Six things brands must ask of programmatic partners

Programmatic advertising is growing like magic, but it's no dark art -- brands should find partners who show their methods and results every step of the way

Programmatic buying is on a strong growth trajectory – with an average annual growth rate of 27% – and is set to reach $53 billion globally by 2018. The US is leading the way – 62% of its display-related ads are purchased programmatically. The UK is following suit; programmatic was forecast to account for almost half of digital display ads (47%) bought last year.

As brands continue to discover programmatic’s unprecedented efficiency, ability to reach targeted audiences across all devices and potential to optimize KPIs in real time, it is set to become the main engine in digital trading.

To maximize the benefits and achieve a healthy ROI, brands need to choose a solid programmatic-advertising partner that can provide the following:

A brand-safe environment. Programmatic technology providers should have visibility and fraud detection measures in place to ensure ads only run within brand-safe environments. Quality should always take precedence over quantity.

Multiple demand-side platform (DSP) partners. Working with multiple DSP partners lets brands capitalize on the individual strengths of each platform, providing a range of audiences, devices and touchpoints to meet set KPIs. Budgets can easily be migrated across multiple platforms, ensuring marketers always have contingency measures if one DSP experiences technical difficulties or is not delivering against anticipated targets.

Advanced creativity. Programmatic is as much about creativity as scale and efficiency. A programmatic partner should leverage dynamic creative to target and engage audiences, and work with the brand to develop a strategy for its online identity.

A bespoke solution. The right partner will offer a consultancy-led solution that creates a custom-made programmatic strategy to meet the unique and specified marketing objectives of the brand within the agreed budget. The right partner will also provide performance insights to feed the brand’s CRM strategy and learnings for future campaigns.

Technology transparency. Transparency is critical, and a programmatic partner should deliver consultation and feedback at every stage of the process. It should be accountable and approachable, and articulate clearly how campaigns are performing. Despite rumors to the contrary, programmatic is not a dark art, and a strong partner should provide a basic understanding of the technology without jargon and acronyms.

Precise measurement. Programmatic enables brands to optimize each campaign to unique goals, and a partner should work against KPIs such as cost per action, lifetime value and order value. There should be a clear line of reporting between brand and partner, and detailed feedback on predetermined metrics should be regularly provided.

As programmatic becomes the front-runner in digital trading, marketers cannot afford to be left at the starting gate. Understanding the technology and choosing a partner that delivers on these six criteria is fundamental to achieving a highly targeted, fully optimized, successful campaign.

Chris Dobson is executive chairman of The Exchange Lab.

This article first appeared on

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