Programmatic Media Buying 101: Programmatic Creative is the Future for Display Advertising

Digital advertising that includes both high quality creative and relevant messaging is increasingly a high priority for media buyers and marketers.  Advertisers see no reason why creative, rich media, and programmatic should be mutually exclusive –­ it’s the combination that achieves engagement and results with consumers. The combination of programmatic and engaging creative offers a wide range of new opportunities – using data to precisely tailor messages.

Marketing teams are moving away from click-centric strategies as the only way to measure engagement. With all the new high-touch, high-impact ad formats and the growing popularity of native ad placements, there is a whole new world opening up to advertisers in display ads, to provide a more robust user experience while still reaping the benefits of programmatic buying.

Creative has never been more crucial to display ads as it is today and agencies and marketing teams are paying attention because they realize that a display ad’s message or creative is just as important as the channel or medium through which it’s served.

What is Programmatic Creative?

Programmatic creative has the ability to use the data collected from a programmatic display campaign to create a more personalized experiences for consumers. Rather than displaying one generic creative, new technologies, like Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO), mean that the ad creative can be tailored to the viewer in real-time, across multiple devices, according to their location, what they are doing, and the time of day – improving the overall user experience.
Where programmatic advertising matches users to ads on a one-to-one basis in real-time, DCO supports the matching of the best creative for that user during the programmatic advertising process.

Instead of marketers and advertisers having to figure out a one-size-fits-all, mass-market approach to their creative for a campaign, now they can create hyper-relevant ads that are relevant to individual users, while reaching a larger audience.  Using the sizable amount of data that is collected from each campaign, programmatic creative can enable automatically generated ads relevant to products or services that customers are viewing, helping to move customers towards the conversion path, and returning customers into repeat purchasers – building long-term loyalty and increasing returns for those campaigns.

Programmatic Advertising has Changed the Role of Display Ads


With programmatic taking the largest share of digital marketing budgets, the role of display advertising has been reborn and redefined.  More than four in five US digital display ad dollars, or $45.72 billion, will flow via programmatic means by 2019.
It’s no secret that different formats accomplish vastly different goals for marketers and media buyers. As the role of display advertising is redefined, and programmatic has dramatically changed the landscape, marketers need their display options to emphasize relevance for each consumer and define their experience as unique rather than obtrusive.
If campaigns are to remain relevant, marketers should be considering themselves not solely as advertisers, but as storytellers.  Marketers and publishers alike are turning to programmatic creative to enhance user experience and keep the customer at the center.

7 Things Brands Need to Know Before In-Housing Programmatic Media Buying

In 2018, brands and marketers have made it clear that they  want increased control of their programmatic advertising efforts. Digital advertising spend is estimated to overtake offline spend, with programmatic already surpassing direct digital buying. In more advanced markets, the media buying industry is aimed at a programmatic future.

Marketers have grown frustrated with the current business model; they want better control of their data and more financial transparency. A report by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) report finds that 90% of advertisers are reviewing and resetting both business models and contracts to achieve those goals. A survey conducted by Infectious Media found that over 70% of marketers think agencies have struggled to adjust to programmatic and they do not think the agencies accurately measure their programmatic media buys.

7 Things to Consider Before In-housing Your Programmatic Media Buys

With this loss of trust, it’s no wonder why brands are taking steps to bring their programmatic campaigns in-house. However, in order for them to be successful,  there are some steps they need to take. We’ve put together a check-list of what we think brand marketers need to know. Here are 7 things you need to consider if you want to bring your programmatic in-house.

1. Budgeting, resources, and hands on keyboard

The first thing to consider is evaluating your brand’s capabilities. Is the budget large enough? How many people will be on the programmatic team? Will they be able to stay up-to-date with the latest technology?

Brands must be spending at least $20 million programmatically before they even consider taking programmatic in-house, in order to generate a high enough level of savings to make the transition worthwhile.
Wayne Blodwell, CEO of The Programmatic Advisory

On top of a high cost, programmatic technology is complex; it requires a unique skill-set and it is hard to master. The technology requires an expert or multiple specialists at the helm. Hiring and training new recruits is not a simple process, especially if your office happens to be outside of New York, San Francisco or Boston.
After deciding which kind of technology stack is best for your brand (DSP, DMP, ad server, viewability tracking, dashboard, fraud protection) there are also other aspects to consider like licensing. This includes legal documentation, adherence to privacy regulations, etc.

