Programmatic Advertising Platforms

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Michael Jung, VP of Product Management and Technology, Precision Reach

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Ryan Rodgers, President, Embee Media

Programmatic Advertising Platforms

Programmatic advertising platforms run most digital marketing platforms today. Programmatic advertising in digital marketing is ubiquitous, but it wasn’t always that way. The easiest way to understand programmatic advertising is to go through a brief history of advertising on the web.

In the early days of the web, people would buy space on a single website. They would try to align it with their interests. So, a company selling “water bottles” might try to buy ad space on a health magazine. It was a lot like buying traditional advertising.

But then people realized that there’s a lot of data on the web. Instead of buying space on a single website, they would buy space on dozens of websites. And instead of targeting their ads to the site itself, they targeted their ads to the consumer.

Instead of putting their ad on a health magazine, they tried to have their ads “follow” users that were interested in healthy living.

Once that happened, there was a bigger problem. Each individual website was selling ad space to a multitude of people, but it had to be done automatically. The site had to detect the user who was present, send that information to the ad network, and the ad network had to send over an ad.

This is the foundation of programmatic advertising.

Today, programmatic advertising platforms include Google and Bing. Each individual advertiser has to “bid” for ad space every time an ad is displayed. They set their own limits, how much they want to spend per ad and their total budget, and they can set different limits on different keywords and demographics.

By using programmatic advertising, companies are able to get the best and most affordable ad space each time, all automatically.

What Is Programmatic Advertising

So, what is programmatic advertising? Programmatic platforms are any platforms that engage in bidding or auctioning ads.

Nearly every platform that has ads being displayed today is programmatic.

For the website owner or publisher, they make the most money by polling to see who is willing to spend the most. For the advertising company, they are able to control their budget and spend what they want for each keyword. And even the user has a benefit: They are given ads they are most likely to be interested in.

Programmatic advertising is a better, more contextual way of displaying advertising as well, as advertisers are most likely to pay more for the most relevant keywords and less for the least relevant keywords. And everything is tracked within the platform (such as Google) to show whether the advertisers are getting enough traffic and enough hits.

Programmatic advertising does require detailed and continued analysis. For instance, a company could set its bid price too low and might not be able to get any ads in on the sites that would give them real traction.

Demand Side Platforms

Another thing commonly considered in conjunction with programmatic advertising platforms are demand side platforms. A brief list of DSPs includes Facebook Ads, Amazon, and Media Math. DSP programmatic platforms operate by buying ads on multiple platforms within a single one. Facebook Ads constitutes a demand side platform as it not only places ads on Facebook but also Instagram.

DSP programmatic platforms are very useful. On Google, you can only advertise on a single third-party network, though Google is the largest network there is. But what if there was another network that had broader reach and was currently cheaper?

Demand side platforms will aggregate multiple services so you’re always getting the best deal on your advertising and you’re always finding those who are most likely to engage. Because of this, programmatic advertising platforms are both time and money savers. That being said, there are many utilities and platforms that can be used across a marketing campaign. If they aren’t being consolidated in a data analysis suite, they aren’t going to be as useful as they could be.

Best Programmatic Advertising Platforms

What are some of the best programmatic advertising platforms out there? Top programmatic platforms include SmartyAds, MediaMath, Kedet, and AdRoll. When looking at platforms, you should look at their cost and features.

How easy is it to pull reports from these advertising platforms? Which platforms do they support? How do you bid on ads and how do you automate the process? How many channels can you track at once? And what will the ultimate cost be?

Most programmatic platforms will let you advertise across multiple channels, but the reporting that they provide may not be robust. Additionally, you should set a budget and see how much you can afford to spend on a platform itself; if it doesn’t save you that much money, it may not be worthwhile.

Finally, most programmatic platforms will also have a free demo. You can try out demos in multiple platforms to see which platform gives you the best ROI (return on investment) or ROAS (return on advertising spend).

Google Ads

Google Ads is one of the largest advertising networks in the world. The Google Ad Exchange covers nearly every website out there. The Google programmatic platform is similarly robust.

