display ads for a client with great results.


Native Ads

Native ads work just like display ads, but there is one major difference. Unlike display ads which are limited to only three places (header, footer, and sidebar), native ads can be placed just about anywhere else—including smack dab in the middle of a webpage’s content!

Native ads are great for longer form pieces of content, such as a blog post or explanatory articles. The user often gets these ads inside of the written content they’re already consuming, which means they’re already in the mood for reading. Native ads allow for a quick and seamless way to introduce your content and information about your products to your target audience.


Video Ads

 Programmatic video ads come in all shapes and sizes. They can be displayed in-stream, pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll, out-stream, and even in display ads

            • In-stream ads are shown within a video—like when a YouTuber gives a shout out to the sponsor of their video.
            • Pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads are similar to commercials and displayed before, during, and after a video.
            • Out-stream ads, also referred to as “in-read” video ads, are placed on websites in-between articles and videos.
            • In-display ads are clearly identified as ads and appear as “recommended” videos on content sharing platforms like YouTube.


Social Ads

Programmatic advertising thrives on social media since social media platforms already collect lots of data from users to enhance their targeting capabilities. Programmatic social ads piggyback off this pre-collected data and decide who will see the ad, the ad format, the ideal time, and the frequency cap.

As the number of social network users across the globe is expected to reach nearly 4.41 billion by 2025 (Statista, 2020), you’ll want to start taking advantage of the brand exposure and lead generation potential programmatic social media ads have to offer.


Benefits of Programmatic Advertising

Aside from the efficiency that replacing the human middleman with AI-powered algorithms and sophisticated ad-buying software brings, there are quite a few added benefits of running programmatic ad campaigns.

1. Better Budgeting.

Thanks to programmatic software, you’ll only spend your marketing dollars on your ideal customer. Taking our goat feed example from earlier, instead of running an ad in a larger feed-specific publication where your ad dollars may be spent on cattlemen, you can target JUST users who have shown interest in goats or goat feed.

2. More Efficient Campaign Management.

With programmatic ad campaigns, you see insights in real time. This makes it easy to adapt or adjust your ads quickly and as needed. You can see exactly how much traffic is going to your website from a specific ad, instead of not having any idea how to measure traffic ROI from print ads. 

3. Greater Reach.

Programmatic ads can be placed within multiple networks, partners, channels, and geographical locations, meaning you have the ability to reach potential customers on a worldwide scale.


At the end of the day, programmatic advertising is all about targeting. When you use these types of ads to promote your business, you have the ability to leverage data and media partners to get specific about where you’re spending your marketing dollars. Plus, programmatic advertising is also a great tactic within a successful ABM strategy.

In short, it’s guaranteed impressions direct to your target.

Like any digital marketing campaign, the key to running successful programmatic ads starts with building a solid foundation of strategy, persona development, and buying behaviors. Once you put in all the hard work to get to know your ideal audience and have the right tools (i.e. programmatic advertising) in place to reach them, you’ll start reaping all those benefits.

Author Bio

As an Account Manager on the Client Services Team at Stratagon, Emily is able to flaunt her passion for marketing strategy each and every day. Want to pick her brain on the latest marketing trend? Connect with her via LinkedIn.