Navigating Programmatic Advertising: A Guide for Local Businesses

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Display and Video

Sometimes advertising can feel like trying to hit a moving target in the dark. Constantly chasing elusive, fragmented audiences with shortening attention spans and no guarantee of hitting the mark.

Now imagine the same scenario, but with night vision goggles and an automatic aiming system. It would really simplify things wouldn’t it? This is essentially what programmatic advertising does for local businesses.

This A.I. machine learning driven approach lets advertisers buy ads and run marketing campaigns based on real consumer behavior, making ad campaigns more targeted and efficient.

Here, we’ll dissect its key components, mechanics, benefits and challenges; we’ll even gaze into the crystal ball to predict future trends.

Ready for the cherry on top? Here’s a step-by-step guide to kick off your successful campaign. Are you set to dive deep into programmatic advertising?

Table Of Contents:

Understanding Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising, to put it simply, is like the stock market of digital marketing. It’s an automated process where software buys and sells ad space in real time. This automation allows marketers to place ads more efficiently and effectively.

The roots of programmatic advertising can be traced back to Google AdWords’ launch in 2000. The concept has evolved over two decades into a complex system that drives most online advertising today.

Auction or Direct Buy?

In its simplest form, programmatic buying happens through auctions – also known as Real-Time Bidding (RTB). However, not all transactions are auction-based; some happen via direct deals between advertisers and publishers.

The advantage? You don’t need a crystal ball for your campaigns anymore. The data-driven nature of this approach gives you insights on who viewed your ads, how they interacted with them, when they saw them…you get the idea.

Data: The Fuel Of Programmatic Advertising

No discussion about programmatic advertising would be complete without mentioning data – it’s essentially the fuel that powers this engine.

Your campaign success largely depends on understanding customer behavior based on their past actions. How do we achieve this? Data management platforms (DMPs) come into play here by collecting vast amounts of user info from various sources which help in crafting precise targeting strategies.

The Role Of AI And Machine Learning

If programmatic advertising is like having a systematic way of getting consistent returns on the stock market, AI with machine tells us what to buy, and executes those purchases in real time. AI and machine learning are responsible for making decisions on the spot concerning which ads to purchase and where to put them in order to gain maximum efficiency. In other words, rather than buying stocks that we expect will increase in value, we’re buying consumer attention buy delivering targeted messaging to them at the very moment in which they demonstrate buying behavior.

The sophistication of this technology also lets advertisers optimize their campaigns in real time, resulting in improved ROI, making programmatic advertising an irresistible proposition for digital marketers.

Key Takeaway: 


Think of programmatic advertising as the stock market for digital ads – it’s an automated, data-driven process that buys and sells ad space in real time. This approach has roots dating back to Google AdWords’ launch in 2000 and now drives most online advertising. It’s not all auctions though; some deals are direct between advertisers and publishers.

Key Components of Programmatic Advertising

The digital marketing landscape has seen a dramatic shift with the advent of programmatic advertising. What exactly comprises it? Let’s get into the key components.

Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs)

DSPs let advertisers buy ads in an automated fashion. Think about this as your virtual media buyer that can purchase, serve and track ads across channels like mobile, desktop, video and more. Tools such as The Trade Desk are examples of DSPs.

Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs)

In contrast to DSPs, SSPs help publishers sell their ad space programmatically. It allows them to connect their inventory with multiple ad exchanges and DSPs directly – maximizing revenue potential for every impression they get. An example would be something like OpenX.

Ad Exchanges

This is where the transactions take place. Ad exchanges are technology platforms that facilitate buying and selling of media advertising inventory from multiple websites through ad networks. When an advertiser wants to market to a specific audience segment (for example, somebody in the market for a new Audi) they can gain access to these audiences through ad exchanges, using real-time bidding auctions.

  • Data Management Platform: An essential part but often overlooked component is Data Management Platform(DMP). They gather customer data from various sources which marketers use to segment audiences.
  • Creative Optimization: To stand out among millions of online advertisements today you need creative optimization tools in place – think eye-catching visuals paired with compelling copy.

We have barely scratched the surface here but these form the basic structure on which programmatic advertising stands.

The Mechanics of Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising, in essence, is like an auction. But instead of antique furniture or fine art, the item on offer is consumer engagement through ad space on websites, or through commercial spots delivered on streaming television. The whole process of bidding on inventory, to actually delivering the ads, happens within milliseconds – faster than a blink of an eye.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB), one part of programmatic buying, lets advertisers bid for each impression individually based on user data. It’s like having a personal assistant who understands your needs and the price you’re willing to pay.

  • Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) let marketers buy ad impressions from publishers across different websites and apps.
  • Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs) help publishers sell their available ad inventory to the highest bidder.
  • Data Management Platforms (DMPs) gather user information which can be used by DSPs for targeting ads more accurately towards potential customers.

This real-time decision-making about where and when your ads are shown can greatly improve efficiency while also saving costs.

Beyond RTB, there are also direct deals. These happen when advertisers bypass auctions entirely by agreeing upon prices with publishers beforehand. Think “Buy Now” option versus bidding war on eBay.

Last but not least we have Private Marketplaces. Imagine getting VIP access at an exclusive club – these invite-only marketplaces allow selected advertisers special privileges such as first-look or premium advertising inventory on highly valued websites before they hit open auctions. Think of it as an inside track to getting the best seats at a concert.

Advantages of Programmatic Advertising

Digital Marketing is a fast-moving and ever-evolving environment. It would be fair to say that programmatic advertising has revolutionized it, which is really not just hype; it comes with several concrete advantages. Advantages that have managed to leak into numerous forms of digital marketing over the last 20 years.

Better Targeting Capabilities

Programmatic platforms give marketers the ability to target audiences based on demographics, interests, and behavior patterns. This means you can get your message in front of your ideal customer profile at the right time, significantly decreasing customer acquisition costs. eMarketer’s study found that over 80% of U.S digital display ads were bought programmatically in 2023. Back to that Audi example: imagine if you were able to limit your marketing budget just to individuals who began researching a new car purchase, an hour ago? Or taking it a step further, and limiting your marketing budget just to those who began researching a new BMW or Tesla or Mercedes purchase?

Real-time Optimization

This form of advertising allows for real-time optimization thanks to instant analytics feedback. Marketers can tweak campaigns mid-flight to improve performance instead of waiting until after they’ve ended – no more shooting in the dark.


Companies of all sizes have to wrestle with the realities of limited budgets. Here, programmatic advertising provides more good news: due to its real-time-bidding, auction-based business model, programmatic buying typically results in cost savings because it eliminates intermediaries between advertisers and publishers.

Easier A/B Testing

Testing different approaches can be difficult or pricey, but A/B testing is made more effortless with programmatic technology. With traditional methods, this process could be cumbersome or expensive; however, programmatic makes A/B testing easier than making pancakes on Sunday morning. You simply set up two versions of an ad and let the system do its thing. New developments in marketing technology can take the concept of A/B testing even further, by automating the process in real time. SaaSQL’s Dynamic Cross Channel Marketing solutions automate this type of automation in a way that actively drives down customer acquisition costs.

Increased Efficiency

By automating the buying, placement, and optimization of media inventory via a bidding system, programmatic advertising increases operational efficiency. This automation frees up time for you to focus on more strategic tasks—like creating killer content.

Key Takeaway: 


Programmatic advertising is a real game-changer in digital marketing, offering better audience targeting, real-time optimization, cost savings, easier A/B testing and increased operational efficiency. It’s not just another buzzword – it delivers tangible results and can give your business the edge in a fast-paced market.

Challenges in Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising is not without its hurdles. Among these, transparency stands as a significant concern. It’s tough to track where your ads are being placed and who sees them because the process happens so quickly.

Another issue that raises eyebrows is ad fraud. Some reports suggest that nearly $42 billion was lost to digital ad fraud in 2023 alone. In each case, new technologies can help offset these limitations by providing advanced ad performance tracking which improves visibility and dramatically limits ad fraud.

Data Privacy and User Consent

The GDPR and other related regulations have put data security at the forefront of advertisers’ minds worldwide. You need to get user consent before collecting or processing personal data – which can be quite challenging with programmatic advertising due to its automated nature.

Lack of Control Over Ad Placements

You may want your ad on high-profile websites, but you don’t always get what you ask for with programmatic advertising. Sometimes, ads end up on irrelevant sites, diluting brand reputation and wasting resources. Here is where private marketplaces can be a huge value.

The Complexity of The Technology Used

Using sophisticated technologies such as RTB, DSPs and SSPs for advertising can be an incredibly complex undertaking. Getting a grasp on how these work can be daunting.

  • To make things more complicated, viewability issues have been of increased focus in recent years. A study found only 44% of all ads are viewable, according to Google’s Active View system.
  • And let’s not forget the issue of ad-blocking software. While only 27% of internet users in the US were using an ad blocker in 2022 as per a recent eMarketer study, it remains a hurdle to any form of digital marketing.

