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  • Writer's pictureDani Stewart

Effective Programmatic Strategy Needs a Framework

by Dani Stewart

Programmatic activity can go live in a matter of hours or even minutes from sign off. The instantaneous nature of this can lead to rushed decisions and an inconsistent approach to programmatic strategy. Yes, the data may be reportable in hindsight and the campaigns adjustable, but not setting your campaigns up for success from the offset can be a huge hindrance going forwards.

Whether you’re new to programmatic or are just looking to take stock of your current activity, we believe there are four fundamental pillars to consider:

  1. Measurement

  2. Data

  3. Creative

  4. Activation

In this post, we will be exploring each of these in further detail and their impact on orchestrating an effective programmatic strategy.


It’s important to set very clear objectives and a measurement framework before running any activity. What are the business objectives you’re trying to achieve and how can your programmatic activity be held accountable for helping you get there?

  • Define campaign objectives

  • Select relevant KPIs which will allow you to fulfil your wider objectives

  • Measure your activity in relation to as many other channels as possible, ensuring reporting capability of your chosen KPI metrics

  • Continue to learn from your results, refining your approach and methodology over time to get you as close to your business goals as possible

When it comes to reporting, best practice is to use one central source of truth, this is typically your adserver. Using an adserver means one set of tags can be used to measure the conversions generated which allows for de-duplication across marketing channels and enhances reporting accuracy.

Remember that the default attribution setting across platforms largely remains the Last Touch model (100% of credit is given to the channel/activity that generated the last click before a user converted, if no click then this defaults to the last view). This method has its flaws but is currently cemented into a lot of tech. If you are looking for a more sophisticated model be sure to apply a thorough and clear naming convention across all tools to assist with any data manipulation.


Who are you looking to target and where can you access this data? Consider where these users are in the consumer journey and which data gives access to them (first, second or third party). Scale and cost also needs to be factored into these decisions.

First party data is becoming an increasingly valuable commodity thanks to recent privacy legislations. This is your data, including site data, CRM or media data which you are able to segment out; for example this might be based on the recency or frequency of particular actions. You have transparency on how this data is collected and can be confident in its levels of compliance when activating it.

Second party data is a rarer form of data, as it requires trusting relationships between the right types of advertisers and publishers. This approach gives an advertiser access to a publisher’s first party data. Smaller advertisers may find it difficult to establish these partnerships, but if accessible, second party can be very fruitful as an extension of your first party data.

Third party data is collected by an outside entity and made available for purchase publicly. This data approach was previously at the heart of many programmatic strategies; however, this has suffered as a result of GDPR. When utilising third party vendors, ensure you’re happy with their data collection compliancy and the quality control in how their segments are formed. We’d advise forming relationships with a handful of suppliers rather than blindly utilising data marketplaces within DSPs.

Beyond the data you are buying against, data also loops back to measurement in terms of reporting. Insights from present data activations should be used to identify growth drivers for ongoing optimisation and budget reallocation as well as feeding into the planning cycle of future activations.


It’s easy to get swept up in the possibilities of programmatic creative, the functionalities and array of formats. But it’s important to bear in mind your objectives and budget restrictions, especially considering there can be sizeable costs involved when factoring in the need for frequent creative refreshes.

Where possible, create multiple versions of your ads in terms of the sizes and the messaging. Additional creative sizes open up further inventory and alternative messaging allows for test and learn approaches to fine tune the content, also reducing creative fatigue.

Tailor your assets to the different stages of the consumer journey; are you trying to achieve awareness, or perhaps push this user over the line from consideration to purchase? Consider what you know about your customers, are they frequent or occasional buyers? To enhance the relevancy of the ads at any given moment, think about these factors and tailor the messaging, tone and formats at play. E.g. surfacing product information and price is more relevant to retargeting activity which is pushing towards the purchase phase, but reach is also important at this point (to get in front of the user) so standard banner types might be used for scale.

Many advertisers rely on dynamic creative to somewhat automate this process.


There is a lot to consider when it comes to activation as DSP functionality is extensive.

Most important is brand safety; define your approach and keep this consistent across all activity. A whitelisting approach is preferable to procure domains you are happy to appear on, rather than retrospectively removing those you aren’t happy with. Different DSPs will have differing built in brand safety functionality which should be utilised where possible.

Bringing on a third party verification vendor helps to bridge any gaps, ensuring consistency and external validation. Third party verification is of particular importance if you are outsourcing your activity to give an independent assessment of the data.

Plugging into DSPs gives access to a vast amount of supply, but the quality will not always be consistent. Be sure to select only relevant and high quality exchanges. It’s becoming common practice to only work with a small handful of exchanges to secure preferential routes to supply and enhance supply path optimisation. Also, consider if the open exchange or private deals are more relevant to your campaign type. The open exchange offers scale and competitive pricing whereas deals can unlock additional publisher data/access for a premium.

Based on the measurement infrastructure, the campaign should be continually analysed and optimised to enhance performance and the likelihood of achieving the KPIs. Most data is robust and reportable after 24 hours, insights should frequently be gained from reporting and funnelled back into the live activity.


With many changes facing ad tech, ensuring that your programmatic activity is as accountable as possible is more important than ever. Ultimately, everything loops back to measurement and being agile with budget reallocation. Static approaches do not work; you need to be open to fluidity for your programmatic campaigns to be a success. By taking the time to set your goals initially, the campaigns are kept on track throughout. Common approaches to a few of the fundamentals such as data and supply are developing with new regulation, so it’s important to stay abreast of these tactics and not let your strategy stagnate.

For an audit on your programmatic strategy, get in touch with us via our contact page.

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