By Jeb Emami

You’re familiar with programmatic advertising and are ready to take the next step toward selecting the right partner to help you achieve your online marketing goals. Now what?

With several options available and many programmatic vendors providing similar pitches and promises of results, it’s important to know what to look for and what questions to ask. Here are some things to consider:

Pricing Models

Cost-per-thousand (CPM) continues to be the most common pricing model for digital display advertising; however, there are others to consider, each with their own merits. Cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-engagement (CPE), and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) are still very popular for marketers and require media partners to provide the digital impressions necessary to drive relevant traffic, engagement and even sales.

I understand that it can be easy to get fixated on price when negotiating rates. Sure, you can buy remnant inventory for a lower CPM, but it’s important to remember that you typically get what you pay for in terms of website quality and content for your ad placement.

Audience Targeting

If you’re like me, you’re probably curious as to where these programmatic vendors are pulling their audience data from. Are they working with third-party data providers like Acxiom and BlueKai or using first-party data that they collect on their own? It’s always good to do your homework beforehand to understand what mix of data sources a potential vendor uses. Doing so will give you valuable insight into how they plan to deliver on their promise of hitting the right person at the right time.

Ad Placements

Standard IAB ad units are the norm for most digital display buys, yet many publishers still offer large format or “rising star” ad units. Some programmatic partners even offer their own proprietary ad units. This gives them the freedom to integrate creative content with video and social sharing tools aimed at increasing engagement (for a premium CPM rate, of course).

You may also want to consider running video ads alongside your display campaign, if you’re not already doing so. According to a recent survey done by Animoto, four times as many consumers prefer watching a video about a product rather than reading about it. Utilizing a healthy mix of display and video solutions in your digital media campaigns can increase overall awareness, engagement and conversion.

There are many tools at your disposal and each works toward a different goal in a programmatic campaign. In addition to retargeting, which often garners much of the conversion credibility, ad placements like demographic, behavioral, contextual, look-alike, and search prospecting are also key to filling the top of the sales funnel with new site visitors. This in turn will feed your retargeting and search channels. See, the right mix can help drive volume AND results!

Inventory Access

Another important question to ask yourself is, how transparent is my prospective partner about the inventory they are buying on my behalf? Do they have safeguards in place to ensure that your brand isn’t inadvertently positioned alongside potentially offensive content? Just recently, Nordstrom appeared on Breitbart.com despite efforts to blacklist the site. This sort of issue occurs more than you might think and has many media buyers concerned about their programmatic partner’s ability to steer clear of sites that could potentially hurt their brand image.

Bot traffic is on the rise. According to a 2015 study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, advertisers spent an estimated $8 billion on impressions that were never seen by human eyes. Does your prospective programmatic partner offer viewability guarantees based on partnerships with tech companies like Double Verify and Integral Ad Science that specialize in analyzing the value of digital ad placements? Many such companies provide this protection as part of their service offering, while others may require you to pay a premium via a viewable cost-per-thousand (vCPM) rate.

It’s nice to have control over your ad placement. Working with your programmatic partner to access private marketplace exchanges will allow you to buy premium inventory on some of the most popular comScore rated sites. There may be extra fees in doing so, but you’ll likely find that it’s worth the investment when it comes to campaign performance and peace of mind.

Reporting & Optimization Capabilities

The real power of programmatic reporting comes from the use of tracking pixels to help mine important data from site visitors and customers. In particular, conversion tracking allows you to better leverage the data collected on your actual leads or customers and ensures better optimization overall. The right programmatic partner should be optimizing your campaign based on creative, dayparting, placement, conversion and site-level performance.

Many vendors also offer mid- and post-campaign audience insights reports that provide vital information on anyone engaging with your ads. Each programmatic partner offers different levels of demographic and psychographic data. Sometimes this service can be free (usually based on your ad spend) while other times it may come with a separate price tag. Either way, it’s important to have this information as you look to optimize future campaigns.

Running a successful programmatic media campaign involves a great deal of testing in order to get the results your company desires. Having a plan up front that identifies customer journey and clear path-to-purchase objectives will help you stay on target and ensure that you don’t miss any important steps needed to effectively measure campaign success. Above all, remember to stay nimble. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to hit the “pause” button on the campaign, make tweaks where needed and relaunch.

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