The Millisecond Movements of a Programmatic Ad

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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

A lot can happen in a millisecond, and that’s especially true in terms of programmatic marketing. But what exactly does happen?

Let’s journey through those moments between clicking a link and the page loading to get an idea of the process that is programmatic advertising.

Step One – A Click on a Link

The first step is simple, a potential customer clicks on the link that catches their eye and this then kick starts the programmatic process.

Once the link has been clicked, the website’s publisher will quickly contact the ad exchange in order to request an ad to fill the space.

Side Note: The ad exchange is basically an automated auctioneer where open advertising space is sold to the highest bidder.


Step Two – Data Dispersed to the Ad Exchange

Having collected information on the potential customer’s online behaviour and demographics, this information is then passed to the DSP (Demand Side Platform).

Side Note: The DSP is a fully automated system that helps marketers decide whether or not the prospective ad space is worth bidding on or not. Its automation eliminates the need for human sales or negotiation, and saving mounds of time in the process.

Step Three – A Match Made in Heaven

Based on the information gathered and also a business’s advertising budget, the DSP will decide whether or not to bid for the ad space.

Side Note: There are a number of highly targeted ways that programmatic uses to determine whether or not the ad space and prospective advertiser are a match.

To begin with we have the audience. This is the foundational information such as income, age, level of education and many more variables that help determine who should be targeted by what ad.

Next we have behavioural targeting that focuses on what a person does while they’re spending time online, and what actions they’ve taken. This can be pretty measurable with what pages a person has visited, what products they’ve viewed and what conversions they’ve attempted all coming into consideration.

Thirdly there’s retargeting. This technique has been criticised slightly in the past as they have been found to be slightly annoying, but at the end of the day, they work and that’s why they’re still a huge part of programmatic. Using cookie data, ads can follow a user across the web and ensure that the product they almost bought stays on their mind until they buy it.

Alongside these we have geotargeting, which takes into consideration a user’s identity and behavioural profiles, and then just adds in another targeting technique of specific location just for fun. This can vary from a general circumference right down to the specific postcode depending on your needs.

Cross-device is also a tool in the programmatic repertoire, with advertising being tailored to multiple digital devices based upon data collected on how surfing habits change according to accessory.

Finally, we have contextual data collection which takes a look at the category or keywords included in a website page that a potential buyer is viewing, and sells the ad space according to relevancy to that current content.

Step Four – The Bid is Made

That sounds pretty dramatic, but in fact it couldn’t be a smoother process. Without the human element of negotiation, the process is pretty straightforward. The DSP sending out a bid and the highest bidder gets the space.

Step Five – And the Winner Is…

Finally, after what feels like an eternity (but is in fact only a few milliseconds) the page loads and the winning ad is displayed for the user to see, and interact with.

And that’s that! Pretty incredible to think that all this happens within less than a second, don’t you think?

Programmatic media buying is built to maximise your advertising ROI, with highly targeted ads being seen not only by the right people, but at a time when they’re most likely to engage with your advertisement, and that’s exactly why so many big businesses are using it to increase their advertising accuracy.

Want to Know More

Like the look of programmatic but want a little more information to get your teeth stuck into? Take a look at our guide to programmatic media buying and find out the ins and outs of this incredible advertising tool.

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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

Sophie has over 6 years of experience in the social media and content space, working in both in-house organisations and agencies. She has worked with exciting established brands in her time such as Campari, Aperol Spritz, Oppo Ice Cream and PayPal Australia. She enjoys the content creation process – from mapping out the shot and…

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