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You’re never going to make an ad that doesn’t trigger someone.

Our data shows that 38% of global consumers block ads regularly or occasionally. 61% say they feel there are too many ads, and 54% say they get in the way. 

But, digital ad spend is growing, because getting it right gets results.

It’s forecast to reach US$408 billion in 2022, which will make it account for 55.5% of total ad spend globally. 

For the first time, that’s twice as big as the ad spend for TV.

Specifically, programmatic ad buying is in the spotlight. And we’re here to dive into it. We’ll run you through: 

  • What programmatic ad buying actually is
  • How the death of the cookie will impact programmatic
  • Why the future of programmatic is integration
  • 5 neat examples of brands nailing programmatic ad buying
  • 5 tips on how you can ace your programmatic advertising efforts

What is programmatic ad buying?

Put really simply, programmatic ad buying (used interchangeably with programmatic advertising) is when media buying (aka buying ad space) is made more efficient with automated tech. The alternative is a manual, traditional buying method.

Programmatic ad buying is the sweet spot where cutting-edge tech meets consumer data. Algorithms serve advertisements to users at the right place, time, and price. How relevant they end up depends on the quality of insights you start with.

How does programmatic advertising work?

It’s kinda complicated – mainly because there’s a host of jargon that goes with it. Marketing Week boils it down to basics.

“Put simply, brands or agencies use a demand side platform (DSP) to decide which impressions to buy and how much to pay for them, while publishers use a supply side platform (SSP) to sell ad space to brands. These two platforms are then matched up in real time.”

The three types of programmatic media buying

There are three main ways you can go about programmatic media buying. Let’s take a quick look at them.

  1. Real time bidding (RTB): This happens in real time and is considered a cost-effective route to buy ad space if you want to reach a big audience.
  2. Private marketplace (PMP): This is similar to real-time bidding, but there are rules on who can get involved. Sometimes, advertisers can apply to take part, then undergo a selection process, or join on an invite-only basis.
  3. Programmatic Direct: This is when you skip out the auction part, and a publisher just sells directly to an advertiser (or several advertisers) at a fixed CPM (cost per mille – aka cost per thousand impressions).

How the death of the cookie will affect programmatic buying

Across the board, ad gurus are already coming up with other new and inventive ways to bypass the cookie.

Roman Vrublivskyi, head of SmartHub white label ad exchange explains, “Although most marketers (approximately 80 percent) rely on third-party cookies for ad targeting, change is unavoidable, and stakeholders in the programmatic ad ecosystem are already exploring other ethical targeting solutions.”

According to Vrublivskyi, these include:

Programmatic digital out-of-home advertising: With the ability to tailor ads to the time of day, the weather, and tentpole moments in your industry’s calendar, it’s no surprise that interactive ad media is said to welcome a 100% better conversion rate than static media ads for digital out-of-home advertising.

Programmatic ads on connected TV: Data suggests that with 80% of the UK population having access to a connected TV, ad spend could rise to a record of $8bn.

Digital audio ads: As we explore in our latest Entertainment report, in the context of an attention recession and screen fatigue, audio of any kind is gaining popularity among advertisers and marketers. Spotify reported a 40% year-on-year growth in ad revenue in Q4 2021, which now accounts for 15% of its total revenue.

Mobile in-app video ads: In-app video ads come in all shapes and sizes, but ‘rewarded videos’ are cleverly being used in games as they give viewers a chance to win something in return for watching.

The future of programmatic is integration

Buying targeted ads via digital platforms has heavily relied on third-party cookies, but with cookies on their way out, technology platforms and their partners are finding new, privacy-safe ways to deliver targeted advertising.

In short, the future relies on one thing: you’re going to need more data.

And the only way to do that is by integrating with third-party syndicated data. 

Here at GWI, we’re working with ad platforms to help supplement their bidstream (or SSP) data. They can pull out attitudinal insights on specific audiences, such as generations like Gen Zs and baby boomers, or explore the purchasing behaviors of male car buyers – which adds much more color to the picture of their target audience.

