Today's marketers have a lot of questions about programmatic advertising: Where do I start? If I automate my bids, will I be sacrificing quality for "low rent" inventory? How much control will I have over where my ads appear?

As is often the case with any type of relatively new technology, people are still finding their sea legs. But using programmatic technology intelligently doesn't have to be complicated. A basic understanding of where automation most appropriately fits within a balanced digital marketing strategy will help advertisers make smart and successful programmatic choices.

Whether directed at financial trades, the purchase of airline tickets, and now media buying, automation is, at its essence, a tool for driving greater efficiencies at scale. When large numbers of buyers and sellers can come together without a lot of manual steps in between, valuable resources can be redirected to other important tasks that exclusively require human brainpower and talent—such as creative campaign development and execution.

Certain classes of transactions are still handled by stockbroker and travel agents, however, just as there will always be a place for direct media buys. The trick is knowing when programmatic technology is the best tool for the task at hand, and then wielding the tool with skill.

Here are a five key considerations to keep in mind to get the most value out of programmatic advertising.

1. Stay balanced

The idea that marketers have to choose between a programmatic or premium path is a false one. In fact, an advertising strategy that views programmatic and premium inventory as opposites is imbalanced—much like a barbell with a weight attached to only one end.

Many media packages do come together best when a buyer and seller sit down with each other and work out the right deal. But that doesn't mean that programmatic strategies can't also be used simultaneously to automate for better efficiencies and results overall.

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image of David Jacobs

David Jacobs is senior vice-president of publisher sales at AOL Networks, where he is responsible for its premium publisher platforms, including He also oversees the ADTECH division, which provides global cross-platform ad serving solutions for premium publishers, advertisers, and technology companies.