Where’s the Programming in Programmatic?

Why do we call it programmatic advertising when there’s no programming? I’ve always resisted this name based on that question. The term denotes premium digital advertising that is bought using inventory and audience-targeting technology platforms rather than paper insertion orders. Granted, the idea of programmatic is to add efficiency, and it excels at that. But I often wonder how we could make it live up to the name. Adding deeper real-time user intent and segmentation logic to deliver a marketing message would answer my question.

Programmatic advertising has delivered an unprecedented amount of control to marketers when they buy online media. Gone are the days that required agencies to call 20 different publishers and 14 ad networks and produce endless insertion orders and RFPs to execute a campaign. Today a marketer can talk to a handful of DSPs and premium buying portals to access all of the inventory and the users that she’s looking for.


Retargeting via cookies
Retargeting users via cookies is one of the most efficient uses of the programmatic infrastructure.

Run dates, volume controls, audience targets: all the levers can be controlled, in many cases, in a single system. That system can have access to a nearly infinite supply of inventory. The advent of Real-Time Bidding connected all the pipes in the online advertising world. Programmatic advertising is filling those pipes, bringing wonderful efficiencies to the media buying process.

How could we exploit programmatic advertising to take media buying to the next level? One thing that has been missing in programmatic is the ability run a program. Compare programmatic to a powerful computer, like the ones most of us have on our desks today. A lot of people, me included, use their computers to produce PowerPoint presentations, read email, and write blog posts. I make some fine PowerPoint presentations, I really do. Once I finish a presentation, however, it’s a static document.

Programmatic advertising is currently in this state. It’s a finished presentation without any live data. The moment the campaign goes live, it’s already missing the target.

What if I could incorporate rich, live data in that presentation so that my pie graphs and bar charts updated in real time? The presentation would never be out of date. Now imagine pushing live data into your programmatic campaigns. They’d always use the latest, most valuable user intent data. The targeting segments would update while your customers are browsing your site, clicking on an ad, using your mobile app or checking out at the counter of one of your stores.

Signal Fuse brings these capabilities and extends programmatic advertising by adding the latest user intentions to the formula in real-time. With this technology you can have greater control over your customer’s journey. Each interaction can be programmed to make sure the next step stays on the path.


First-party data
Combining first-party data into the programmatic environment can yield more accurate campaigns than simple retargeting.

It has always been fascinating to me that programmatic advertising was primarily about adding efficiency to the workflow. It always seemed to be missing some actual programming.

With Fuse, that programming comes to fruition. The input is the customer intent and your first-party data, the logic is the segmentation criteria, and the output is your marketing message. It doesn’t get any more elegant than that.

Request a demo of Signal Fuse.

Mark McEachran is Director of Products at Signal.

Originally published December 11, 2014

Mark McEachran

Mark McEachran was formerly Director of Products at Signal.

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