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There are a few options for buying programmatic advertising. Brands can work directly on purchasing platforms, pay the platform to create and manage campaigns, or work with a digital agency. Selecting which option is best for you will depend on a variety of factors including budget and bandwidth, but partnering with an agency is the most cost-effective approach.

First, let’s start with an overview of programmatic advertising and how it works.

What is programmatic advertising?

Programmatic advertising is the process of automated bidding and buying the available advertising inventory based on targeting settings on a shopping platform. Programmatic ads include display, native, video, out of home (OOH) and OTT / Smart TV ads.

  • Pin up: different sized banners, videos or text ads displayed on millions of different websites.
  • Native: Text and image ads that match the environment in which they are displayed and are « native » to the website format.
  • Video: ads that appear before, during and after video content on the web. Also known as pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll.
  • OOH: outdoor advertising such as billboards, posters and public transportation. Advertisers can purchase digital OOH placements through programmatic platforms.
  • OTT / connected TV: Video ads that appear on smart TVs as part of streaming through an Internet connection rather than streaming TV.

How does programmatic advertising work?

Using software found in shopping platforms, you can configure targeting settings and bid on inventory in real time. These platforms use software with built-in algorithms to match advertisers to users who match their targeting criteria.

Platform types

There are two main types of platforms used in the programmatic landscape. The first is on the buy side and is called a demand side platform (DSP). These platforms are made up of multiple ad exchanges and work with advertisers to deliver relevant ads to their target audience. The second platform is on the sell side and is called the supply side platform (SSP). Like a DSP, these platforms use ad exchanges to work directly with publishers to manage their ad inventory. The two platforms work together to show that available inventory advertisers are bidding in seconds.


Using a DSP allows you to bid on inventory in real time. This type of bidding strategy is called real-time bidding (RTB). RTB enables advertisers to reach their target audience at the right time. When a user who meets the targeting criteria accesses a website, the SSP communicates with the DSP and sends it to the auction. The advertiser with the winning bid has their ad served to the user. This whole process takes place in real time as the website loads in seconds.


Another key aspect of using a DSP is the variety of targeting options available to users at different stages of the marketing funnel. Here is an extensive list of features:

  • Prospecting: a top-of-the-funnel tactic used to find high-performing inventory and grow remarketing lists.
  • Contextual: an outreach and outreach tactic used to share advertisements to users about contextually relevant content they are viewing.
  • List of custom sites / applications: a top-of-the-funnel tactic used to display ads to users on a pre-approved list of sites and apps.
  • Private markets (PMP): a mid-funnel tactic that gives advertisers access to purchase premium inventory.
  • Behavioral: a mid-funnel tactic used to target different audiences based on various user behaviors such as intent or interest.
  • Remarketing: a low-funnel tactic used to retarget users who have already visited your website.
  • Demographic: target different audiences based on various demographic factors, including age, gender and household income.
  • Lookalike / Similar: Target lookalike audiences based on current customers or recent conversions.
  • Hyperlocal: target users based on their real-time location.

How to start using programmatic advertising

Once you understand programmatic advertising, the next steps are to choose the right DSP to work with and assign a strategist to manage the campaigns.

Evaluation of a DSP

Several factors are involved in choosing which DSP to use. Finding a DSP that has a large number of inventory and targeting options is essential. The DSP must innovate its technology to stay ahead of digital trends. It is essential that the platform has branding functionality to prevent ads from showing alongside questionable content. Reports should be benchmarked against your business goals and have the ability to connect to your API to improve your campaign performance. As with any service you partner with, you will need to assess the costs and fees associated with technology, targeting, and platform management.

Finally, an undervalued factor when choosing a DSP is the partnership with someone you trust. Look for account representatives who understand your business goals and are transparent in their communication and deliverables.

Dedicate a strategist

Managing campaigns within a DSP is a full-time job. This requires observation, communication and daily optimizations within the platforms. Hiring a dedicated strategist with experience in programmatic platforms will take the stress out of marketers and allow you to spend time in other areas of your business. However, you may not have the means to hire a dedicated strategist to manage your programmatic campaigns, which is why you can benefit from partnering with an agency to create and run your campaigns for you.

The benefits of partnering with a programmatic advertising agency

Partnering with a digital agency to manage and run programmatic campaigns is an effective way to save time and money for your business. Here are some of the benefits of hiring an agency for your programmatic efforts.

Partnerships established with DSPs

When you work with a digital agency for your programmatic campaigns, they perform the DSP reviews for you. In many cases, digital agencies have checked and partnered with several DSPs over the past few years to determine what is working well for their clients. They have worked hard up front to create efficiencies in their campaigns.

Lower costs while maintaining the same value

Since the agency has the partnership with the DSP, the cost to you, the client, goes down. Since an agency works with multiple clients within a DSP, the technology and management costs are split among those who use the platform. These fees are conveniently built into media expenses, so you won’t be surprised at the additional expenses of the platform. In short, you pay a much lower cost while still maintaining the same value as the DSP.

Leverage the expertise of a digital agency

Working with an agency allows you to avoid hiring a dedicated in-house strategist. The agency will save your business expenses associated with being an in-house team member and you will have access to dedicated agency strategists with years of experience in purchasing programmatic poster media.

Create efficiency gains through collaboration with research and social efforts

If you already partner with an agency for all of your social media search and advertising efforts, having them manage your programmatic strategy allows them to collaborate and perform better in all of your digital campaigns. The team can create efficiencies through audience building and sharing, creative insights, and campaign optimizations. These efficiencies also give the agency the ability to develop detailed reports on all of your digital advertising campaigns, so that you have a clear understanding of the health and performance of your advertising strategy as a whole.

In short

Programmatic advertising gives businesses the ability to buy inventory from websites in real time, using a variety of tactics to reach their target audience. However, buying on a programmatic platform is a time-consuming process that typically requires a dedicated strategist to manage campaigns. Partnering with a digital agency to manage your programmatic advertising efforts will save you time and money while creating efficiencies across your digital marketing campaigns.


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