10 Things you should know about programmatic but were afraid to ask.

As programmatic marketing evolves and reaches new heights of complexity, the more questions, discussions, and even debates, undoubtedly pop up. For people new to programmatic, it can feel daunting to even know where to start, but lend me your eyes for 5 minutes and I’ll try to give you a few pointers.

What programmatic buying is – and what it isn’t.

  1. Programmatic buying is not a channel or a display ad platform, but a form of buying that includes display ads. But it also includes video, text ads, native advertising, etc. It is not limited to only reaching users on desktop, it can be executed cross-device, and OOH even, depending on your technology of choice.
  2. Programmatic marketing is not rocket science. Yes, it requires specialist competence within several different disciplines to be executed well, but so does CRM, social and TV. You should not throw everything you know about marketing out the window – the principles are the same, but the possibilities are greater than before, thanks way to better tools and technology. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to understand the technology powering programmatic buying to conquer programmatic strategically. I assume you haven’t asked yourself how email actually works or which protocols are used when you send newsletters? The most important thing to grasp is how (and why) to use programmatic, not how all the nuts and bolts work.
  3. Programmatic buying is first and foremost about data. It starts and ends with data, it is what fuels this ecosystem. Data makes it possible to reach the right user, in the right context, at the right time – with the right message. Data gives you deeper insights into your customers, campaigns, creatives and audiences. Data makes all the difference, both good and bad. We separate between 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data.
    1st party data: Data collected directly from a company’s customers.

    2nd party data: Data shared between two partners, e.g. publisher data shared with an advertiser.

    3rd party data: Data provided by an external data provider not directly involved in the transaction.

  4. Programmatic buying is about technology. Technology is the enabler of programmatic marketing and buying, and thus it is the foundation on which everything is built. Technology allows us to connect advertiser data with the right audience and underpins modern media planning and –buying. Technology is the process automation within programmatic buying.
  5. Programmatic buying is all about people! Data and technology are pointless without the talent and skill to connect them. Understanding the local media landscape is still an extremely important aspect of programmatic, and an undoubtedly human one. Technology serves to automate tedious and repetitive tasks, and gives us better tools to create better efficiencies. But we still need talent to take full advantage of technology’s potential and to keep challenging and evolving the technology in question.
  6. Programmatic buying is about reducing advertising loss. Identifying and targeting specific audiences instead of taking a media-centric approach and combining it with frequency capping across media and devices, reduces advertising loss and creates better effect. In other words: More for less.
  7. Programmatic is not cesspool of ad fraud. Yes, on a global scale, there are massive amounts of fraud, and the Nordics are of course affected by fraud as well, but this goes for all digital marketing. Buying ads via programmatic platforms (DSP: Demand Side Platforms) will present certain pros and cons. The cons are that it is so easy for non-experienced buyers to buy ads that the risk of buying fraudulent ads skyrockets. The pros are the access to a large array of tools to counter ad fraud, both integrated into the platforms and through 3rd parties. With the right technology, strategies and expertise, it is possible to reduce the risk of ad fraud. But it will never completely vanish.
  8. Programmatic buying is not synonymous with ad networks. In terms of effect though, you can compare and evaluate ad networks up against programmatic buying. As an advertiser, you should choose the solution that gives you the best results on the KPIs you set, both short- and long term.
  9. A DSP is not a trading desk, which is not a media. To compare agencies’ trading desks with DSPs and media is dead wrong. A DSP is a buying platform from vendors like Adform, AppNexus, Delta Projects, DoubleClick, MediaMath, The TradeDesk, etc. They are technology providers. A trading desk is a specialist company or department that utilises DSPs to buy media. Media is still media, enabling their inventory through their platforms (SSP: Supply Side Platform) so that trading desks can buy their inventory through their DSP. A trading desk is in other words a media buyer.
  10. Programmatic buying is all about creating better efficiencies. It is not up for discussion whether programmatic buying should give you better effect per invested krone, Euro or Dollar if you compare to similar activities. Given that you as an advertiser have clear, measurable KPIs, it should be easy to evaluate your activities. If the results you’re getting on your programmatic activities are not up to par, you should reallocate your budgets to the activities that do give you the desired effect. But please make sure you’re measuring effect on actual goals and business outcomes, not proxies, like clicks.


This post originally appeared on LinkedIn & Medium on July 7, 2016.