Twenty years after its introduction, advertising via programmatic buying is now widely considered effective, efficient and reliable. In fact, with capabilities like real time data and insights, immediate placements and hyper-focused targeting, advertisers in the U.S. are expected to spend $84 billion on programmatic campaigns in 2019 alone.

Mindgruve’s media team is well versed in the tactic, using a self-serve trading platform to manage display, social, mobile, and video advertising. They sat down together to discuss the intricacies of programmatic buying and what they see on the horizon.

What is the biggest advantage to a self-service programmatic advertising platform?

Katie, media planner: Control. Being able to launch campaigns in two hours, which would normally take two days if we worked with a partner instead.

Julie, media planner: Transparency as well, tying campaigns into search and paid social. Any insights we’ve seen in the trading desk, we can connect to these efforts. It would be much more difficult to do that with direct buys.


What is the most common assumption or misperception about agency trading desks?

Kris, media supervisor: From a media perspective, the assumption is that we can only go through the DSP (demand-side platform) the agency works with, or that there is a limitation with leveraging only one trading desk.

Katie, media planner: If vendors or clients hear that we trade in-house, they might think that’s the only thing we do. In reality, we are media and platform agnostic—we buy what’s best to reach our clients’ audiences and, in some cases, that means going direct.

Caitlin, media planner: There’s also much more integration and consolidation these days, which people wouldn’t necessarily think.


What are some of the day-to-day challenges with self-serve programmatic buying?

Caitlin, media planner: Sometimes pacing is a challenge. Strict scaling parameters such as certain zip codes and/or ages can make it difficult to spend. Depending on the parameters put in place, it could result in an extremely small audience. This could be an issue whether we buy programmatically or via a direct partner though. We always want to achieve an ideal reach/frequency per audience in order to prove out results, so campaigns may need to run for a longer time, or we may need to open up bids or targeting parameters, where possible.

Ellen, media coordinator: The complexity of the DSP can be difficult at first. Fortunately, we have both a team of experts to pass on knowledge and outside assistance from our platform partner.

Katelynn, media planner: Once you’re familiar with our DSP, you quickly realize there are virtually endless possibilities of audiences to target and that can create challenges. With so many options, we perform a variety of tests to find the ideal audience that converts and responds with pinpoint accuracy.


What kind of person makes the best agency trader?

Julie, media planner: Anyone who can look at a campaign and see the big picture—where it’s performing well or the areas that need to be optimized. It’s all about the “why.”


How do mobile and video fit into programmatic buying?

Katie, media planner: We love executing video, but it depends on the client’s resources and strategy. Video typically increases awareness, so if it’s a heavy conversion campaign, we might deprioritize it.

Caitlin, media planner: Mobile is a must-have; we’ll target people on mobile and desktop unless otherwise specified by the client. Video represents a whole new dimension to a strategy. If the client chooses to go that direction, we accommodate within a single, cohesive plan.


Do you prefer to leverage PMPs (private marketplaces) or targeting segments on open auction?

Katelynn, media planner: Targeting segments offer more options to choose from, so it’s easier to layer on additional parameters. Whereas if you were to layer on parameters within a PMP, it would seriously limit your scale.


What split of retargeting vs prospecting do you typically propose? Is this monitored on an ongoing basis?

Kris, media supervisor: I don’t know if there is a standard split. I wouldn’t say it’s the same every time. It comes down to how conversion-focused the client is and how much heavier the targeting should sway as a result. All that said, both should be monitored. Prospecting often provides lift for other areas outside of display, such as direct traffic and branded paid search. For example, it could be the “warming” tactic going into a high season.

Katelynn, media planner: I think it just depends on the client’s goal. If a campaign is more direct response focused, you would maximize retargeting—people who have already shown interest and have engaged on the website.


With so much data available at your fingertips, what are the metrics that really matter for the success of a campaign?

Ellen, media coordinator: It depends on what the client’s KPIs are.

Kris, media supervisor: Agreed. Conversion rate is definitely huge. Click-through rate, too. If you can get a landing page visit rate, that’s even better. What I think is often overlooked is engagement. We have clients who run video and ultimately want click-through rates, but engagement is more important.


Do you see CTV (connected TV) playing a role in campaigns?

Katelynn, media planner: If a client has a bigger budget, definitely. CTV tends to be a little more expensive but is effective at building awareness and educating prospects.

Kris, media supervisor: It’s definitely an awareness play, and most clients are so focused on conversion that we have to sell through more. But in general, in the programmatic space, the way TV is bought will progress dramatically.

Julie, media planner: We’ve started to take on more brand awareness-focused clients that want to utilize CTV. As we expand our client roster and grow current accounts, I think it’ll start playing a major role in campaigns.


Do you see any gaps in client education surrounding programmatic advertising that need to be addressed?

Caitlin, media planner: Programmatic doesn’t mean we’re buying the entire site. We’re really buying the impression; the audience so to speak. That’s a common misconception.  

Katie, media planner: It’s easy to focus on what’s more cost efficient, but when you look at conversion paths overall, display plays a significant role in assisting conversions. We aim to clearly communicate to clients about integration and how a click is the result of multiple touchpoints.

There’s plenty more to learn and take advantage of when it comes to programmatic advertising, but the team at Mindgruve is excited for what’s to come. Media supervisor Kris summed it up nicely when she said, “In the near future, all marketers will opt for trading in lieu of a managed service. I’m eager to explore the possibilities of controlling advertising experiences across all platforms, including video, audio and display, as well as how personalized messaging is delivered.”