Online advertisers have no shortage of options for purchasing ad space online — and those options increasingly feature programmatic inventories serving virtually every type of ad you could want.
According to eMarketer, four of every five display advertising dollars were spent on programmatic inventories in 2017, and it's quickly taking over other types of advertising, too. Adobe Digital Insights reported that programmatic's share of TV advertising, for example, is projected to soon rise from 28 percent to 39 percent in both the U.S. and the U.K.
Options are great, but only if you understand where the most effective advertising can be found. Programmatic ad buying is a much-needed product to serve the ad world, but it isn't always better than direct ad buying. Advertisers need to understand how to choose one over the other in any given situation.
When to Use Direct Ad Buys
The most common reason a brand will opt for direct ad buys over programmatic options is that they want their display ads to be featured around specific content. For instance, if you're a beverage or snack brand targeting sports fans and tailgating audiences, you likely want your ads on sites publishing sports content. Similarly, a cosmetics brand may prefer to purchase ad space on blogs or websites dedicated to health, beauty and wellness.
These ads might look out of place if they're programmatically placed on websites that are focused on completely unrelated subjects, but direct ad buys allow for control over your publishing partners. This approach also ensures brand safety by guaranteeing that your ads aren't placed alongside controversial content.
You can use direct advertising to select premium placements, such as a banner that appears at the top of a page. By working with select publishers, you can potentially cultivate valued relationships over time.
When Programmatic Buying Makes Sense
If you're targeting a niche audience, programmatic ads are a way of zeroing in on those customers without wasting ad dollars on an audience that's largely uninterested in your brand. Programmatic ad campaigns are very scalable, which improves their cost-efficiency and makes it possible for local retailers to drive ROI just as well as multinational corporations.
Instead of placing ads according to publishers, programmatic exchanges match ads with individual customers based on their demographic information and behavioral data. Some filtering options are available to help ensure viewability and brand safety — and that the audience is highly relevant — but brands should still keep in mind that they have limited control over ad placement, and will miss out on developing relationships with publishers. Still, programmatic advertising is a great option for overwhelmed marketing teams in need of effective automation tools.
Where cost is concerned, programmatic ad exchanges can trigger bidding wars and more competitive pricing, which can be a drawback in contrast to the fixed prices of direct buys. On the other hand, the benefit of these exchanges is access to superior analytics tools and performance data that allow you to accurately measure your ROI.
Whether you go with direct buys, programmatic ads or a combination of the two, remember that the most effective advertising is the kind that fits your budget, doesn't overwhelm your marketing team and serves your brand's target audience.