Many companies start out using Google Ads for display ads and search engine ads almost exclusively. And it’s a viable strategy. Because Google has so much reach, it also has an extraordinary amount of information about its customers.

But it’s not always the best choice for a company trying to create a more robust campaign. Today, a lot of effective advertising is done through different channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. Not everyone is searching for things on Google.

If your product needs to be explicitly targeted, using social media can often be better. Though Google Ads does track a lot of information about users, that information is going to be limited the more privacy controls are set on what can and can’t be tracked about a user.

Programmatic Guaranteed

If you want to do programmatic advertising on Google, you can at least take advantage of the Programmatic Guaranteed feature.

This program essentially streamlines the workflow of programmatic advertising, saves money, and improves performance. It is a programmatic function, but with features such as audience lists, custom creatives, guaranteed sponsorships, and more.

These are all designed to make advertising, as a whole, more effective. The marketplace can be used to find publishers, different ad formats can be used to compensate for the many platforms that people today are using, and API support means the data can be brought into a full advertising platform (like Lumenad).

Programmatic Guaranteed is only one way in which Google, Google Ads, and Google Analytics attempt to make the process of buying and publishing ads much easier. At the same time, it’s still only on the Google site. You aren’t going to be able to advertise through other channels such as social media channels under Google’s Programmatic Guaranteed. You would, instead, need a demand side platform.

Types Of Programmatic Advertising

What are some types of programmatic advertising and programmatic advertising channels?

In terms of channels, there are multiple advertising venues. Google and Bing provide search engine venues and third-party ad networks. Facebook and Instagram provide a system by which individuals can bid for ads on their platform and their platform alone. And demand-based platforms provide an overall search engine for multiple programmatic advertising channels through a consolidated system.

Programmatic advertising can be any type of digital advertising. That includes display ads, which are ads that show up like banners on someone’s website. It includes search engine ads, which are ads that show up when someone searches for a product or a service on a search engine. And it includes video ads, which might show up on a social media site or on a website. There are even audio ads, which can be placed on podcasts.

You can do any type of advertising as programmatic advertising, as long as the platform supports it. Programmatic applies purely to the process of actually bidding on and paying for the placement of these ads.

Benefits Of Programmatic Advertising

What are the benefits of programmatic advertising?

You’re selling yo-yos and you have a toy site in front of you. You have to pay them an amount to show your ad each time. But how much? 14 cents? 4 cents? 8 cents?

Programmatic platforms collect extraordinary volumes of information to determine how much you would need to bid to get seen on any given site. From there, it positions you on the site that is most likely to be effective within your budget.

So, maybe that toy site has excellent conversion rates and your budget is at 20 cents. Maybe it’s best to bid 20 cents. Or maybe that toy site only has so-so engagement rates, so you’ll only bid 4 cents and hope something better comes along.

The future of programmatic advertising is even more impactful, as more data is collected and better decisions can be made. Now, people can push ads directly to mobile markets. They may even be able to consider things such as “it’s raining in this person’s area, perhaps they want to stop in for a coffee?”

The more information programmatic advertising gets, the better; for all parties involved. Ideally, it will provide for exceptionally powerful, contextual advertising.

Programmatic Advertising Examples

Let’s consider some programmatic advertising examples.

  • A coding bootcamp is trying to advertise for new recruits. They set their budget at $0.08. There are three sites (really, there would be thousands upon thousands) that are in the running. There’s a highly effective one that would cost 20 cents, a moderate one that would cost 7 cents, and a low engagement one that would cost 3. The programmatic advertising will bid 7 cents on the moderate site.
  •  An electrician is advertising their house call services on Google Ads. Through the ad network, they can see that “electrician in Arizona” searches rarely yield any good results for search engine ads. But for some reason, “rewiring lights in Arizona” has excellent coverage. They boost their ad spend for that one keyword and are able to improve conversions.
  • A mobile game is trying to advertise to a very broad spectrum of people. They know that their conversion rates are about the same across the board. So, they sent a low ad spend of 0.05 cents but a very broad keyword search. They are able to reach many people and are able to get the number of conversions they want.

Those are just some examples of programmatic advertising; there are many.