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July 20th, 2021 8 minute read

How to get started and run programmatic ads

Programmatic advertising may be the most important thing to happen in digital advertising that you have never heard of. But whether you know about it or not, if you have gotten on the Internet in the last five years, you have probably experienced programmatic advertising without realizing it.

Programmatic advertising is basically the use of algorithms and AI to automate digital ad placements. It is actually a pretty incredible process. Let’s say you are looking for a great banana bread recipe and you land on a website that not only has the recipe you like but is also serving ads. If the website is serving programmatic ads, the ad space on the site is actually auctioned off to advertisers based on your personal data. The sophisticated programming behind these ads matches the ad space on the website to advertisers bidding to place ads. It not only considers the highest bid, but quality metrics and more to match the ad that is most likely to be clicked with the adspace and serves that ad on the page.

And it does all of this in the time between you clicking on a page and that page loading.

Programmatic advertising is pretty amazing and has many benefits including being more efficient in terms of both cost and targeting. Perhaps the best part is how simple it can make the advertising process for both buyers and sellers of ad space online and the advanced targeting capabilities these types of ads can use.

Of course, hearing about how great these types of ads are and actually using them are two different things. Just like any other digital channel, there is a learning curve, but getting started with programmatic advertising doesn’t have to be a complicated process if you follow some simple guidelines.

How to get started with programmatic advertising

When it comes to getting started with programmatic advertising the most important thing is to set yourself up for success from the beginning. To start your programmatic adventure off on the right foot, there are three questions that you need to answer:

  • Who is your target audience?
    The sophisticated targeting available to advertisers is one of the main features that set programmatic advertising apart from other digital channels. With this in mind, it is pretty easy to understand that without understanding who you are actually trying to target, you are missing out on a major part of the programmatic opportunity. If you don’t already have a clear idea of your customer persona and the segments of your audience that you are trying to reach with your ads, your number one priority should be defining your target audience. Some of the main identifiers you should have for your target audience include:

    • Gender
    • Age
    • Location
    • Language
    • Device

In addition, affinity categories can be some of the most useful targeting data you can use to add laser-like focus to your audiences. Taking this one step further into defining the IAB category of specific affinity categories of your target audience can improve ad targeting even further.

  • What is your campaign goal?
    At first glance, this one can sound like a no-brainer, but this question does deserve some special attention. Many advertisers make the mistake of just creating an ad for everyone, which is ultimately an ad for no one. Don’t be like those guys. Defining a clear goal for your ads based on your target audience will result in more effective ad creative as well as a better ROI. A few examples of campaign goals could be:

    • Increasing brand awareness and reaching new audiences
    • Targeting new audiences outside of your normal network
    • Retargeting customers with new ads for engagement
    • Serving relevant ads to specific audience segments
    • Building your list by offering a discount for opt-in
    • Cross-selling other products and services to customers
  • What platform will you use?
    One thing to keep in mind with programmatic advertising before you do anything is that the programmatic advertising process is pretty platform-centric. What this means is that, while you can get a good, high-level overview of what goes into running a strong programmatic ad campaign, actually running those ads will vary from platform to platform. A great place to start is by understanding what type of ads you will be running and looking for a demand-side platform (DSP) that will work well with that type of ad. Once you know what type of programmatic ad you will be running, you will want to find a good DSP to work with to set up and run your programmatic campaigns. A few things you should look for in a DSP include:

    • No platform fee. You should be able to sign up and begin running a campaign without having to pay for access.
    • Strong targeting capabilities. You should be able to set up campaigns that target audiences by operating system, browser, language, location, IAB category and more.
    • Partnerships with reputable seller-side platforms (SSP). These are the networks of sellers that have ad space available for advertisers. Be sure that the SSPs they work with will meet your advertising needs.
    • Ad format support. The DSP should support all major programmatic ad formats.
    • Performance monitoring. You should get great analytics and reporting on your ad performance.
    • Easy to use. Look for a user-friendly, easy-to-use interface.

Running programmatic ads

If you have put in the time to answer the three questions above, you should be in a great position to begin running programmatic ads. While the interface may vary between platforms, the process of actually creating and running a programmatic campaign generally follows the same steps:

  • Set your campaign budget and target CPM
    With most programmatic DSPs, you have the ability to set your daily budget as well as your maximum bid. Many platforms will give you an estimate of what the average bid is for similar ads which can help you determine where you want to set your budget. You can also generally choose the duration of a campaign, or just let it run indefinitely.
  • Set your campaign targeting
    Defining your targeting should be simple now that you have defined your target audience. Targeting options are generally simple to set on DSPs. Once you have run a few campaigns and feel comfortable with the platform, you can also test new audiences based on segmenting existing audiences and creating new audiences based on data.
  • Uploading ad creative
    Depending on your preferred ad format, this can mean a variety of things. Programmatic ads are a great way to test different ad formats across a variety of channels. We suggest choosing and sticking with one format at first and expanding out into others once you have created a successful campaign. Testing a bunch of different ads across different formats will make it very challenging to gauge ad success without spending quite a bit of money to test.


Ready, set, click

Congratulations! If you have made it this far, you have put together your first programmatic advertising campaign. Letting your campaign run is the easy part!

The real power of programmatic ads comes from the ability to test and optimize your campaigns over time. The data you collect from running your ads can be used to make changes to your targeting, goals, budget and creative for better results each time you run a new campaign.

Programmatic advertising doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does take a lot of work to do great. At Kinetic, we have been running programmatic ads for clients and seeing success with them for a long time and have put the time in to get the experience it takes to run a strong programmatic campaign that gets results. Call us today to find out more about how we can make your programmatic advertising get the results you want without the hours of work that goes into putting together a world-class campaign.