A sweet & simple explanation of programmatic advertising

So, you’ve heard the hype around programmatic advertising, but haven’t quite been able to wrap your head around the exhaustive list of 3 letter acronyms and jargon speak to understand exactly what it is, and why you should care? Well, never fear. We’re going to break it down for you in a down-to-earth, and relatable way that will leave you salivating…


First, let’s start with cookies…

Not the delicious baked goodies you dip into your coffee, I’ll get to those later.

I’m talking about the small files stored on your computer or smart device. They have many other fancy names, like HTTP cookie, web cookie, Internet cookie, or browser cookie, but quite often, they’re just simply called a cookie. They are collected on your computer’s hard drive as you surf the internet and are automatically sent to your web browser (ie. Chrome, Firefox, Safari etc.) when you revisit websites. They help to save your preferences, such as currency, location, time-zone, maybe even what you last had stored in your shopping cart. Don’t fret though, they don’t save any personal data like your name, email address or credit card details, just the basic elements to enhance your online experience.

What advertisers do, is use these cookies to track your activity online – the type of sites you visit, what you are interested in, future purchase research etc. This helps tailor the type of ads users see, where they see them, and how many times they see them. Again, no identifying data is stored and users always have the option to refuse cookies, but, as I said before, these cookies are used to enhance your online experience, and they mean that the ads you see should be relevant to you and your online preferences.

How does Programmatic fit in?

What is programmatic advertising then, and what do these cookies have to do with it?

Programmatic is not a type of advertising like billboards or magazines, but a way of buying advertising. Kenneth Kulbok, the programmatic sales lead EMEA at LinkedIn Programmatic, says that “Put very simply, programmatic is buying digital advertising space automatically, with computers using data to decide which ads to buy and how much to pay for them, often in real time”.

Is this a simple answer to our question? Yes. But it isn’t all that interesting or engaging an explanation, though is it? So, let us spin it to you using a much more exciting and enticing analogy… cookies! Yes, this time I do mean the delicious baked treats!

What’s your flavour?

If we were to put a plate of generic choc-chip cookies out on the table (whether it be at work, home, the gym, doesn’t matter) people would see them, and we’re sure quite a few would take one, but we couldn’t be sure everyone would be interested. But, if we could do the research to specifically tailor the plate of cookies to everyone’s tastes, then it would be much harder for them to resist taking one. Maybe Dave from accounting is more of a gluten-free oatmeal and raisin fan, or perhaps your grandma prefers ginger snaps, or your personal trainer is an absolute sucker for double choc fudge cookies?

The research that goes into knowing who likes what flavour (or in the case of advertising who will relate and engage with which ad) is helped by those digital cookies. What makes programmatic special from traditional forms of buying advertising space is how the research is conducted, who collects that delicious double choc fudge cookie, sorts it from the ginger snaps and oatmeal and raisin ones, puts it on the plate, and places that plate where your PT can easily consume it.

Advertising powered by cookies!

The brilliance of programmatic is that the process, from research to consumption, is optimised through machine learning – meaning it adapts and evolves to consumer behaviours much faster, and with more precision than can be done by a human.

Even better, technology handles the buying process for you, meaning ads can be bought in real-time to further optimise the process.

Programmatic started off as a way of using up remnant digital inventory – the digital ad-space that wasn’t sold through traditional publisher driven sales. It became ‘distressed’ and dropped into the realm of programmatic sales where it can be bought at a much cheaper price. Now though, advertisers are recognising the advantages of programmatic beyond just the cheaper price.

Not only can programmatic advertising be less expensive, not only is it helping tell me whether my ideal consumer is more of a coconut jam drop bickie or a champagne and raspberry macaron fan, it is the one baking, plating and serving their desired confection within their preferred environment.

It is quite simply the sugar hit every advertising budget needs.

Hungry to know more? Contact us today to discuss how we can help.