Industry Insights Advertising Display

Five key factors for successful programmatic display advertising

By Isua Botman, Founder



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May 13, 2019 | 10 min read

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Because a (very) large part of the worlds’ population is surfing the web and visiting apps, the sheer reach/availability - the marketing-discipline; programmatic display advertising offers – is unmatched/unique.


Five key factors for successful programmatic display advertising

If somebody visits a website or opens/uses an app, in most cases an ad can be served. Why? Because about 80-85% (estimates vary) of websites and apps earn money because they allow ads. With that, essentially, the same model of revenue is active today - as has been around for ages. How did the first newspapers (1605) earn money? Exactly; by allowing ads/commercial messages. The programmatic display advertising ecosystem is based on this very simple model. There is a difference however. Instead of having to contact a website or app (publishers) manually to agree on the placement/cost of an ad; a Demand Side Platform can serve ads in thousands of different websites and apps – programmatically/automatically (in a matter of seconds). In this piece we describe this incredible marketing-discipline and offer the following 5 key factors for successful programmatic display advertising.

1. Reach out to a Demand Side Platform (DSP) and make sure this DSP offers the following main abilities:

a. The DSP has an internally build bidder. A bidder, which can be based on an algorithm - is a very important part of a Demand Side Platform. Essentially, a bidder is the gateway between bidding on adrequests and actually serving ads if this adrequest matches the available bidrequests. Find these links to learn about the difference between an adrequest and a bidrequest. Simply put: using a third-party (externally build) bidder can increase the (buying) cost of your campaign. An internally build bidder means no additional (pricing) layers between you – as the advertiser – and the market. Hence an internally build bidder is a must.

b. The DSP has a strong, capable GEO-fencing tool. Being that most (mobile) display advertising campaigns are configured to serve ads on multiple/specific locations (country, city or hyperlocal), a GEO-tool that offers options like; setting up very small geo-fences and serving on thousands of addresses/locations (case study), reporting per geo-fence/location or have the ability to bid as high as needed for every GEO-fence (case study) individually – are necessities for successful programmatic display advertising.

c. The DSP is connected to (or; integrated with) at least 20 to 25 adexchanges. The more adexchanges the better. Essentially adexchanges have hundreds to thousands of apps and websites in their system/offering. Being that literally every little thing in the world has an app/site dedicated to it, the more adexchanges a DSP is connected to, means that more specific sites and apps can be reached (which can be beneficial for reaching your very specific, but desired, audience). Also, the more available inventory, the bigger the chance of hitting your ‘sweet-spot’ in terms of finding that specific publisher which realized great results or conversions (whatever your product may be).

2. Only serve professionally designed ads/banners, deploy a professional landing-page, use rich media banners and use the cheapest hosting options that are available

a. It’s highly recommended to only serve ads/banners that have been made by a professional. A bad looking banner can have a very negative effect on your campaign and – potentially – your brand.

b. The landingpage must have a similar appearance as the ads/banners. Meaning styling (fonts) and colors must ‘match’ with the ads/banners which are served.

c. Use/serve rich media banners. These advanced ads/banners have visual functions that – in most cases – highly affect your campaign results in a positive way.

d. If you are going to deploy rich media ads in your campaign, make sure these are hosted with a ‘cheap’ hosting provider. Many tools – for creating rich media banners – exist, but these usually charge a significant CPM on-top of your normal rates. If you host your rich media creatives in the right tool, the pricing changes drastically (for the better). Essentially making sure that most of your campaign-budget actually goes to the market/to publishers.

e. Many Demand Side Platforms also offer in-house creative services. Play your cards right, negotiate and you might get your banners (even rich media) for free (based on a substantial campaign budget).

3. Only use a DSP that offers full transparency

a. The days of receiving simplistic reports (f.e. excel) after your campaign is finished – are over. You want to be able to see the entire campaign set-up, the (live) results and changes (or; optimizations) that are made. Usually a self-serve access provides this kind of transparency. If your campaign experience is little we advise you to request self-serve access but ask for the DSP’s Ad-Oprations team to ‘manage’ your campaigns for you. This way, you have best of both worlds.

b. You can also consider using your own tracking tool/platform. Many exist, pricing varies. This independent tracking/reporting tool will give you peace of mind in terms of; the impressions and clicks that are realized by the DSP – are correct/real (or not!).

4. Use a DSP that offers secondary tools – outside of the normal scope of functions a DSP offers

a. Brand safety tools are a necessity. Essentially pre-bid Brand Safety solutions/tools make sure your ads/banners are served in qualitative apps and sites. They avoid your ad being served on sites and apps that might damage the image of your brand.

b. Footfall attribution methods to determine physical store visits from people (or devices) that have been served an ad/banner. Logically this is only relevant for brands/companies who have physical store locations.

c. The DSP should be able to offer the full spectrum of targeting options that are legal and apparent in this industry. This includes make/model targeting, language targeting, retargeting and carrier targeting. If you want to run campaigns in the EU, make sure the DSP/vendor you are using is compliant with GDPR guidelines.

d. It is very likely that you – as an agency, a marketeer or brand owner – will like the results of programmatic display campaigns. A whitelabel DSP is essentially a copy of an original DSP and it can be provided in the colors, with the logo and a login interface based on your desires. You might want to offer your clients separate accounts (in case you are an agency)? You might want your internal trading team to have a platform that is fully customized to your needs and wishes (in case you are a trading desk or an actual brand – and you want to internalize programmatic advertising).

5. Use a vendor/DSP that has experience and willing to share knowledge

This might be difficult to determine (‘does the DSP I’m working with has a lot of campaign-experience?’), but is very important you work with a party that knows what they are doing and is willing to educate you along the process/deployment of your campaigns. Even though – essentially – this whole industry just evolves around serving ads/banners between online content (for example; news-content), the industry, the possibilities and pitfalls are complex by nature. So how do you determine the DSP you use (or want to use) has sufficient experience and knowledge AND is willing to share this with you?

a. Again; full transparency in terms of campaign set-up, pricing and live results/analytics are things to base your search on – regarding finding the perfect DSP provider.

b. Ask if you can test the platform and if a refund is possible (when pre-pay is asked for) – in case you are not happy with the quality of the provided traffic.

c. Ask what brand safety measures are taken if you would deploy campaigns within the DSP of your choice.

d. Ask if backend reports of – for example – device id’s (encrypted or raw) can be provided during and after the campaign. Device ids are the digital signature that every phone has and providing these backends makes it very hard for a DSP/Vendor to hide elements that might negatively surprise you.

e. Ask if you can get a publisher report. Thus, you will be able to see on which exact apps and sites your ads are being served.

f. Ask if the DSP that interests you has experience with the high bounce-rate mobile traffic usually provides and knows how to decrease this metric (bounce-rate). Similarly, ask if there is experience with optimizing on landing-rate.

g. Request case studies.

h. Ask for trading references.

i. Last; go with your guts. If you don’t feel comfortable with the company (or representative of this company) – stop your activity with them. In the end; your guts might be the most valuable ‘protection’ you can provide for yourself. There are sufficient DSP’s/Vendors out there, feel comfortable with that fact.


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