Other forms of digital advertising, namely search, is dominated by a single player. Programmatic, on the other hand, lives in a complex environment that has many options of inventory to choose from. Several demand-side partners that can be used to access them and also several programmatic models to navigate through, like open exchanges to private marketplaces.

This goes back to having the right personnel for the job. New roles in the organization will open because of in-housing and it is up to you to have the right training methods for current employees. As mentioned before, programmatic technology is complicated and the right people must be on the job.

2. Objectives

After a programmatic team has been established it is time to understand the short and long-term goals of the business. Key considerations and questions at this point would include: Debating whether display, native and reach based advertising would help reach the long-term business goals, or whether inbound is a better fit, is an in-house team going to be more effective because of the increased frequency of campaigns?

3. In-housing goals

Besides long-term business objectives, identifying the end-goal of an in-house programmatic process is critical too.

  •       Do you simply want to purchase media in a more effective way?
  •       Do you want to maximize reach?
  •       Do you need better targeting and segmenting or are you looking to go wide?
  •       Do you want a broad mix of outbound- from display to native to video and mobile or are you limited to one or two formats?
  •       Or perhaps you also want to incorporate offline data to effectively take prospects along the typical buyer’s journey?

4. Big Data

One of the biggest and challenging tasks is being responsible for your own data. Collecting, managing, and then interpreting it for valuable insights can become rather tedious. If big data is too much to handle, hiring a separate data team can also be an option. Data-backed programmatic is extremely desirable today but it needs to be managed by disciplined professionals managing first and third party data

5. Cross-departmental Collaboration

It is important to make sure all departments are aware of the organization’s new programmatic team. Illustrate how an in-house programmatic process will benefit the whole business through increased sales, ROI, and customer satisfaction, not just the marketing department. Alignment with sales is also crucial in terms of making the most of leads generated via programmatic.

6. Implementation, testing, and execution

Different brands benefit from different programmatic models, determining which ones work best for you require testing.  Testing new tactics and programmatic strategies in-house for a short period of time may help your company adapt to the overall programmatic process before identifying a model that works best.

7. Consider a hybrid in-housing model


It may also be wise to consider using a hybrid approach. You may have a strong analytical data team, with data management experience, but not the talent or knowledge for programmatic execution. Or you might have built a strong digital marketing team, but they don’t have the skill or knowledge specifically in programmatic media buying. These are key skills that are worth outsourcing to a trusted agency of record while keeping strategy and data in house.

As much as having more control and transparency over programmatic media buying makes sense, the required investment in talent, expertise to navigate the ecosystem and budget size should not be overlooked. For now, if you are a brand considering starting the in sourcing process then you should consider a hybrid model where you own the contracts and data and your trusted partner, like Digilant, owns the rest.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: The Difference Between First and Second Price Auctions in RTB

If you are buying advertising programmatically then you are most likely using either a first or second price auction bidding process.  Most recently there has been more talk of moving towards first price auctions because of the popularity of header bidding.  DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) have traditionally been set up to use second-price auctions and for most DSPs adapting and changing strategies to first price auctions is expensive because they have to invest in technology that will specifically adapt to the rules of every auction and allow them to bid effectively.

So what are the differences between the two types of auctions?  And why should media buyers care which one gets used?

First Price Auctions

The programmatic buying model where if your bid wins, you pay exactly what you bid. This type of auction maximizes revenue potential for the seller.

In the first price auction model the bidders pay exactly what they bid. This type of auction can lead to unnaturally high prices because buyers are forced to guess how much their competition will bid.  This auction mechanism gives publishers the highest eCPMs for their inventory but can lead to the advertisers overpaying which can then lead to a lower demand for that publisher’s inventory.

The first-price auction allows both buyers and sellers to see the actual cost of the impression and the fees taken by the SSP/ad exchange will at least be known. The winning price is exactly what the advertiser agreed on, but there is a risk of overpaying for impressions.

The workings of the first-price auctions make sense economically only when the buyer knows the fair market value of the impressions they are bidding on, and understands the mechanics of hard- and soft- price floor mechanisms. The Price Floor, is the minimum price a publisher will accept for its inventory, which technically means they will ignore all bids below that price. This can turn a second-price auction into a type of first-price auction.

