Programmatic Ad Buying: 6 Don’ts

Brittany Barillaro, Account Marketing Associate



What is programmatic ad buying?

Programmatic advertising is the automation of the media buying process across the internet.
Simply put, it’s a new way to buy media, adding a new layer to your digital strategy. Display, mobile/tablet, video, native, or social? It does it all.

What’s the hype all about?

This year, more than two-thirds of all digital display advertising will be purchased programmatically.
The programmatic space opens up a lot of inventory and data, making it possible for:

• Increased efficiencies

• Reduced overall advertising costs

• Ability to optimize and target the right audience in real time

• Higher ROI

• Leveraging unique data sets, both first- and third-party

• Building effective cross-device campaigns

• Collecting greater data insights to understand customers

• Achieving scale

• Reducing  campaign launch time

While there’s so much right about programmatic advertising, it’s important to take a step back and understand what not to do. Here are six common mistakes we’ve seen from programmatic advertisers:


1. Not Defining a Clear Strategy

This first step is often a forgotten one. Just because programmatic media is the hot topic everyone’s talking about, doesn’t mean you need to dive into it head-first.  Start by clearly defining the purpose and objectives to your campaign. Next, understand how you want to accomplish these goals. What’s great about programmatic ad buying is that you have the ability to test different strategies to see what works best, collect learnings, and optimize towards the best performing campaign.


2. Focusing on Media, Forgetting Audience

The current state of digital advertising enables you to reach your precise audience through a myriad of advanced targeting capabilities. So, why not use it? It’s easy to assume you’ll reach your audience of men, ages 18-34 through But, that’s not efficient.


At the heart of today’s capabilities is programmatic media marketing. This allows you to reach users who are valuable to you and your brand, efficiently. Moreover, this tactic allows you to collect your own audience insights through data collection.


3. Not Measuring What Matters

First off, old KPIs need to be thrown out the window. Secondly, the “C-suite” of metrics has become buzzwords in the programmatic world (CPA, CPM, CPC, and so on). While these are important when calculating ROI, it is also important to consider metrics that will help determine where your prospects are in the path to purchase. Once you understand your customers’ journeys, you can optimize to deliver on exactly what they need, and when.


4. Putting all your eggs in one basket

It’s tempting to put all your programmatic dollars into one simple solution, but there’s much more to it. Programmatic ad buying covers a wide array of solutions and not all may be right for your brand or your campaign objectives. It’s important to find the solution(s) that best fit your distinctive goals before making any costly mistakes, so that you can get the full benefits of programmatic buying.


5. Being Monogamous to a Single Creative

The great thing about advertising online is that you don’t need to use only one creative. In fact, in most cases you shouldn’t be sticking to just one. The beauty of the system is that you’re able to test different creative at the same time to see which performs best. Therefore, you’re able to see how prospects are engaging with your ad and identify the elements that work best to perfect your creative.


6. Confusing Real-Time Bidding for Programmatic Buying

Real-time bidding is a capability within programmatic ad buying, but it isn’t the only one. RTB advertising refers to the purchase of ads through real-time auctions, sold on a per-impression basis via programmatic auctions. For example, one of many capabilities within the programmatic world is the ability to buy guaranteed ad impressions in advance from certain publisher sites, often referred to as “programmatic direct.”

Source: eMarketer, 2015-2016, Marketing Land, 2016.