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The 2018 Programmatic Guide for PPC Managers

Written by Bryan Gaynor, Account Manager

The way in which brands and advertisers reach the masses is changing, and programmatic is the primary driving force behind it.  Instead of utilizing one brand message to a broad, not necessarily specific audience, brands can now tailor their messaging, at scale, to nurture customer relationships on a 1:1 basis. Programmatic technology allows advertisers to take everything that they know about their customers and potential customers and deliver a unique experience at each stage in the consumer journey.


The consumer journey has changed. No longer are consumers confined to a single place or time to buy a product or utilize a service. Modern customers split their time across multiple devices at times that works best for them before they complete their customer journey.


Programmatic technology allows us as advertisers to serve specific messages, across varying platforms, to the right person, the right amount of times, on the device that makes the most sense at any stage in the journey. With this technology, brands can build positive brand awareness, nurture prospects through the funnel and ultimately bring them to the point of conversion.


Programmatic doesn’t need to be confusing?


People think programmatic, they think this complicated integration of tools, machines and algorithms that is so vast it can never be conquered.  It is easy to look at the eco-system and think…. this is insane. I mean, look at it:




Programmatic is, however, pretty simple. Start with a single DSP and add the bells and whistles tools as you scale and expand. The eco-system is generally split into 3 different ways to execute buys.


  1. Open RTB exchange: This is a collection of open ad exchanges, each of which provides relevant ad inventory to the advertiser via a Demand Side Platform (DSP) such as DoubleClick Bid Manager, Mediamath or The Trade Desk. Advertisers bid on this inventory on a CPM basis. They have control of the level of bid they want to use.


  1. Private Marketplaces (PMPs or Private Exchanges): These are auctions that contain unsold inventory that the publisher sets aside for select advertisers. To enter these auctions, advertisers must bid a minimum floor price, set by the publisher. Typically, the content is premium higher traffic areas of the site or app.


  1. Guaranteed Direct: This is the programmatic version of the direct buy. Rather than dealing with the hassle of RFP’s and sales staff, advertisers can create deals directly with publisher via a DSP, allowing them to report and monitor the campaigns themselves. The usual format of these deals is a set amount of impressions for a set price.





Optimization Tips For PPC Managers Testing Programmatic:


For those of you who have already started testing self-serve programmatic (or planning to), and are struggling to see performance, here are some tips that are easily overlooked when making the move from AdWords to Display to Programmatic.


Exchange Performance Reports:


Pull campaign reports, grouped by exchange and see what exchanges your ads are serving on. Highlight your worst performing exchanges and remove them from your targeting. It is worth noting that this technique can have an impact on your scale. If your largest source of inventory is the worst performing, it may be worth reevaluating your targeting.





Analytics, just like in AdWords, is probably the most important tool that you can use when managing programmatic campaigns. Campaign metrics such as impressions, clicks, and CTR will only provide a snapshot into your overall campaign performance. It merely shows that someone saw an ad, clicked on it, and visited your site. But what did they do when they got there? Did they bounce? Did they look around? Did they buy? Use analytics to see the full impact of your campaign. High bounce rates and low time on site may indicate several problems, such as:


  • Landing page relevance
  • Poor user experience
  • Subpar targeting


…or even worse:


  • Bot traffic


Armed with data and insights, you can make adjustments to your funnel, user experience, and targeting to fine tune your campaign performance. Your analytics tell the story of your customer journey. Make sure it is not a horror story.





Many DSPs in the Marketplace have their own proprietary algorithms that they can apply to your campaigns to reach specific CTR or CPA goals. However, algorithms and robots don’t always work to your advantage. If you set your goals low, you could see low scale. If you set them too high, you could run into performance issues.


Human analysis and interaction are constantly needed in programmatic, especially when it comes to bidding. While algorithms can be useful as more campaign data is collected and your strategy evolves, DSPs do not create them.


It is important to consider testing manual and automated bidding as you ramp up your campaign. Not only does this control how you manage your budgets, but it also gives insight into what is the right bidding approach for your strategy.


Advanced Strategies for the Savvy Programmatic Manager

Here are 5 tips that will help increase the quality of your overall strategy and improve the efficiency of your campaigns.



Private Marketplaces or PMPs are private auctions where publishers invite a select number of advertisers to enter a first look auction at a higher floor price than the traditional open exchange or auctions.


Why are they so important? No inventory is guaranteed, and PMPs provide the opportunity to create a guaranteed placement on a premium publisher, that may be key to your overarching strategy without having worry about an increased competition. PMP also help offset the cost of conducting a traditional direct buy with these publishers. You get access to the same premium inventory, without the “premium price”.