Second Price Auctions

The programmatic buying model where if your bid wins, you pay $0.01 above the second highest bid in the auction. In this type of auction, it is in your best interest to bid the highest amount you are willing to pay to win that impression, knowing that you will most likely end up paying less than that amount.
The second price auction is preferable to first price auctions for advertisers because it gives the winner a chance to pay a little less for the ad impression than their original submitted offer — instead of paying the full price, the winning bidder pays the price offered by the second-highest bidder, plus a bit more, usually $0.01. The final and winning price of the impression is known as the clearing price.

So What About Header Bidding?

Header bidding has become a popular type of first price auction where publishers place a piece of code on their webpage headers that allows a limited number of advertisers to bid on inventory outside of their primary ad server. This lets advertisers compete for premium or reserved inventory before or instead of the second-price auction.

Header bidding creates an auction prior to the final auction in a publisher’s ad server. Because of that inefficiency, SSPs (Supply Side Platforms) who run a fair second-price auction in the header, will have less competitive bids for that final auction, and find themselves with low win rates.  Being less competitive in the auction has terrible implications for SSPs as more competitive bids from header bidding can steal their market share.

Media Buyers Are Asking for Transparency in the Bidding Process

Programmatic ad buying exchanges have a mostly obscure bidding process, making it unclear for the buyers whether they are dealing with first or second price auction. If you want complete transparency, then first-price auction seems to be the better option (there are no floor mechanisms or hidden fees), but it offers few real benefits for the advertiser. Truthful bidding in this model (i.e. bidding the real value of the impression, which means if an impression has a value for you of $1.00, you should also bid $1.00) is not only more challenging but it’s also more expensive. A transparent first-price auction will squeeze the margins of the many ad tech players in the middle, and deliver more actual working media to the publisher. But if programmatic media buyers think they are still playing according to second-price auction rules, they will end up overpaying for inventory. Advertisers don’t like the feeling that they are being manipulated into bidding higher than they need to, which is exactly why DSPs use algorithms to predict the price floors and bid accordingly.

Many programmatic traders are left in the dark when it comes to the setup of the auctions they are bidding in. Since media buyers can only audit the vendors they are working with directly on the demand side, they have no way to verify if other programmatic platforms in the ad supply chain are altering their auction structures to make more margin. Which means a buyer might think they are buying based on second price auction but really be in a first price auction. That can get expensive, since the bid strategies are drastically different.

The industry will likely be in a transition period for much of 2018 as DSPs adjust their algorithms to allow for some Bid Shading to minimize the chance of overpaying.  It’s important for media buyers to clarify the auction type (first or second) whenever negotiating a deal and floor price with a publisher. To combat price increases, some buyers have already started Bid Shading, or reducing bid prices. But that strategy comes with risks because buyers can lose out on inventory they want if they submit too low a bid.  So until trust or transparency in auction type and fee structure is available in the open exchange, some media buyers will either try to work with adjusted algorithms or push towards more private exchange tactics so that they can trust the contracts and pricing models.

Boosting Civic Engagement through Pro Bono Programmatic


Since its first pilot program organizing an electoral engagement project across four Chicago public schools, former U.S. congressman and education activist, Abner and Zoe Mikva, have been inspiring underprivileged youth to take action and get involved in the causes that matter to them through the Mikva Challenge. Now, after over twenty years of empowering students to speak out on the issues that affect them and their communities, the Mikva Challenge delivers real-life democracy education across five “Action Civics” programs in its hometown of Chicago, as well as Southern California and Washington D.C.

In Washington D.C., the organization’s Issues to Action program has been steadily growing one of its newest initiatives to foster civic engagement, Project Soapbox. Partnering with local educators from 25 DC schools, Project Sopabox helps over 2,000 students voice their opinions through citywide public speaking tournaments. As the latest city to join the challenge, these young activists are trying to grow the program and give more students the opportunity to receive training to think critically, research, prepare and present speeches around issues they and their adult allies face across political, civic, and business communities.

Here at Digilant Cares, we too encourage the Digilant and greater ispDigital family to speak up and bring forth projects that aid the causes they and their communities believe in, which is why we’re very proud to help elevate the voices of Mikva Challenge participants through pro bono programmatic.