Not only can you use GWI to see how people are accessing the internet to buy products so you know which channels to dial up and down (be it desktop, mobile, or tablet), but you’ll also be able to see what people are buying.

We’re arming ad experts with everything they need – from planning to line item strategy and campaign building. 

We’re also currently building privacy-safe integrations into digital ad platforms, starting with Facebook Ads Manager. 

In this integration, a user of our audience insights platform can map audience(s) of interest into Facebook segments, and then push those segments back into Ads Manager to run highly-targeted advertising campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and other Meta Properties, directly against their original target audience. 

By matching GWI attributes with Facebook (Meta) segments, we remove the need for ad targeting based on third-party cookies, ensuring privacy-by-design as well as effective targeting.

5 great examples of programmatic ad campaigns

Here, we take a look at case studies of brands that have leveraged consumer data to drive successful programmatic campaigns. Then, we share our tips on how to nail it yourself.

1. The Economist mirrors its audience

The Economist wanted to target ‘intellectually-curious’ readers who had previously been reluctant to try the publication.

They started by tapping into their wealth of subscriber data to identify the most relevant and engaging content to deliver, tailoring stories to its audience.

This included analyzing web and app usage of subscribers to the journal, and identifying reader preferences (like what type of content was consumed and when). They also married up cookie, subscriber, and other wider data sets to build seven segments reflecting the publication’s key sections:

  • Finance
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Doing good
  • Careers
  • Technology
  • Social justice

From here, The Economist team created lookalike audiences to guide who they wanted to target with programmatic ad buying. Web page context and viewer profiles were assessed in real-time, enabling the brand to serve an appropriate ad to each consumer.

The ads were linked to The Economist’s content hub, presenting a relevant article and inviting the user to subscribe. More than 60 executions were created, many in near real-time from the company’s live newsroom.

Results were remarkable.

They generated 650,000 new prospects, and 3.6m people took action after seeing the ads.

The campaign ROI was 10:1 on a £1.2m media budget.

In the US, where The Economist is less well-known, ‘awareness’ jumped 64%, ‘consideration’ rose by 22%, and ‘willingness to recommend’ rose by 10%.

2. Lacoste hits some stunning figures

The world of online fashion is a particularly competitive one. Lacoste, however, proved it’s not always about who has the ‘cleverest’ marketing – instead, it’s about getting the basics right.

Summer is peak time for the clothing brand, and the team wanted to focus on driving sales in three markets – France, the UK, and Germany – using targeted programmatic advertising.

Using the consumer data they had at their disposal, they segmented their audiences, targeted them, then retarget them using a range of placement and creative options.

This is a pretty standard protocol for any solid programmatic campaign.

But the real success of this campaign was the use of A/B testing.

With a significant budget invested in trialing different banner formats, channels, and daily ad spend, they tweaked, refined, and optimized their campaigns until they were happy they were getting the most out of every single ad.

The result was nearly 20 million brand impressions, and a total of 2,290 sales across their chosen target markets.

3. Turner Sports increases ad recall

Turner Sports wanted to extend the reach of the NBA’s Season Tip-Off events, which are aired on Turner’s US cable channel, TNT.

The company worked to build audience lists based on previous AdWord campaigns, before using Google Marketing Platform to identify the most relevant audiences.

The brand then gathered real-time video from Tip-Off events (including shots of fans and athletes) across the country before launching a programmatic video advertising campaign. The content was delivered as YouTube TrueView ads to six million unique viewers across the US.

The campaign complemented Turner Sports’ live broadcasting, amplifying the story around the NBA Season Tip-Off events to optimize their marketing budget.

The activity drove a 17% lift in ad recall and a 7% lift in brand awareness for the NBA on TNT.

4. Audi gets personal, in a good way

The Audi Q2 is a customizable, luxury crossover SUV, so it’s no surprise that the carmaker wanted to make a big splash for its launch. And that splash needed to be personal.