The best way to determine what publishers are the best to initiate conversations with, regarding PMPs is to look at the placement reports of your remarketing campaigns. This gives insight to where your audience is regularly. Leverage this data to create top of funnel prospecting campaigns on these sites, to reach your audience with a different message, as well as reaching a like-minded audience to your existing base.


Dynamic Creative

Dynamic Creatives are not a new thing in theory. We have seen them available through AdWords Remarketing Product Feeds and Facebook Dynamic Product Carousel ads. But these ads are very basic. They are rarely on brand and messaging options are limited.


Programmatic generated dynamic creative is an automated and trigger driven approach to ad creation. These ads can be created within brand guidelines, but contain elements such as messaging, button text or images that can be dynamically inserted based on a number of data points. These data points can include:


  • Weather
  • Content being viewed
  • Location
  • Audience Behavior
  • Retargeting list composition
  • Demographics



The consumer journey has changed. No longer is brand loyalty guaranteed. Longer cycle, full funnel campaigns are now more important than ever. Programmatic provides advertisers to opportunity to create highly segmented prospecting, and retargeting campaigns, utilizing tactics like dynamic creatives that we mentioned above to create a unique 1:1 message to their potential clients at every stage in the buying cycle. For example, if we were targeting fitness enthusiasts with the latest running shoe, a campaign could look like the following:



As you can see, there are multiple layers to how we can incorporate programmatic. Not every strategy will drive conversions directly, but layered into each other, you will see the overall quality of traffic improve and costs eventually come down.


CRM Data Integration

This to me is the most exciting aspect of programmatic advertising. It can be a great way to reactivate existing customers into generating revenue, or retaining existing customers if they are being categorized as being in the market for your product or service, by offering special discounts or unique offers.


CRM data can also be utilized to create quality lookalike audiences based on your existing customer base. This provides advertisers a channel outside of the predetermined audience and contextual targeting to reach a new audience that closely resembles your existing customers, and may garner a much better response.





Issues in the Industry:


Ad Fraud: One thing that is a primary concern amongst many marketing teams when taking the step into programmatic is ad fraud. Ad fraud is the practice of using simulating software that mimics user behavior online which triggers ads to serve on shell “publishers” to generate ad revenue for those creating the bots. It is expected that at one point, up to 30% of all ad impressions and traffic were a result of “Bots”. As the industry as evolved, so too has the technology. Safe guards can now be implemented either directly with a DSP or through a 3rd Party Vendor to filter out the majority of bot traffic and ensure that your ads are being shown to real people.


Brand Safety: Like any concerned advertisers, we want to make sure that the ads we run are showing where they are supposed to be. 3rd party Vendors such as Peer 39, Integral Ad Science and Double Verify already integrate directly with many DSPs to ensure that the inventory you bid on is verified to be brand safe and real.


Costs: With all the beneficial features that exist in programmatic, it does come at a premium. Many DSPs come with a high minimum spend or access fee. AdWords, as we all know, is plug and play. DSPs also take a percentage of spend compared to AdWords, where all spend goes towards the media costs.


GDPR: GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation is a new law being introduced by the EU to protect consumer privacy and data. There is a lot of grey area still surrounding how programmatic and remarketing will be impacted by this. Some aspects that advertisers may have to look into, if they receive traffic from EU based customers, is the transparency of how they utilize visitor data for the purpose of analytics, marketing, etc. and provide them with an option to opt-in or be “forgotten”. This is likely to impact email collection, shrink remarketing pools, and change the ability to track user behavior habits.




What Lies Ahead for Programmatic?


The future is bright for programmatic. As the entire advertising industry evolves, we are starting to see programmatic technology being adopted in new forms as well as the more traditional sectors.


Native: As the popularity of Ad Blockers continues to rise, the Ad tech industry is looking for different ways to make ads more conducive to user experience and less intrusive to the customer. In similar fashion to the way Facebook and Twitter incorporate ads into their primary user interface, companies such as Triplelift and Outbrain are leading the way in creating opportunities for advertisers to reach customers with content that seamlessly blends into the environment around it.


Programmatic TV and Audio: This is probably the most exciting prospect for advertisers. TV and audio are still the easiest way to reach a mass audience and build a recognizable brand. Like direct deals with websites and publishers, the potential to forego the usual RFP and Sales process by introducing automation, coupled with the ability to layer audience data on top of these broad audiences, is causing disruption in the industry and is showing no signs of stopping.




AdWords will always be king when it comes to search, there is no question about that. However, the competitive landscape and demands of both customers has forced advertisers to move beyond AdWords. Better targeting offers the opportunity for a better customer experience, which in turn drives revenue and ultimately brand loyalty. Programmatic is redefining the industry as we know it, and advertisers need to adapt.