Over a six week direct response campaign across Washington D.C. and surrounding areas of bordering Maryland and Northern Virginia, Mikva Challenge aims to increase fundraising for its Issues to Action program. Leveraging both video and display ads across desktop and mobile, Digilant will tactfully spread Mikva’s message at the right time, place, and with the right relevancy. Reaching out to young professionals that are passionate about the causes that program participants research and speak on, Mikva Challenge hopes to create more engaged citizens.

“Because I learned about civic engagement during high school, I know how to go about dismantling processes that are inconsistent with my beliefs on justice. I can have a civil conversation with someone who has a completely different perspective and rally on the one area in which we share common ground.”
– Mikva DC alumnus, Maya Branch

In an age of misinformation and a highly polarized political climate where civil discourse isn’t always so civil, and solutions to many of the world’s problems can seem far out of reach, it’s extremely important to educate the next generation on how to effectively communicate their beliefs and take productive steps towards achieving them.

This is exactly what Mikva Challenge D.C. is striving towards and as programmatic marketers we love to dive into the data and see that they have actionable metrics from last year’s program that prove it:

  • 87% of students believe they can make an impact in solving community problems (vs. 48% of students at start of year).
  • 85% of students believe they can express their viewpoints in front of a group (vs. 50% of students at start of year).
  • 91% of students know how to collaborate with an adult decision-maker to address their issue (vs. 56% of students at start of year).
  • Learn more about the measurable change and incredible lift on civic engagement Mikva Challenge has made across the country here

To donate, or to learn about other initiatives lead by the Mikva Challenge students, visit their site here.

Live in the Chicagoland, D.C., or Los Angeles Area and want to donate some time to help develop your city’s next generation of community activists? From volunteering, becoming a Mikva Teacher or a youth leader, or just spreading the word, you’re just a click away from taking action!

Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP) Uses Attribution to Win Over Programmatic Media Buyers

Amazon’s theme of go big or go home remains consistent when it comes to it’s most recent moves in the programmatic advertising space.  Their DSP is already the 3rd most popular for media buyers and is seeing a 50% growth in adoption.  The popularity of Amazon’s DSP isn’t because of the platform itself and they are certainly not winning any awards for service, according to media buyers, but it’s because of the data that lives inside the platform.  According to Digiday, Amazon is running a series of attribution tests with at least two agencies, with the goal to prove its long-running pitch to marketers that Amazon offers, unlike Facebook and Google, what it calls a “total wallet perspective.”

Amazon DSP

Amazon is promising its programmatic ad buyers that if you buy ads on their DSP platform, you’ll know that they work and they will show you data to prove it. Because marketers not only want to be able to place ads in the right place and at the right time, but they also want the right relevance.  Amazon has a gigantic pool of real-time data, not just likes and habits, but actual purchases – what people are buying and how they are doing it -, you will know what ads work in actually driving people to make purchases — and then be best positioned to target those ads.

What programmatic buyers really want from Amazon and other DSPs is data they can’t get anywhere else.  This need has caused a shift in media buyer’s attention from a one DSP relationship strategy to having multiple contracts to satisfy their inventory and data challenges. So while buying remains fragmented, according to Forrester’s report titled “Marketers Must Demand More from Their Ad-tech”, marketers are searching for their single source of truth.
The word on the street is that Amazon is launching a new attribution tool designed to demonstrate the value in its’ advertising platform to skeptical media buyers and show how their advertising stacks up against other advertising platforms like Facebook and Google.

Why is Attribution Important for Amazon?

Media buyers use attribution models to track the behavior of users across platforms and devices. Individual purchase paths across the customer journey can be observed and used to continuously improve the programmatic media buying algorithm. Using an attribution model marketers can collect more customer data and then they can show relevant ads in ever better places at ever better times. When attribution models are used to inform programmatic algorithms, marketers gain a more realistic view of ad effectiveness.  If you’re not measuring the impact of your marketing efforts—especially in today’s world of fragmented devices and touch points—you are likely missing out on ROI opportunities and wasting spend on channels, strategies and audiences that aren’t performing well. Plus, getting attribution right helps you maximize your learnings to make better business decisions over time.