The bar was high. Audi wanted a campaign that matched its very own brand slogan, ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. Translated, that reads, ‘Advancement through technology’.

Audi worked with Google to join the dots and analyze its key touchpoints in relation to analytics. 

Jason Lusty, head of marketing Germany, Audi AG explains, “One of the biggest challenges that we have, as I think most marketers have at the moment, is that the data is still living in silos.”

Data included floodlight tags (or image pixels) on the Audi site, enabling the creation of retargeting lists of previous website visitors, as well as in-market segments. This helped Audi discover new users whose online behaviors showed their intention to make a car purchase.

A car configurator on Audi’s site gave customers the chance to digitally customize their dream car, letting Audi collect information about users’ style preferences. These insights were then spun into action, driving dynamic ad creatives.

A customer’s position in the sales funnel, combined with their style preferences, guided which ad would be served, so it was always super relevant, personalized, and eye-catching to that specific consumer.

Buying ads programmatically led to an average conversion rate four times higher than those bought traditionally, while the campaign’s creative ads were twice as efficient as standard ads.

5. Amanda Foundation does something a little different.

A great example of a brand taking programmatic in a new direction is the non-profit organization, Amanda Foundation, which partnered with Saatchi & Saatchi to create a super personalized programmatic campaign.

‘Digital Pawprint’ is all about matching people with real animals up for adoption in the charity’s shelters, based on their hobbies and characteristics.

Chris Mead, one of the brains behind the campaign, said, “Pets are proven to improve quality of life. But they aren’t one-size-fits-all. Factors like age, activity level and family status mean some animals are a better fit than others.

“Modern display ads use information like a person’s location and browsing behavior to serve them hyper-relevant messages. So Amanda Foundation decided to use the same data to serve that person a hyper-relevant pet.”

Amanda Foundation used programmatic advertising to essentially play matchmaker. The result was a striking campaign, fully targeted and personalized, which showed the potential of programmatic advertising in driving good causes.

The programmatic ad buying fundamentals

It’s not about how you divvy up your digital advertising budget, but about what you’re leveraging to back that up.

You have to know who you’re targeting – on an emotional level – so you know it’s okay to reach them at that very moment.

As these brand examples have shown, solid consumer insight underpins any successful campaign, because it gives you those answers.

How you get that insight, and what you do with it, is what makes the difference.

How to nail your programmatic ad campaigns

1. Know enough about programmatic tech

You’ve got options when you’re buying programmatically, and the choices you make have an impact. Keeping on top of emerging trends in this space is key. You need people who know the tech side, and you need them to get to your target audience – not at surface level, but in detail.

2. Put consumer insight in the driving seat

To make programmatic work, it takes more than a reliance on web analytics that track cookies or devices – especially with cookies on their way out. Brands need survey data that reflects real people, to find out the customer touchpoints that matter and know what their audience’s priorities are.

GWI is home to the world’s largest study on the digital consumer, giving brands ready access to the insights they need, and leaving guesswork by the wayside.

3. Add your first-party data

First-party data isn’t canceled out by survey data. The data you already have on customer behaviors is a piece of the research pie. But it only gets contextualized – and you only see the full picture – when you’ve got consumer motivations and attitudes to layer it with.

4. Don’t sit and wait – optimize

Programmatic advertising leaves lots of room for optimization. It’s automated, so you don’t have to go through people to switch things up. If you need to tweak your messaging, ad placement, or frequency, you can. How do you know if you’ve got the advertising mix right for your audience? Pair real-time analytics with what people are saying, and keep evaluating.

5. Measure your campaign effectively

In a fast-paced consumer landscape, brands need to ensure no budget is wasted and identify where to focus their efforts next time around. There’s no escaping ROI – greater scrutiny over budgets brings greater accountability.

Track the effectiveness of your campaign from start to finish with the same combination of analytics and survey data. And if you want, you can probe further with tailored studies that assess your impact on real people.

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