5 Ways to Level Up Your Programmatic Marketing Strategy

The programmatic advertising marketplace is busier than ever, with several factors coalescing at once. Publishers are increasing available auctions, the ad tech landscape is shrinking, and more advertisers are interested in programmatic buying’s relative cost efficiency as they monitor risk for economic downturn. 

Automated Buying Doesn’t Mean Simple Buying

Increasingly, marketers are realizing that automated buying doesn’t mean simple buying. Advertisers looking for a “set it and forget it” approach are going to find their campaigns outbid and underperforming with low engagement rates and high bounce rates. 

How to Level Up Your Programmatic Marketing Strategy

Follow these five tips to ensure your programmatic buys are set up for success from the start: 

#1 – Know your audience and be choosy with your targeting data

Kickstart your media plans with a robust understanding of the key consumers you’re looking to reach. That means going beyond basic demographics and understanding their behaviors, interests, values, and motivations. You can accomplish this through data-driven research tools, existing customer analysis, and/or using pixel-based data combined with Google Analytics to understand website visitors and how they engaging with your content. Together, these learnings should impact the data you use.

Whether working within walled gardens or full-fledged DSPs, it’s never been more important to understand the ins and outs of your data segments. Challenge partners to explain how their data sourcing methods, how it’s been manipulated since, and how likely it is to be affected by larger industry changes. Higher quality data yields better long-term results than quick clicks from half-interested parties. Save your bids for the audience most likely to spark genuine engagement. 

Things to be aware of:

  • Over reliance on retargeting: Retargeting does tend to drive strong media metrics. However, overinvesting in this tactic means you are likely wasting media dollars on people who were already planning to convert. 
  • Cookie deprecation: When third-party cookies eventually go away, any audience data that relied on them will be null and void. Work to build up your first party data now so you can use AI to build smarter audiences for your display campaigns.

#2 – Stay vigilant with brand safety and quality in the open markets

The open marketplace allows you to reach your audience where they are, but not every stop in their browsing journey is a good fit for your brand. Marketers solely looking for display ad inventory with the lowest CPMs are chasing after the wrong goals (and are facing a massive waste of money). Platform-offered brand safety features and integrations will assist, but ultimately, it takes knowing a brand inside and out to know what content is suitable for their messaging. 

Pre-bid filtering controversial topics is the bare minimum. Complement it with custom blacklists, strategic use of contextual categories, and continuous monitoring of the sites and apps in your strategy. Private auctions can minimize the open market’s quality risk, but have a high probability of carrying higher costs or struggling to scale with effective reach. Balancing platform tools with dedicated human oversight is the best approach for ensuring quality while taking advantage of the open market’s cost savings and reach. 

Be sure to:

  • Regularly audit display campaigns to ensure they are meeting your standards
  • Continuously update site lists based on inventory performance 

#3 – Build an omni-channel and omni-device plan

Programmatic buying has historically boasted the streamlined view of your channels’ or campaigns’ performance compared to direct or ad network buying. However, with the rise of walled gardens and second-party providers, it’s important to plan for all of your potential audience touchpoints. 

First, research which environments and devices index with your audience’s behavior. Then discuss how each piece of your plan levels up to your overall marketing and brand goals. Rather than using the “programmatic” label as a stand-in to mean a singular display-banner channel, realize how programmatic technology can power your buying strategy across all digital media. 

As marketers face a cookieless future, contextual targeting is going to be increasingly critical. Having a display ad, for example, show up alongside relevant content helps build interest and trust since the consumer is already engaging with pertinent information.


  • Leveraging direct buys, private marketplace deals, and content partnerships to feel confident knowing where, when and to whom your ads were served. 
  • Aligning your creative messaging and calls-to-action to the category to improve user experience.

#4 – Find your frequency balance

Frequency is often an afterthought in performance marketing due to its association with reach. But, it’s imperative to monitor when reaching your audience across channels and devices. Every brand’s consumer journey is unique, and each media goal will require a unique “sweet spot” for effective frequency. 

Discuss what you know upfront about your audience’s journey to set realistic expectations. Then, monitor your frequency against performance to find that optimal peak for your specific media plan to avoid diminishing returns. 

#5 – Remove artificial silos between media and creative

It’s a curse programmatic buyers know well: even the most thoroughly-researched, audience-conscious, “big idea” media plan will fall flat without creative alignment. Rather than retro-fitting your creative to your media or vice-versa, plan in tandem to personalize messaging for higher impact across all channels. Once live, commit to monitoring performance and optimizing your messaging alongside platform settings. 

Display ads don’t have to be boring. The first, and most cost effective, way to capture attention is by adding small animations to your banner ads. But to really make a splash with your display advertising campaign, test out high impact units. This could be in-read units, site takeovers, site anchors, in-banner videos, interactive units, etc. 

However, even showing up on premium publishers without the investment in “fancy” display ads will often do the trick. Associating your brands with high authority publishers automatically builds a level of credibility for your brand. 

Don’t forget to:

  • Establish accountability through clearly identified KPIs
  • Select units and publishers from an audience-first mentality

Use these key tips to step up your programmatic advertising strategy and drive meaningful results for your brand.

To see some of these principles in action, view our case study, Driving 12K Leads for a Luxury Home Appliance Brand


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