Get with the program(matic): the meaning behind the jargon

Digital advertising is full of buzzwords, jargon and acronyms: DSP, SSP, DMP, pixel, impression, ad network, ad exchange, API, SDK. And many marketers feel digital is a foreign land with its own special language that even J. R. R. Tolkien would be proud of. But is this necessary or just confusing?

Simplicity and access are two of the principles AdRoll was founded on. We build products that are simple to use and work for as many people as possible so, in that spirit, I’m going to use this column over the next six weeks to demystify programmatic advertising and show it can help drive more revenue for your business. 

As this is the first column I want to define what programmatic advertising is and talk about one of its core uses, re-targeting. I’ll explore what retargeting is and explain how it can work for any type of business. 

What is programmatic advertising?

Traditionally, when marketers wanted to buy digital advertising they would create a request for proposal (RFP) and send that RFP to a publisher. A negotiation would follow, the number of impressions, the cost and the exact ad space would be agreed. A contract or insertion order (IO) would be drawn up, signed and three weeks later, the ad would appear on the website. 

Programmatic advertising typically refers to the use of software to purchase online advertising. It takes the whole process outlined above and cuts it down to a few milli-seconds. Advertisers use a platform to set the rules  – like how much they want to spend and what type of placements they want to buy – upload their adverts and away they go. 

What’s the benefit of programmatic advertising?

Essentially, programmatic advertising makes the whole process more efficient. Before we start looking at any of the other developments as a result of programmatic advertising, it compressed a three week (sometimes longer!) process into milli-seconds making buying online advertising cheaper and simpler. 

Advances in programmatic advertising have also allowed brands to think in terms of audience rather than publisher. This opened the door for much more targeted, personalised ads than had previously been possible – like retargeting.  

So what is retargeting? 

Before we talk about retargeting, it’s helpful to understand how users are using search to discover brands online. People go to search engines and type into the box exactly what they’re looking for. This is a very powerful tool known as intent data and is part of the reason why search advertising is so effective. You know a person is looking for “vintage Rabbitohs jersey”, they’ve told you in the search box and you serve them exactly that advert. 

If you apply that to data taken from a brand’s website, there is a treasure trove of intent data. This includes what products a potential customer looked at, how many products they looked at, if they bounced at the homepage or put things in their basket and then left? 

This valuable information can be tracked simply and easily using a re-targeting provider like AdRoll. A small piece of code is placed into a website’s universal footer so it can track behaviour on a brand’s website using a cookie. That cookie can then be found online later and served with a highly relevant advert based on what they looked at on your website. 

Hopefully, that’s helped make two key terms—programmatic and retargeting—clear. Next fortnight, I’ll explore how different brands are using re-targeting and how you can segment your audience to create personalised ads.  

If you want to jump ahead, feel free to listen to our recent Retargeting 101 Webinar

  • Ben Sharp is the managing director of AdRoll in Australia and New Zealand.  

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