So What is Programmatic, Really?

So What is Programmatic, Really?

If you do a search on the definition of programmatic you will get a lot of different answers. If you ask someone in the digital space what programmatic is, you will get an even wider range of answers.

While programmatic adoption continues to grow at a steady pace, one thing holding back adoption is the lack of education about what programmatic actually is.

So what is programmatic, really?

In short, programmatic is the process of buying digital media in an automated fashion. For finance buffs, think of it as similar to the Bloomberg Terminal which allows traders to buy securities around the globe in real-time, except programmatic allows us to buy media.

Programmatic uses technology to improve marketing decisions across a broad ecosystem of channels, tactics, and data sets. This allows marketers to place the right ad, in front of the right person, on the right device, at the right time, maximizing efficiency and return on ad spend.

Another thing that holds back programmatic adoption is the confusion around the complexity of the offering. Prior to programmatic, digital marketing and buying were pretty silo’d. You would go to:

  • Mailchimp/Constant Contact/etc. for email

  • Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn to buy social ads

  • Outbrain/Tablooa to buy native ads

  • Bing and Google to buy search and display

  • Google AdWords for a slightly more robust offering of display, native, and video.

With programmatic, media buying is streamlined across many platforms, giving more flexibility to manage budgets, evaluate effectiveness and pivot strategy seamlessly.

Programmatic also opens digital media buyers to new and exciting channels such as Connected TV, Digital Audio, Digital Out-of-Home, in addition to the traditional display, native, and digital video channels. With email deliverability and open rates declining, the limitations of AdWords and constantly changing algorithms and regulations on social platforms, programmatic offers the most efficient way to reach consumers outside of search and social. It’s imperative that marketers begin considering, exploring and adopting programmatic to stay on top and ahead of the evolving digital landscape.

Further, programmatic gives you the ability to active 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party data while managing frequency of ads across all of these channels to ensure you are being as efficient as possible with your media buy. Your data is one of the most valuable assets your business has, and if you’re not leveraging it to its fullest potential through programmatic, you’re missing a huge opportunity to reach new prospects and existing customers. Check out a related article that talks about Demand Side Platforms and Supply Side Platforms which house programmatic marketing:

If you are ready to learn more about programmatic and explore adding it to your strategy, contact us today. We’d love to chat about your business and put together a plan for testing and implementing programmatic in a way that works for your budget and your goals.

Don’t have Programmatic in your 2024 Plan? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

Don’t have Programmatic in your 2024 Plan? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

Over the past five years I have had a lot of conversations with people about programmatic. I’m often surprised to learn that even many seasoned marketers have dismissed programmatic due to real or perceived obstacles. The reasoning for ignoring this incredibly effective opportunity generally fall into one of three buckets:


There is a common misconception about programmatic just being a new way to buy display ads. The reality? Programmatic is so much more than display.

Programmatic does give you access to display ads on desktop and mobile devices. However, it also gives you access to native, video, and emerging formats such as connected TV, digital audio, and digital out of home. By accessing these diverse channels, programmatic gives you access to virtually every internet connected consumer in the United States to run data-driven digital campaigns to.


Marketers that buy directly from platforms such as Google AdWords or Facebook Business Manager and run retention programs via email are missing out on a big opportunity. Email, Facebook, and Google are fantastic platforms, but also limiting in their own ways. For example:

  • Meta is a great way to reach a large audience with robust targeting data. However, Facebook only reaches about 65% of the connected audience in the United States. People spend 70%+ of their connected time outside of social media. Programmatic is the most efficient way to reach people when they are not on social media as well as reaching those who aren’t on social media period.

  • Google AdWords provides access to its search engine, YouTube video, and Gmail native ads. You also get access to a wider display, native, and video network. While this seems robust, it pales in comparison to what programmatic offers. Emerging formats such as connected TV, digital out of home, and digital audio aren’t offered in AdWords. Further, programmatic provides full control over placements, access to a massive 3rd party data marketplace, and omni-channel controls that maximize efficiency across all of the available channels.

  • Email is a fantastic tool and it is something that should be a part of every marketing mix. That said, deliverability continues to get harder and open rates for most marketers continues to slide. In short, it’s getting harder to get a share of voice within consumer inboxes. Email alone isn’t enough to run successful retention or acquisition campaigns.

While email, Google, and Facebook are great ways for small businesses to do digital on a budget, it’s not nearly robust enough for serious digital marketers.


Yes, programmatic can be expensive. Most DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) require minimum spend commitments well into the six figures per year. If you require their assistance to setup and manage your campaigns (which most companies will because programmatic is very complex), 50% or more of your spend could be going to fees. That is a difficult pill to swallow.

If you are an agency or a brand that would love to get into programmatic, but do not have the internal resources or budget to do so, Population Science can help. We specialize in helping small to medium-sized organizations get into programmatic with personalized strategies, flexible minimums and a commitment to making programmatic accessible.


With all of the tactics and channels available in the programmatic space, you can run up a very large media bill pretty easily. For those of you looking to dip your toe in the water, here are a few places I suggest getting started:

  • Retargeting: Everyone retargets. Most people use Google Display Network, AdRoll, or Criteo for this. These are great platforms, but they are very limited in leveraging your retargeting data for prospecting campaigns (at least in a transparent way). Programmatic has all of the retargeting capabilities of these platforms plus much more.

  • Prospecting: Take the learnings from your website visitors, even with a smaller data set, and reapply that to an omni-channel prospecting campaign. We can model people that convert on your site with other browsers to find people who are currently in-market for your product or service. We can even leverage 3rd party data sources to further hone in on your target audience.

