The TV series “Mad Men” gave the general public a view into how the advertising industry operated for decades. For ads to reach consumers, brands would hire an agency, which would then plan and purchase media placements across TV, radio and print. In many cases, the agency would do this by picking up the phone and talking to someone at the desired media outlet, sometimes leveraging a past relationship for a discount of some sort.
Advertising worked that way for decades but, in recent years, digital media has upended the apple cart. With so many ad-supported websites and mobile applications, it is simply impossible for any advertiser or agency to purchase ad space from each publication individually. A marketer’s target audience is everywhere, and the amount of time and manpower required to negotiate individual deals with each media outlet would simply prove too costly.
To combat this problem, the online ad industry has turned to programmatic ad buying. Programmatic is technology that facilitates automated ad buying, providing advertisers with access to digital display and video ad space across hundreds of thousands of sites without having to set up individual deals with all of them. This includes placements across devices as well, including mobile smartphones and tablets.
In addition to solving the scale problem, programmatic also provides advertisers with far more options for controlling who sees their ads and how much they spend. Advertisers can set their own parameters for:
Audience Advertisers are no longer beholden to the audience that single sites attract. Programmatic opens the door for them to use different data sources to find desired target audiences across the web, wherever that audience might be. This may include consumers who previously visited the advertisers’ websites, who live in certain geographic areas, have visited specific locations (like a store or car dealership), have displayed certain behaviors or who act similarly to the advertisers’ current customers. For example, a brand can target new mothers or consumers who are currently shopping for a new car. All of this targeting is done anonymously, without the use of any personally-identifiable information.