What is Programmatic?

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At AudienceStore, we often find there are three types of people when it comes to Programmatic advertising:

  1. Those that have no prior knowledge of what it is and would like to know how it could help their business.
  2. An agency or brand who may already have a programmatic function via a programmatic agency.
  3. Established brands and publishers with an in-house programmatic team that require help with implementation of activity.

Broadly speaking, programmatic is about automation of media buying, but this is a very simplistic definition and, when looking further, the sheer number of acronyms involved in the ad tech that surrounds the term makes it easy to see why some people get confused.

The following article is aimed at those that fall into the first category, to bust the myths and explain the function in layman’s terms.

So, what is the definition of programmatic advertising?

Programmatic advertising is defined by the Display Trading Council as “the use of automation in buying and selling of media, programmatic can apply to anything from display to digital out-of-home and television.”

Broadly, there are two main parties involved, the publisher, who owns the audience data and inventory and the advertiser, who wants to showcase its products and services to a selection of those audiences that they feel are most relevant and motivated to make a purchase.

According to analysis from Statista.com, the global programmatic advertising spend in 2019 is projected to be worth up to $84.09 billion, up from $57.5 billion in 2017.

This automation is specifically related to the buying of advertising inventory and/or data and there are two ways to achieve this, programmatic direct and programmatic real time.

Programmatic Direct

Programmatic direct as an umbrella term consists of three core components; private auctions (a private marketplace), preferred deals and guaranteed deals.

Programmatic Direct Deal TypeDescription
Private Auction (PMP)There is an agreed floor price (minimum bid) within an invitation only auction-based environment with no guarantee on volumes
Preferred DealA fixed priced model (agreed between buyer and seller) with no guarantee of impression volumes
Guaranteed DealA fixed priced model where volumes are reserved and guaranteed

The Buyers Guide to Programmatic Direct from Doubleclick by Google, states that efficiency, precision, quality and control are some of the advantages of programmatic direct over an open audition.

Stating, “Unlike traditional programmatic advertising, where a marketer’s ads can appear across a vast network of publisher inventory, Programmatic Direct allows buyers to choose where their media will run during the campaign planning process”

Real-time Bidding

Real-time bidding (open auction) is a way of buying and selling online ad impressions through auctions that occur in the time the webpage takes to load.

This function is facilitated in the ad exchange or supply-side platform:

Stage 1 – A user lands on a webpage, there are advertising placements on the page which will be filled to drive revenue for the publisher.

Stage 2– Advertising technology on the publisher’s site (either a supply side platform or AdExchange) announces there is a placement available to be bid on, along with any details pulled from the user’s cookie, the creative size, location, page copy and webpage URL.

Stage 3 – The demand partners are notified of this via the suppler side technology. If the data passed back matches their targeting preferences, a bid is placed to win that impression.

Stage 4 – In the final stage of this process, the highest bid wins the auction; a fee is paid to the publisher, and the advertiser’s ad is shown on site.



How does programmatic work?

To fully understand the world of programmatic, you will need to have a working knowledge of the ad tech sector and the many technology businesses that have a role to play in this medium.

The IAB have an excellent ‘explainer’ video which provides an overview of the medium:


All of these pieces in the puzzle add up to provide advertisers with a means to reach the most relevant audiences, at the right time, at the most efficient price.

What benefits could I get from utilising programmatic advertising?

Broadly, there are three main audiences that can make use of programmatic advertising; advertisers who want to find an audience, publishers who want to provide their audience to an advertiser and an agency, who wants to help their client (either a publisher or advertiser) achieve the same thing.

With programmatic, you can utilise a range of services to find, prospect, retarget and convert your audiences into sales.

The way in which you purchase programmatic advertising is also different and more enhanced.

Rather than pre-negotiating a price for a specific space, you are able to have much more control over who sees your ads, ensuring they are relevant to you, which in turn minimises wastage as you’re able to be much more strategic and targeted in your approach.

For instance, it is possible to target customers at the lower end of the acquisition funnel, and ensure you are doing so at the right time, at the right cost, with the right creative and messaging.

More targeted, more cost efficient and done so with added transparency.

In addition to this, activation partners for programmatic such as AudienceStore are able to provide traceability for your campaigns and analyse these in real-time to see what is and isn’t working.

So, if you aren’t seeing the expected results from a specific segment of advertising, you can simply lessen spend in that area and upweight in the area that is bringing in the results.

It is possible to view the performance of these campaigns with platforms such as Arithmus so you have complete visibility of your advertising performance and these learnings can be taken and applied to other areas of your digital advertising to increase performance further.

Measured campaigns

Arithmus has the capability to integrate with your programmatic campaigns, as well as social platforms and various other APIs (GA and Bing ads).

Known as a proprietary platform, it can collate this into a single interface.

Thus, making your reporting and decisions making more transparent and informed so you have the ability to maximise efficiencies and make changes to your campaign in real-time, when required.



AudienceStore’s Programmatic Advertising Ethos

Whilst this all sounds great. Where many agencies have fallen down in the past is in their creative use of this advertising space or being held to utilising a single data source to target audiences.

And that’s where AudienceStore comes in. As an agnostic programmatic agency which focuses on providing a data-led, creative infused approach.

Our advantage here comes from having no affiliation with specific data providers so we can bring together the best tech in the market and provide you with a team of exports to implement your campaigns and find your audiences.

So, where does the creative fit in?

Finding your audiences is one thing, but if they’re not motivated to click on your advert, the effort is wasted.

Whether you have a talented creative team or need to request this as part of your programmatic journey, a number of ad formats are available to you to entice your audience, whether that is through rich media banners or interactive videos.

These techniques have been tried and tested in numerous industries from education to retail and manufacturing.


For example, AudienceStore was approached by one of the top universities in the UK, with the objective to reach prospective students across several global markets, to raise awareness for the university’s international scholarship programmes.

A single campaign was able to attract over 26,000 scholarship applications and secured 260 placements using a three-tier strategy.

  1. Thorough planning – building website whitelists of region-specific and education-related content. Creating partnerships with these publishers to ensure the client’s advertising appeared on this highly relevant, premium content.
  2. Creating advanced retargeting plans – to classify the client’s site visitors into several stages of intent based on their activity on the site. We then upweighted real-time bidding strategies towards visitors who were classified as ‘ready to apply’.
  3. Using regional insights to optimise the campaign – using learnings insights during these campaigns, AudienceStore was able to make bespoke optimisations by country to drive traffic and conversions. For example, engagement was strongest in China prior to midday and therefore acitvity was up-weighted at these times.

What does this look like as a campaign overview?


For more information on programmatic and for any further questions you may have, please give you team a call on 0203 167 3305 or contact us via marketing@audiencestore.co.uk

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