When a brand begins using programmatic media-buying to replace or complement its endemic digital advertising, it sets itself up to better target its audience in three ways.

1. Discovering insights about customers

The performance of a programmatic campaign discovers insight about a brand's customers. The algorithms that control an ad's digital display show the segments that overlap to form a consumer persona. These personas can be different, additive, or more descriptive than a brand's existing profile.

2. Combining data about customers

Programmatic media buying allows a brand to combine its first-party data about consumers with third-party Big Data and a programmatic partner's proprietary data. The amount of data incorporated into a campaign is at the discretion of the brand, but any combination of these three data groups allows a brand to scale its targeting to hit look-alike consumers and new niche audiences.

3. Staying on top of changes in customer behavior

The machine learning of a programmatic media buying system allows a brand to constantly stay on top of changes in its customer audience. A top consumer for a cereal brand may skew towards families with children in elementary school one week and middle school the next, with 40-50-year-old females interested in weight loss popping in and out over time. Machine learning allows brands to keep hitting this moving target in real time.

Raise the Odds of Hitting Your Target

To lift the odds of hitting a target audience in these ways, you need experts, attribution, and transparency.


Marketing leaders attached to the brand and expert in its messages and strategies cannot also be experts in the execution of every strategy or the application of every tool. A programmatic partner can be the expert on behalf of the brand—pairing its firsthand knowledge in programmatic media-buying with knowledge it acquires about the brand. This occurs by going through a discovery process with brand experts in addition to learning about the brand's customers by analyzing campaign performance.


To measure performance adequately, a programmatic vendor and agency (or brand, if the relationship is direct) must be in agreement about attribution metrics.

Last-click attribution is a thing of the past. Each campaign is unique, but more and more view-through and complex attribution is being used to credit response through all channels.

By having pixels set up to trigger in three places—the ad, the click-through link, and the conversion page—a campaign is able to measure a consumer's response regardless of whether they click, browse, or search to arrive somewhere down the line. This attribution is a much more comprehensive way to measure success, and it allows programmatic experts to drive business value rather than clicks.

Attribution for a campaign is toughest when the goal of the campaign is brand awareness or brand lift rather than a direct response. Metrics for top-of-the-funnel campaigns like this often include impressions, views, clicks, and so on.

A more accurate way to measure brand lift could be to have your programmatic partner implement a poll of ad viewers to measure an actual percentage lift in recall after a user views an ad. Through different polling techniques, a brand can measure both the effectiveness of the vendor in finding and reaching an appropriate audience, and the effectiveness of the ad in influencing that audience. This puts real metrics to how well the overall campaign is working to lift an audience's awareness of a brand.


For brands that work with an agency to perform programmatic media-buying, the successful relationships between a brand, an agency, and a programmatic partner all have transparency at the root.

To be clear, "transparency" here refers to performance, not pricing.

A situation in which an advertiser asks a programmatic vendor for pricing transparency is like the recipient of a haircut asking the hairdresser how much the comb and scissors cost. Just as the skill of the hairdresser is the critical piece to the final product, with programmatic advertising, the program is the deliverable—not the media, or the data, or the creative. Those contribute to success, yes, but it is the program as a whole that achieves the end outcome.

Price transparency encourages the devaluation of programs. Advertisers pay for the entire package, and they should focus on determining whether the results of the package are worth the cost.

With that said, an agency (or brand) must be on the same page as its programmatic partner. Campaign results on all measured metrics should be clear. Constant communication keeps everyone on the same page regarding pacing, goals, and metrics. This causes a win-win-win scenario, where the programmatic partner delivers in full, the agency achieves brand lift on behalf of the client, and the brand hits the right audience and better gauges the moving target that is the consumer.

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image of Elise Musumano

Elise Musumano is a marketing specialist at ChoiceStream, a provider of real-time programmatic media buying solutions for brands and advertisers.

LinkedIn: Elise Musumano