How to Navigate Programmatic Buying

Have you ever tried to explain programmatic advertising to someone? The most basic definition of programmatic is the automated buying of ads based on set targeting criteria, but while the definition of programmatic seems simple enough, the heart of it is not so clear-cut. The programmatic landscape comes with many variables that make navigating supply, finding the right partners, and developing bid strategies a complicated matter. Whether you are just starting to dip your toes into programmatic buying or consider yourself a pro, here are a few guidelines to keep top of mind and to help demystify programmatic.

Start Small and Keep Focused

As you start out with buying programmatically, first focus on what your goals are. If you are working with a particular brand, they may have already laid out programmatic parameters for you. Start with small, measurable tests and grow your budget as you garner results. Programmatic can be overwhelming at times since there are many different levers you can pull, such as retargeting or specific data segments, but through focus and continuous testing, you will begin to see results.

Pick Partners Wisely

This is a big one. Once you have your goals in order and are ready to dive in, it’s time to evaluate both demand and supply platforms. When choosing which demand-side platform (DSP) to work with, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, to yield optimal results, you need to find high-performing ad units on quality publisher sites. Make sure to choose a DSP that certifies its traffic or leverages a third-party vendor to verify sites. You also want to make sure that your ads appear against quality content. But remember, there is a correlation between price and quality; generally, better quality means higher CTRs and CVRs, along with brand safety. If you see rates that look dramatically lower, be cautious and investigate the type of inventory that is available.

Finally, choose a supply platform that vets publishers on how they rate for viewability. With the recent Google report that 56.1 percent of all ad impressions served on Google display platforms are never seen, and the IAB’s latest findings stating that an ad cannot be 100 percent viewable, you may be asking yourself, why bother? But we know programmatic campaigns can be delivered at near 100 percent viewability. Don’t settle.

Set a Bid Plan

Once you decide which platforms you will spend on, you need to make sure you don’t spend frivolously. Remember going to an amusement park as a kid and only being able to purchase a certain amount of tickets? The first thing you did was poke around to see what rides you wanted to go on, which games you wanted to play, and would there be enough left over for some cotton candy. You needed to figure out the best way to make those tickets stretch! A similar strategy is needed when figuring out your bid strategy, since different options yield different results and pricing. Do you want to enter in at a market price or a fixed rate? Are you looking for priority or is the open auction OK? Will you be using segments or targeting the inventory contextually? These questions, among others, are important to consider based on your objectives and your budget.

Keep these tips in mind while you work through a new set of goals in 2015. By starting small, vetting your demand partners, and setting a bid plan you will be off to a great start with navigating programmatic buying.

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