Digital Marketing

Breaking Down Programmatic Advertising for PPC Managers

Programmatic has been one of the biggest buzzwords being thrown around the industry over the past couple of years. It is also an area of the industry that is growing rapidly, with 72% of all display ads expected to be bought programmatically this year.

But what do you understand about it? Do you know you know where to go to get started? How do I manage it? Why is it important?

The customer mindset is changing and marketers are having to change their approach to how they reach their audience and create an experience that attracts, convinces and retains customers. The strategy of a single brand message, pushed to the masses via perceived viable channels, is no longer a viable option.

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Brands need to be able to tailor their message to their various market segments at scale, and still nurture relationships to continue to move potential customers through the funnel. Programmatic technology allows advertisers to take everything that they know about their own customers, as well as potential customers and deliver a unique experience at every step of the customer journey.

The journey of a customer purchase has changed. Consumers conduct their online activities across multiple devices daily. From Mobile, to home Desktop, to work device, to potentially a tablet. No longer are consumers are choosing a single path to purchase to buy a product or utilize a service.

Advantages of Programmatic Advertising


The increased reach and diversity of inventory available in the programmatic eco system is second to none. Demand Side Platforms and other Programmatic Vendors provide a centralized location for advertisers to plan, launch and optimize their media buys. And while you may be moving your display buys away from AdWords display to a programmatic strategy, you will still be able to target the Google Display network via Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange (Adx).


Both AdWords/GDN share much of the same targeting segments and optimization techniques such as Contexual targeting, day parting, remarketing etc. However, where programmatic really separates itself from the pack is the depth of advanced targeting options it provides.

  • 1st & 3rd Party Data Integration - Advertisers can take advantage of the their internal sales and CRM Data for their display campaigns, a feature currently unavailable in the GDN.There is also the added option of using 3rd party audiences created by DMPs such as Oracle, BlueKai or Exelate, who have collected user cookies and segmented them into behavioral categories
  • Programmatic Direct and Private MarketPlaces - Both the streamlining of processes and the increasing concern around brand safety are becoming more prominent topics in the industry right now. Private MarketPlaces and Programmatic Direct are the cross section of these ideas right now. Private MarketPlaces are premium auctions on major publishing networks that allow select brands access to premium inventory before it moves onto the open exchange. Programmatic direct is the modern evolution of the direct display buy. Brands can negotiate, plan and report immediate on their direct buys from the same platform as their direct response and RTB prospecting.

Not only can brands streamline their process by centralizing the coordination of their online media buys, but they can also be confident that their ads are showing up on brand safe inventory. (For the most part. Their are some exceptions to the rule)

cnn brand safety ads Brand Safe Inventory

What to Look For in A Programmatic Vendor

Pricing: Are there minimums?, Flat CPMs or Dynamic CPM?, Hidden fees?

Transparency: How deep is the reporting? Can you see the true cost of your media vs your platform fees? Can you see when and where your ads are showing?

Targeting Options: Can you utilize certain CRM data? Is there a variety of targeting options (Device, Local Geos/Zip Code, Reputable inventory sources.)

Support Tiers: Full Service/Managed Options if preferred. Is the self serve support good? Do you get an Account Manager or a generic support email or phone number?

Tech: What is the vendor’s unique selling point? Is it unique algorithms, or proprietary data or advanced tech partnerships.

Tracking: How much data can you track. Can you pull in revenue data? How much attribution technology can the vendor provide.

How Do I Get Started?

As the industry evolves, PPC Managers are going to find ways to grow their accounts beyond the traditional channels like AdWords, Bing, and Paid Social. While programmatic seems like this scary unknown thing, it is actually pretty simple. It carries many of the same philosophies that we as PPC Managers do. You Plan, Launch, Test, Analyze, Optimize and Repeat.

While Programmatic has great targeting features and advanced technology, it still requires a full funnel approach and mindset.

Before you start any campaign, define what success looks like and define the KPIs that will move the needle for you or your client.

It is also important to remember that Display/Video is still prospecting first channel. On average, 98% of visitors will not convert on their first visit. Like I mentioned earlier, they need to be exposed to the brand, convinced to consider, and then nurtured to the point of conversion.

A simple way to plan your funnel could look like this:

Step 1. Awareness

Let users know you are here and send them to a generic landing pages such as a homepage of informational page.

Some potential tactics for this stage of the funnel include: Page Category targeting, Broader 3rd Party Audiences potentially associated with your brand, Programmatic Direct and/or a Private Market Places

Step 2. Consideration

This is where an increased reach for remarketing can be utilized at its best. Segment audiences who have viewed certain products, solutions or certain content of your site. Utilizing specific messaging based on these activities can help create the 1:1 relationship that modern consumers want. From a prospecting perspective, it can also be useful to use focused 3rd Party Audiences, such as those “In-market” for your product or service.

Step 3. Decision Stage

This is where the utilization of CRM data and the tracking of deep in the funnel customers such as “Add to Cart” can be added into your strategy. This audience would usually consist of users who have potentially downloaded a white paper on the B2B side, or from a B2C perspective, Add To Cart, or started a checkout but did not convert. These data sets allow for subtle, but specific reminder messaging for the customer to take the next step in the funnel.

Step 4. Nurturing

Because someone has become a customer from being a lead, or bought an item from your store, it does not mean that they should be forgotten. Staggered retargeting or “custom prospecting” can be a valuable way to cross sell customer on other products and services. Not only will this increase the customer’s attention of your brand, it will also add to the Lifetime Value of your customer.

How To Optimize Programmatic Campaigns

While Programmatic shares much of the same philosophies as PPC, such as, bidding, device performance, creative performance etc.  it is important to know that there are extra layers in the optimization process:

Sitelist Monitoring:

While we have access to placement reports in the GDN, with the greater reach offered in programmatic, comes greater risk of turning up on poor quality inventory. Monitor your placements regularly to ensure that you are showing up where you want to. These lists are also useful in the planning of potential Private Market Place or Programmatic Direct Deals with your top performing placements.

Exchange Reporting: 

Within AdWords, you only have the GDN to contend with. Within Programmatic, you have up to 90 different networks or “exchanges” can all share the same publishers and inventory. Each exchange bids and matches ads to inventory in different ways. Monitor which exchanges are providing the best performance for your primary KPI.


Analytics is probably the most important tool that you can use, just like with your PPC campaigns. Campaign metrics can only give a snapshot of performance on the front-end. To ensure that you are reaching your goals and moving customers through the funnel efficiently, monitor your bounce rate, time on site, steps through the funnel and ultimately the conversion rate. If these metrics are performing poorly, you may be facing multiple issues, both campaign related and not, such as:

  • Poor Landing Page choice
  • Bad UX
  • Irrelevant Targeting

Armed with data and insights, you can adjust your funnel, UX and targeting to effectively optimize your campaign.


PPC as we know it today may still be the King, however the competitive landscape and demands of customers has forced advertisers to think beyond AdWords. The advanced technology and targeting offers the opportunity for a better customer experience, which in turn increases revenue and ultimately brand loyalty.

Taking the jump from PPC to managing programmatic campaigns maybe scary. There is a lot to consider, there is a learning curve, but adaption is necessary, but can ultimately it can be an easy transition.


AdStage Team