Time for Marketers to Ramp Up Their Use of Programmatic Advertising

Six years after issuing our first programmatic insertion order and five years after investing in our own in-house platform, we’re still amazed by the number of marketers who either don’t utilize or don’t fully understand programmatic advertising.

What Is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic Advertising is the automated purchase of online or mobile application banner, social, or video advertising – also commonly called real-time bidding (RTB). Programmatic leverages algorithms to bid on ad impressions that reach prospects based on demographic, behavioral, and contextual cues wherever they are online.

Media Exchanges

Advertisers are able to place ads wherever they want on the web because of media exchanges. Website publishers learned some years ago that they had more possible ad impressions than their sales teams could possibly sell. So to more efficiently sell their ad inventory, they made it available to open markets, called media exchanges. Now media exchanges make just about any page available for programmatic ad purchases made in real time without the need for an IO.

Target the Prospect, Not the Website

The game changer with programmatic is marketers no longer have to guess where their target consumers will be, blindly choosing ad placements based on unreliable web traffic or anecdotal evidence. Programmatic allows you to have one-on-one conversations with your target prospect wherever they go.


1st party data includes IP addresses captured by tracking pixels on specific pages of your website, allowing you to set re-targeting campaigns based on that web traffic. You can also use customer data like email to build custom audiences.

3rd party data is anything you purchase to build a prospect pool. Purchased data has erupted as one of the fastest growing industries in digital marketing. Everything from age and sex to job function, education level, household income, and purchase affinities are available. Our programmatic platform creates a data marketplace allowing us to purchase data elements that refresh every 30 days to build targeting pools for our campaigns. We also sometimes turn to additional data vendors for information like credit card purchase history, device locations, and more.

Individually Targeted Creative

This difference in targeting also means your messages can be much more specific. You’re not designing a one-size fits all billboard, but a personalized note. Your messaging can not only target specific demographics, but also prospects at different levels of the sales funnel. Someone who has never been to your website may need a different piece of creative than someone who has already done some research on your product or service. Programmatic even allows you to speak directly with people who have abandoned a shopping cart or application.


One of the biggest challenges in the programmatic space is transparency between media publishers, programmatic buyers, and the advertisers they represent. And a key battleground in this fight for clarity is viewability. The basic idea is not all ads that populate on a web page are within the viewing window of the user. Obviously an ad that runs outside of the viewing window is like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest. Unscrupulous web publishers are the worst offenders of providing low viewability inventory. However, top publishers and smart trading desks and demand-side platforms are forcing publishers to share data and clarity to the market so buyers can punish low-viewability sites by taking away their ad revenue, thus providing a better and more productive ad environment for everyone.


Adult content, violence, bad news…these are all types of web content you may not want your brand message co-existing with. A popular example is airline ads rarely want to show up on news stories about plane crashes. Many programmatic platforms, including The Trade Desk, offer the ability to block this kind of content from your campaigns. Many programmatic fear mongers claim ads often show up on porn sites. In six years, and over 1 Billion impressions served, we have zero evidence of any ad showing up on an explicit site.

People Don’t Click – Post View Conversions

If you don’t measure post-view conversions, you won’t understand the benefit of programmatic advertising. Yes, you will target your prospects and segment your messaging like never before, but without understanding the fundamental truth that people do not click banner ads, and that is ok, you won’t be successful.

What Are Post-View Conversions?

Post-view or view-through conversions are leads, sales, or other conversion activities that a prospect completes after viewing an ad, but not clicking on it. A prospect is identified by a cookie placed on their IP when they view an ad. When that prospect completes a conversion action, a tracking pixel connects the circuit between a viewed ad and a completed conversion, generating a post-view conversion.

Post-view conversions can be difficult to integrate to your other measurement tools. Because there is no click path, many marketing automation tools and analytics tools don’t have simple ways to connect a conversion event to a name record. Ad servers generally will allow you to use a conversion pixel to get valuable information like when a conversion occurred, on what page, after how many ad views, 1st and last creative or ad group, and more.

Cross Device

A recent eMarketer study revealed what anecdotally we all know is true, a prospect will use multiple devices over time to make a purchasing decision. That means your ad campaigns need to seamlessly follow your target prospects across all of their devices. More than just buying mobile-ready inventory, cross device targeting takes into account either deterministic data, based on a login, we know for certain that the same user is on a set of specific devices (think Google or Facebook) or probabilistic data, where we make very educated guesses based on the overlap of IP addresses and device IDs that the same person owns a set of multiple devices.

Cross device targeting means instead of targeting multiple devices, you target a single person on whatever device they decide to use.


While most of the time, we think Geo-Fencing is Bullshit, it can be a useful targeting tactic in a programmatic campaign. Our platform allows for an integration with Factual, a data company founded by the braintrust behind the re-vamped Apple Maps. The power of geo-fencing is not simply putting a circle around a location, but identifying the movements of your customers. A local ice cream shop may target Moms of young children. Their target would not only be the two or three-block radius around their shop, but also the local soccer field, elementary school, playgrounds, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. Device IDs (individual mobile phones) that fall into all of those locations are likely to fit your target consumer.

Something to keep in mind is that geo-fencing most often means ads on mobile phones for people who are surfing the web or using an app. Too many marketers confuse geo-fencing with text messaging or push notifications. We tend to find that strong demographic and behavioral targeting can be just as useful if not more so than geo-fencing.