Programmatic is an ever expanding sector that advertisers are exploring in an effort to reach more of their customers in an efficient manner. To many people, the world of programmatic is a new and daunting arena that can leave advertisers not knowing where to start.

When asked how we develop programmatic strategy, I always provide the same simple methodology. It involves five core pillars that inform and direct our strategy and optimizations.

  1. Audience
  2. Inventory
  3. Creative
  4. Decisioning
  5. Feedback

By following this simple guide, you can create a straight forward targeting and optimization strategy that will deliver you with programmatic success.


Who should I target? That is the constant question that advertisers are faced with. Programmatic allows you to target a plethora of audience types including 1st Party, 2nd Party and 3rd Party audiences.

By creating segmented audiences you can narrow down your targeting strategies, develop clear funnels and create an opportunity to deliver specific messages and creatives to your audience, based on their place in the funnel.

You can use 2nd & 3rd Party audiences to prospect to new potential customers, who then can flow into the consideration audience targeting through pixel based remarketing. Using CRM and deep site behavior tracking, you can carefully nurture your audiences to conversion.


Inventory is a much more prevalent thing to consider in programmatic. You have the option to create Private Deals or entering Private first look auctions, with high engaged publishers. For example, Southwest Airlines would benefit from buying guaranteed impressions on sites such as Kayak, and Expedia.

Programmatic now also goes beyond the traditional display. It now includes extended video inventory outside of the Google eco-system, Programmatic TV, Audio and even billboards. The mix of media types is vast, but it all can be layered with audience targeting to ensure that your message is being seen by the right people.


Programmatic is like any other prospecting or visual based channel. It requires ads that are eye catching, resonate with the viewer and have a clear message as to what it is selling. The average person sees about 5,000 ads per day. Creating an ad or a message that is going to cut through that noise is vital.

By tailoring the message to a person’s stage in the funnel, you are likely going to improve your chances of them taking notice and engaging. It also helps establish a relationship between the customer and brand, that is unique and can improve the likelihood of conversion, later down the road.

Similar to the choice of inventory, you may find that certain creatives, or creative types outperform the other. As you gather data, you may find that Video engages users much more than standard display ads, or that native ads, directing to blog content drives higher quality users. It is a matter of constant testing and adjusting.


This leads into the next step of our process. Decisioning. This is where we decide, what works best for the brand, the current strategy and where we want to take it. We analyze what initially has the best chances of success, based on previous initalives, assign some additional tests for comparison and launch campaigns.

By starting with what you know has a baseline metric to compare to, you have an idea as to how your additional tests should perform, where to raise flags and where to increase spend.

These benchmarks don’t always have to come from previous programmatic efforts, but also efforts that have performed well on the GDN, that have plateaued, or using audiences similar to what has performed well in Social channels.


Ultimately, this is the most important stage. You take the data that you have collected, take learnings, adjust targeting, and create hypothesis for new tests, based on the performance of your existing campaigns. This restarts the entire loop once more, going through the same steps, to ensure that you are constantly optimizing and fine tuning your media spend.

Cover image credit: Sand Crest SEO