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What is programmatic advertising and how can it help your business?

Growth of Business Concept

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about programmatic ads of late. They’re certainly growing in popularity, with more and more businesses trying them every day. 

Before you dive into these, though, it would be wise to understand what programmatic ads are, how they work, and how they can help your business. Luckily for you, that’s exactly what we’re here to show today.

What is programmatic advertising?

Programmatic advertising is a type of digital marketing distinguished from PPC (pay-per-click) advertising in several ways. These include real-time bidding facilitated by automated systems on an ad exchange and relative freedom from keyword-search dependence. 

Confusing? It gets less so when you break down the comparison:



Purchase and sale

Ads here are purchased and sold manually, with the focus being on targeting keywords that specific audiences are searching for.

Ads here are purchased and sold automatically, with the focus being on targeting audiences themselves instead of keyword searches.

Requirement for discovery

Ads require the consumer to actually search for the keyword, product, or service to be served to them.

Ads aren’t at the mercy of direct search, as they’re served to consumers based on what the latter have been interested in before.

Ideal advertiser

These are generally better for advertisers with smaller budgets and more restricted locations.

Traditionally better for advertisers with bigger budgets.


The hilarious Snickers PPC campaign targeting 25,381 common misspellings that would lead to Google displaying a PPC ad showing a “Snickens” ad with the text “Oh deer its hard to spel when your hungry” followed by “If you keep making typing mistakes grab yourself a Snickers fast”.

The Economist’s programmatic ad campaign, which suggested topic-matched articles on pages being viewed by consumers falling into audience segments defined by the publication’s existing readers and subscribers. Massively successful, it led to 9,500 new subscribers.

What are DSP and SSP in programmatic advertising?

These are acronyms you’ll run into often when you start looking into programmatic advertising. To be precise: 

  • DSP refers to a demand-side platform

  • SSP refers to a supply-side platform

dsp and ssp advertising

In brief, a DSP is mainly used by the advertisers – the business owners or marketers looking for “ad inventory” or ad space where they can show their advertisements. 

Hence, DSPs are designed to help advertisers like businesses or marketers reach and pay publishers who may be able to show the advertisers’ content to their target audiences. Examples of DSPs are Google and Meta. 

But what about SSPs? They’re the other side of the coin: SSPs help publishers sell ad inventory to advertisers so that the latter can put ads on the publishers’ websites. 

In other words, SSPs are meant for those who want to sell ad space (or better yet, ad impressions) on an ad exchange to advertisers. 

It’s probably worth noting now that most SSP providers are also DSP providers. Quantcast, Trade Desk, and Stackadapt are good examples!

What are the benefits of programmatic ads?

You can probably already see several reasons to use programmatic ads from what we’ve discussed. To be exact, here are some of the benefits of these ads:

  • High efficiency - The automated buying process saves advertisers a lot of time in purchasing ad inventory compared to manual bidding.

  • Freedom from search - Since programmatic ads are served based on audience segments defined by various signals, advertisers don’t need to rely on audiences searching for specific keywords for their ads to show up.

  • Real-time insights - Data is measured and even optimised real-time in programmatic advertising for even more efficiency and immediate knowledge.

Should you use programmatic ads?

The answer here obviously depends on your situation. Looking at the data above, do the benefits of programmatic ads suit your needs? Is your budget capable of meeting the often-slightly-higher cost of entry? Are you trying to run ads for a product that has very low search volume?

Among other things, we recommend considering programmatic ads if the following apply to you:

Clicks vs. Views: A note on programmatic ad attribution

Before we conclude our primer on programmatic advertising, we should talk about how programmatic ads are tracked or attributed. 

Basically, the question here is how to measure the efficacy of a programmatic ad in getting a viewer to take the advertiser’s desired action, whether that’s a product purchase or a sign-up. There are two main ways of doing it:

clicks vs. views

Which one should you use?

Generally, you may want to opt for click attribution if you want something simpler, with a focus on direct action in your metrics. That means advertisers running performance-based campaigns are likely to choose this attribution method, as well as those with short sales cycles.

However, view attribution may be better if you want a clearer understanding of how ad exposure affects your target audiences. It’s also better for those with more complex customer journeys and campaigns focused on top-of-funnel goals.

That being said, it’s actually possible to use both attribution models as well. This may help you acquire broader, more nuanced insight into your ads’ efficacy.

Let us help you get started on programmatic advertising now!

Ultimately, programmatic ads offer one more tool for your digital marketing kit if you want to boost your business or brand. They can be immensely helpful for a lot of businesses – the chief problem just seems to be that most businesses don’t know how to get started with them!

That’s where we come in. Whether you’re worried because you have a limited budget or just have zero programmatic ad experience, we can help you out. 

Contact us for a chat for your digital marketing needs so we can talk about what strategies may be ideal for your venture into this other type of digital advertising.

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Apr 11

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