Amazon Attracts Media Buyers With Their Unique Data

Showing insights into where leads are coming from and which ad campaigns are resonating with advertisers is half the battle, but Amazon also has to find a way to relay that information in a clear, actionable way, or media buyers won’t know how to make use of the raw data. Brands now, more than ever before, want to be able to understand which advertising methods and platforms are gaining results, and also how to use that attribution to shift and improve their strategies moving forward.  As budgets get tighter and more marketers become sophisticated with programmatic buying platforms, the need to understand what ads and buying methods are performing is increasing – and it has to be scientific.  CMOs want to know how many people clicked on ads, where the ad was placed and if it lead to a purchase. The one thing marketers hate is spending media budget to buy ads and then having to prove that they are really converting.

All this is meant to upset the Facebook-Google Duopoly.  Amazon is not only increasing their brand recognition with media buyers with tools that they need to make their jobs easier, but they are also heavily investing in programmatic talent, as one of their biggest complaints from marketers has been lack of support.  The media buying business is still heavily centered around people, and managed service isn’t going away anytime soon according to Joanna O’Connell in her recent Forrester’s report on omnichannel marketing.

Digilant is partnered with Amazon’s Advertising Platform (AAP).  If you want to learn more about Amazon as a DSP and how you can get started go here.  Otherwise you can contact us now to get started: info@digilant.com.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: Why Are Marketers Talking About Blockchain Technology?

Will Blockchain be the technology that solves the programmatic industry woes, or is it just another buzzword that we need to add to our vernacular in case someone brings it up in a conversation?
Either way it helps to know why people are talking about blockchain technology and how it will help or change the programmatic buying industry.  The problem that most people are hoping that blockchain has the potential to solve is transparency throughout the advertising supply chain – which means advertisers having a better understanding of cost and the visibility of their ads.

What is Blockchain Technology?

First of all Blockchain isn’t a new technology, and it wasn’t developed specifically for the advertising industry.   It was originally created for managing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.  Blockchain is a continuous series of records – blocks – linked by encryption, that sit across a distributed database and are stored on computers all around the world. Each time a transaction is made, a message is sent to the network to agree (or disagree) that the transaction is legitimate before giving the approval.

Why Are Marketers Interested in Blockchain for Programmatic Buying?

Blockchain has the ability to create a highly secure trading network for advertisers, by publicly storing data to create a permanent audit trail with an unchangeable record of all transactions that occur within the programmatic buying marketplace. This provides marketers with full visibility into their ad buy, to better track all transactions that are taking place automatically and ensure their budget is actually being used effectively. Using blockchain technology, a record of all transactions taking place throughout the ad-buying and selling process is made and in the future marketers can use this knowledge to reduce, or even eradicate, hidden costs or fees from multiple intermediaries within the ad-buying supply chain.

The main benefits of blockchain for advertisers include:

  • Keeping track of each point where that ad shows up effectively, so that the advertiser can control the process and get more working dollars in front of users/ clients
  • It can provide more transparency with relation to ad fraud and brand safety by allowing advertisers to record exactly where their ad campaign is being delivered and whom it is reaching

For those companies who are thinking of bringing their programmatic in-house there will be some benefits from the direct line of communication that blockchain offers with data providers and other vendors.  This means more transparency on how data is collected and sourced.  So if the advertiser doesn’t have to worry about security or fraud and is able to leverage transparency they can focus on improving their targeting strategies and invest in creative and an overall better experience for their audience.

So When Should We Expect Blockchain to go Mainstream?

If blockchain is so powerful, why has it not being used more widely?  After all, it’s not a new technology, what’s holding the ad-tech business back from implementing it?
First of all, it’s really bad for the environment!  Blockchain inherently uses an immense amount of energy.  It’s by nature a space-hungry technology because the series of blocks become very large very quickly and become hundreds of gigabytes in size.  And as the chains get bigger you need more storage and capacity is limited.  Then that data needs to load every time you make a transaction, which is not practical for any type of programmatic buying, which involves millions of transaction per second.  That’s a lot of blocks.
So this probably not going to be the year of blockchain for Real-Time Bidding (RTB) but it doesn’t mean it can’t be implemented in other parts of the ecosystem.  For instance, it can be used to authenticate the publishers advertisers are working with when they set up private marketplace deals.  Even though PMPs are meant to be safer or fraud free they are still subject to domain spoofing. Using blockchain to set these deals up could give advertisers another layer of verification.  So blockchain still has some possibilities.  We are keeping an eye on it but haven’t seen it move the needle in any direction as of yet.

Like what you see? Join the 500+ clients that have partnered with Digilant.