5 Questions you need to ask your agency before paying for programmatic advertising

In the right hands, programmatic advertising can offer many benefits to your marketing strategy. With over 50% of US marketing executives agreeing it is either extremely, or very effective.

In the wrong hands however, your ads could get lost in the miasma of digital advertising on the internet and never seen. Or perhaps even worse your ads could be seen in places that are not aligned with your company values, as was the case for US telecom giant Verizon, who’s ads appeared in extremist/hate-speech videos on YouTube.

So how do you know who has the right hands?

We’ve compiled 5 key questions to ask any potential advertising agency about programmatic advertising before you hand over even a dollar of your precious digital marketing budget.

#1- Can they explain what Programmatic Advertising is?

It’s easy for an agency to sell you on the benefits, but if they are only rattling off 3 letter acronyms and speaking in jargon buzzwords, they might not be the best people to help you. The right agency will be able to break it down for you in a down-to-earth, and relatable way.

Say you were going in for surgery… It’s all well and good for your doctor to tell you how much better you’ll feel without that pesky inflamed appendix, but if they can’t actually explain how and why your appendix needs removing, are you really going to let them near you with a scalpel?

It’s not unreasonable to ask for a little bedside manner from your advertising agency too.


#2 – Do they understand your audience?

One of the key benefits of advertising programmatically, is the ability to specify your target audience so precisely. You obviously have a good grasp of your own target audience, and can pass on the demographic and behavioural information you have , but how else will the agency be profiling your audience?

Do they have their own data sets (second-party data) that they can employ to further target your audience and ensure your ad will be successful? What about access to third party data? These data-sets can be bought from other institutions such as news media, credit-card companies, or entertainment corporations such as Ticketek, and they can all offer insights into your potential audience.

The quality of the data your agency has access to will determine the quality of the results of your ads.


#3 –  What are they doing to protect the values of your brand?

The next big question to ask a potential agency, is what measures they will have to prevent your ads being seen next to content that may be detrimental to your brand values. A blacklist can stop the programmatic software from purchasing ad-spaces that appear on pornographic or extremist sites.


A more in depth blacklist will go further, and screen for sites with high bot activity. It has been reported that 51.8% of all internet traffic is bot activity, with 28.9% of this being ‘bad bots’ such as impersonators, spammers and hacker tools. There are certain sites that these bots are more frequent, and a proficient agency will have contingencies within their strategy to avoid these sites.

It’s also useful to ask how often the agency updates their blacklists, as these undesirable sites have a tendency of popping up regularly under new domain names.

#4 – Are your ads being seen by a human?

Even if your ads appear on reputable and contextually desirable sites, how will your agency ensure that it is still a human who is viewing your ad, and not a bot?

Bot activity is again on the rise, and now forms the majority of online traffic. So if you are paying your agency per impression of your ad, it’s only reasonable that you make sure those impressions are not being wasted on bots. Again, proficient agencies will have standards on viewability, and will optimise the ads to only appear where there is evidence of human activity. After all, bots aren’t going to fill out a form or purchase your product.


#5 – How will they be analysing the results?

Unlike a billboard or newspaper ad where it can be difficult to track how many people are seeing the ad and acting on it directly, with digital advertising we can get much more specific ROI data. Particularly with the programmatic software, the depth of analytics possible can be overwhelming. This is one of the reasons why 43% of marketers outsource this process.

The important thing to ask whoever you are outsourcing it to though, is what types of analytics are they running to optimise their results? Are they analysing views of ad impressions or how many clicks the ad receives?

Getting the best ROI from your advertising, starts with getting the best people on the job.

Speaking of the best people, have you met our team here at Lightbox Communications?

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.