Programmatic Display Advertising: A How-To Guide for Rookies

The future of display ads and content marketing is here—and it’s automated, attributed, and, well, kind of like the stock market. If you’re a marketing nerd (it’s okay, I am, too) perhaps you’ve heard rumblings about a new tactic for targeting your audience in real-time based upon complicated algorithms, interfaces and data models called programmatic advertising. With descriptive words like “algorithms” and “data models,” programmatic display advertising sounds terrifying—and really interesting. Truth-be-told, programmatic display advertising is actually easier than you’d think to understand. However, it’s not so easy to execute.

So let me break it down for you as simplified as I can. In this article I’ll explain what programmatic display advertising is, how it works and what you’ll need to begin dipping your marketing toes in the programmatic waters. 

What is programmatic display advertising?

Programmatic display advertising is the real-time buying and selling of desktop and mobile display ads using a programed (hence the word “programmatic”) set of functions. Like a suite of automated buckets, the programmatic interface bids on an ideal user, deploys a targeted ad, optimizes and measures the results all from a demand-side platform (DSP). Forbes’ marketing writer Steve Olenski has a great thought-piece and interview with a programmatic advertising professional that provides industry stats and more info. It’s worth a read.

How programmatic display advertising works?

Okay, so that’s programmatic display advertising explained in geek-speak. Let me explain it to you using an analogy.  Think of programmatic display advertising like the buying and selling of stocks. Each user you are targeting is a company that you want to buy a share of. The DSP acts as an open exchange marketplace. It’s the S&P 500 and Dow Jones all rolled into one. DSPs allow you to bid across multiple search engines (a real advantage versus AdWords) in real-time as the stock price for a user is rising or falling. Each website serving up your ad is like the stockbroker in the pit fighting for your shares—and their money. And once the transaction has occurred, your ad gets delivered precisely to the user you want.

As real-time in-the-moment marketing is proving to be the most effective advertising method, programmatic advertising is as high-level as digital advertising comes these days.   

What do you need to begin programmatic display advertising?

At this point, you might be thinking programmatic display advertising is something you want to deploy. Great, you should. But, slow your roll because you need to spend time capturing a mass amount of data on who your audience is first. Building a complete data model profile with a floodlight pixel on your web properties is the first step you need to complete before you fully launch intoprogrammatic display advertising. The better the data profile is the better you will be able to successfully target your audience as they need/want your product/service in real-time.

Congratulations—your computer is now the marketplace equivalent of Wall Street. But maybe it always was.

Holden + Ellis is a Columbus marketing firm with creative, smart brains

Holden + Ellis is a Columbus marketing firm and creative data agency that specializes in the innovation of ideas. Put simply, we use online behaviors to produce offline results. Connect with us. Let us help you get started reaching your customers in real-time with programmatic advertising. Reach out to Holden + Ellis’ Founder and Chief Visionary Officer Josh Fitzwater with questions or thoughts on mobile marketing at josh[at]holdenellis[dot]com.