In conclusion, while programmatic advertising offers numerous benefits, it does come with its share of challenges that need addressing for you to make the most out of your digital marketing efforts.

Future Trends in Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising is ever-evolving, with new trends shaping its landscape. AI-driven automation, voice search advertising, and blockchain technology are a few key developments to watch out for. Most recently, the ability to buy streaming television inventory programmatically has created great opportunity to modernize video advertising.

AI-Driven Automation

AI-driven automation will become even more critical for programmatic ad buying in the near future, enabling enhanced targeting capabilities that can lead to cost savings and better decision making. It’s set to make targeting capabilities more precise and efficient.

This trend not only promises cost savings but also better results due to improved decision-making.

Voice Search Advertising

As smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home become commonplace, we’ll see an increase in voice search usage. Advertisers need to adjust their strategies accordingly.

A recent study shows that by 2024 about half of all online searches will be made through voice queries. So it’s high time advertisers started focusing on optimizing content for this emerging medium.

Blockchain Technology

The application of blockchain tech can bring much-needed transparency into the often opaque world of digital marketing.

This could revolutionize how ads are bought and sold by creating trust between parties involved – something marketers have been crying out for.

Innovation in programmatic advertising is constant, and it’s vital for marketers to keep abreast of these trends. Doing so will help them leverage opportunities and avoid potential pitfalls down the line.

How to Launch a Successful Programmatic Advertising Campaign

Kicking off a successful programmatic advertising campaign doesn’t have to feel like rocket science. Let’s start by setting clear objectives.

Setting Clear Objectives

Your goals guide your strategy. Want more leads? Greater brand awareness? Decide this first, then measure success with relevant KPIs.

Pick the Right Technology

Selecting the right tech is crucial for campaign efficiency. Research different platforms and pick one that aligns with your needs.

Create Compelling Creatives

You need captivating creatives to get attention in the crowded digital space. A/B testing can help you determine what resonates best with your audience.

Determine Your Target Audience

Defining who you want to reach will drive better results because it helps narrow down where and when ads are shown based on user data patterns.

Audience Segmentation: The Power Tool

  • User Behavior: Past interactions such as website visits or app downloads give valuable insights into potential interests.
  • Demographics: Age, gender, location – all these play an important role in tailoring messaging.
  • Interests & Habits: Leverage collected data about users’ hobbies or daily routines for precision targeting.

Data-Driven Decisions Rule

The magic sauce of programmatic advertising lies within its ability to use real-time analytics for decision-making. This AdExchanger article provides more insights into data-driven decision making in advertising.

Maintain Transparency and Respect Privacy

Your campaign should adhere to privacy laws, like GDPR or CCPA. Make sure you’re transparent about data collection methods and respect user preferences.

Monitoring Performance: Your Roadmap To Success

As the final step, you’ve got to keep tabs on your results. Monitor progress and observe the outcomes.

FAQs in Relation to Programmatic Advertising


What is programmatic advertising examples?

Programmatic ads are everywhere. You see them as banner ads on websites, sponsored posts in social media feeds, or personalized video ads on YouTube.

What is the difference between digital advertising and programmatic advertising?

Digital advertising covers all online ad types. Programmatic, however, refers to automated buying and selling of these digital ad spaces.

What are the 4 key ways that programmatic advertising is sold?

The four main methods include real-time bidding (RTB), private marketplaces (PMPs), preferred deals, and guaranteed buys or direct sales.

What are the 4 main components of programmatic?

The core parts: Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) for buyers; Supply Side Platforms (SSPs) for sellers; Ad Exchanges connecting both; Data Management Platforms collecting user data.


So, we’ve covered the nuts-and-bolts of programmatic advertising.

You now understand its components – demand-side platforms, supply-side platforms and ad exchanges. You get how it works with real-time bidding to direct deals and private marketplaces.

The advantages? Precision targeting, real-time optimization, cost savings. But remember the challenges: transparency issues, ad fraud risks and data privacy concerns.

We peeked into future trends too – AI automation, voice search ads and blockchain tech are all on their way!

Inspired by successful campaigns we discussed? Now you have a step-by-step guide to launch your own programmatic advertising crusade! Go ahead; hit that moving target every time!

J.W. Martin

About the Author

J.W. Martin is a marketing expert with 25 years experience developing marketing strategy for local businesses. He can be reached at

NOTE: While all articles are written by our team, to provide the most robust and useful reader experience,  SaaSQL uses A.I. / large language models to assist with various aspects of content development. This includes research, sourcing and other content improvements.  

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