Fundamentals for a Programmatic Approach to Digital Advertising

By Seth Mariscal, Media Director, Godfrey

Seth Mariscal, Media Director, Godfrey

The internet has always been a crazy place. A programmatic approach to digital advertising gives marketers a way to find some order in the chaos and get our message out there, both coherently and effectively.

Advertising in an arena like this can be anexciting, if somewhat scary, endeavor. What happens if your ad shows up in the wrong place or at the wrong time? How do you avoid becoming a meme in the wrong way? How can we even be sure that this is working and we’re not just talking to the void?

These and many more, are some of the real questions that marketing professionals deal with daily.

To help with that, we’re going to look at 3 of the most basic and essential aspect of any campaign that is going to use a programmatic approach to digital advertising.

Brand Safety

We’ve all seen it happen either to others or ourselves. Anutterly innocent idea suddenly becomes a lightning rod of negative attention. I’ve seen firearm ads show up next to articles about shootings, car ads showing up next to accidents, or a family-friendly restaurant showing up on a site dedicated to—ahem—adult entertainment.

So, how do you keep that from happening to you? The main thing to be conscious of is that when it comes to CPM, you’re getting what you pay for. Quality sites with quality placements know what they have and what they’re offering, and they’ll charge accordingly. Your $0.50 CPM banner ads are going to websites that are probably worth $0.15.

The second thing to bear in mind is partnering with a reputable vendor. When vetting a new partner, never be afraid to ask them what systems they have in place to protect your brand. They should be working with high-quality networks, and have algorithms filtering content and measures in place to block bot traffic and click fraud.

The third thing you can do is set up filters and alerts in your ad server. You can monitor whether your vendor is living up to their quality content promises as well as their volume and conversion promises.

You may notice a recurring theme here—you can’t leave everything on autopilot and expect good results. We live in a day and age where things change quickly and not staying up-to-date can have real-life consequences.


Personas are essential. You must be able to actively hone in on who your target audience is. Targeting criteria for your digital campaigns can be quickly taken too far to be effective. We’re all guilty of it sometimes. We want to be extremely targeted with our audience to ensure no waste, but what we’re really doing is projecting our preconceived notions onto our audience and limiting our reach.

The best targeting is built on data. Focus on the result you’re trying to get rather than impressions and viewability instead, you should focus on results, what is driving quality traffic and conversions and who is showing intent or interest.

Once you find a segment that is doing well, start expanding on that. Remember that the internet is a land of shifting sands. Nothing stays the same for long and if you aren’t optimizing to gain ground, you are quickly going to find yourself losing ground instead.

Do this on several different tracks (demo targeting, contextual targeting, location targeting, IP Targeting for ABM), and you will see your winner emerge. This is why a programmatic approach to digital advertising requires time to learn and optimize. You can start with some solid foundational knowledge, but until you actually see the results rolling in, you won’t be able to optimize towards what actually works.

Quality Interactions

So, that’s all great and good, but how do you know what is working? It’s easy to get excited about CTR, but the reality is that it’s only part of the story. It’s a lot easier for a campaign with 10k impressions to get a .20% CTR than a 1M impression campaign.

What I recommend is to look for quality. What that means depends on your goal. If you’re just looking for awareness, pay attention to what generates more attention to information pages. If you’re looking for online leads, focus on what drives form submissions.

Most importantly, remember that it isn’t all about the last-touch attribution. Keep building the top of your funnel, developing your middle funnel and converting your bottom-of-the-funnel audiences. You’ll have different KPI’s for each of these groups and that is what will define the quality of the interactions.

This will serve multiple purposes, because not only will it help you determine how to optimize your targeting parameters, it will also help you pick up on fraudulent clicks or bot traffic.

In Conclusion

For those who are looking for the bottom line, here it is: Be active and vigilant with brand safety, never stop testing and optimizing your targeting criteria and always have a goal.

A successful campaign is only difficult to define if you don’t have a goal.

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