Programmatic Media Buying for Dummies

Feb 17, 2016

Programmatic media buying has been a buzz-worthy topic in the digital community for the last several years, with annual media investments soaring. Yet, when asked, “what is programmatic?” most marketers are likely to give you one of three answers: it’s software, discount ads, or media buying. But these are half answers, only highlighting the confusion that still surrounds the medium.


Part of the trouble in defining programmatic is that, depending on how you use the platforms, it can cross the entire digital marketing sphere. At its most basic core,

Programmatic media buying involves taking the traditional process of buying ads across the Internet and automates it.

This establishes a highly cost efficient and extremely targetable buying approach, while reducing the interaction time between client, advertiser, and publisher from potentially weeks to milliseconds. Bidding on inventory in real-time allows advertisers to buy qualified ad space with the flip of a switch and, most importantly, layer in targeting options to help pre-qualify the audience. This can include:

  • Contextual targeting to align messages with relevant content. Ex: financial advice articles, sports websites, business news
  • Behavior targeting to reach users who, through their online behavior, have demonstrated that they are interested in similar content. Ex: financial consultants, sports fans, C-Suite employees
  • Remarketing to users who have interacted with an advertiser’s website in varying degrees. Ex: homepage visitors, users who have created a shopping cart, users who have made a purchase/filled out an application

Despite these advantages, programmatic buying is often thought of as a cheap alternative to direct buys placed on low-traffic sites—otherwise why would premium sites allow for this sort of backdoor buying to exist? The answer is remnant inventory; whenever a site like Forbes or ESPN can’t sell all of it’s inventory within direct buys, it often makes the ‘leftover’ inventory available on ad networks or exchanges, allowing it to be purchased programmatically. Publishers are then able to pull in additional dollars they might not have otherwise as supplemental revenue stream outside of what they sell direct.

Although this new channel has been met with some skepticism, aided perhaps by the complex technology and jargon used, it is proving to be an impactful medium. At the pinnacle of the new era of digital advertising built upon big data, hyper-aware targeting and in-the-moment optimizations, Programmatic is sure to help keep your digital media strategy nimble and agile. So, make sure to stay on-trend in the ever-changing digital landscape by training your team in programmatic media.

Want to learn how Genuine can help you with your next digital, creative, tech or media project? Get in touch with us at contacts@wearegenuine.com.