  • Connected TV: Connected TV is a channel that every marketer should be in on. It combines the impact of TV advertising with the targeting and tracking capabilities of digital ads. More than 80% of internet users currently stream at least some of their video content and this number is rapidly growing.

Ready to explore programmatic for your 2024 marketing? We’re here to help.

Whether you’re an agency with clients who could benefit from programmatic strategy or a business looking to reach new prospects and reengage customers in exciting ways, we’d love to chat about your needs and put together a plan for success.

Contact us today and let’s talk!

Political Ad Bans: an Opportunity for Brands

Political Ad Bans: an Opportunity for Brands

If you feel like you are tired of politics, I have bad news… it’s about to be all you see and hear about on commercials and digital ads through November. According to every prediction I have seen, political ad spend will roar higher this cycle and you’ll have the hindrance of political ad bans across multiple prominent platforms.

For marketers, this presents a unique challenge as we compete for impressions across digital and traditional ad platforms. The increased spend from political advertisers will drive rates higher, eating into your return on ad spend for a large portion of 2023. 

One major opportunity for brands in 2023 is testing or increasing your presence on platforms that have banned political ads altogether. Spotify recently joined Twitter in banning political ads ahead of the 2023 election cycle. Google has updated their political advertising policy to not allow microtargeting for political ads. This will likely push prices for media on Google up this year, especially in highly contested states and congressional districts. If Google is a major part of your paid media strategy, it could be even more critical to find other opportunities to reach your target audience.

Twitter may not have the reach of Facebook or Instagram, but more than 1 in 5 American adults use the service. In addition, they have made significant investments in improving their mobile and direct response ad units.

Spotify inventory may not be the traditional clickable and trackable inventory digital marketers are used to, but their audio ads are highly impactful for driving audiences into the top of your funnel. In the past year, Spotify has moved beyond music to become a player in the booming podcasting space. Both Twitter and Spotify have robust user data segments that allow advertisers to place highly targeted ads.

If you have not tried Twitter (X) or Spotify, 2023 is the perfect time to explore these platforms — especially if your audiences reside in battleground states!

Connected TV, Contextual, Hyperlocal, & First-Party Data

Connected TV, Contextual, Hyperlocal, & First-Party Data

Today we highlight the Connected TV (CTV) channel along with the contextual, hyperlocal and first-party targeting tactics.


Connected TV (CTV) is video inventory that is streamed from an internet connection.

The connection is made via a streaming device like a Smart TV, gaming system, Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, etc.

You will see many people in the industry refer to CTV interchangeably with another acronym, OTT (Over The Top). The term “over the top” comes from the fact that the video content circumvents traditional video delivery bypassing satellite and cable distributors (or goes “over the top” of them, directly to the consumer via an internet connected device).

Currently, more than 80% of American consumers stream at least some of their TV content via CTV.



Contextual targeting allows advertisers to select keywords and topics that are relevant to the product or service they are marketing.

Contextual targeting can be done multiple ways programmatically. The most commonly used methods include:

  • Hand-picking domains (known as “whitelisting”) to serve ads on

  • Creating private marketplace partnerships with relevant publishers

  • Using 3rd party data providers that scan context for keywords and relevancy


Location targeting is exactly what it sounds like: it allows marketers to target people based upon location.

In the age of big data, machine learning, and AI, location targeting has a number of implementations that allow marketers to precisely target audiences based upon where they are and even where they have been.


This is the data that you collect directly from your customers and audiences that visit your website(s) and app(s).

First Party Data is generally stored in your CRM, DMPs, CDPs, and/or within pixels. It can include everything from name, address, email, phone number to device IDs, survey data, purchase history, and more.

The Intersecting Opportunity

TV advertising is incredibly powerful. There are few opportunities to get 15 or 30 seconds of undivided attention to pitch potential customers on a product or service.

Unfortunately TV advertising has been a dream for most marketers due to the high cost and inefficiency of targeting too wide of an area.


As more consumers stream television over their internet connection marketers can now place TV commercials programmatically. This allows advertisers to target using many of the same tactics you can use for other digital ad buys, including contextual and location targeting.

The implication for local and regional advertisers is enormous. Especially for brick and mortar advertisers. 

There are a number of studies that correlate proximity to consumer purchase behavior. Essentially, patronage decreases the further a customer lives from a place of business.

With CTV, advertisers can drop a pin on their location(s), analyze their first party data to see a heatmap of where their customers live, and target TV ads to streamers accordingly based on their location (i.e. likelihood that they will actually visit their place of business).

Additionally, advertisers can select contextually relevant content to place their ads around. For example, if you own a sporting goods store you can choose to advertise on relevant networks like ESPN and Fox Sports as well as sporting events when they appear on network channels.

When combining context, location, and first party data with a powerful marketing channel like Connected TV you can drastically decrease the cost of TV advertising.

By shrinking the geographic location where your ads are shown to target an area and audience that is highly likely to be interested in your product or service AND likely to visit your place of business you can create an affordable TV advertising campaign with a high return on ad spend for your business.


Rise of The Private Marketplace

Rise of The Private Marketplace

The dream of a fully open and accessible internet for digital advertisers has taken a lot of shots in the last few years. At this point, it’s safe to say the digital ad buying landscape will remain fragmented for the foreseeable future.

So how can we make the digital media buying experience as efficient as possible for today’s advertisers? In my opinion, it starts with taking a deep dive into private marketplaces (PMPs) that are accessed programmatically.

What is a Private Marketplace (PMP)?

A PMP is a deal that is negotiated with a publisher or exchange that provides access to specified inventory.

These deals are bought programmatically so you can leverage economies of scale across various PMPs as well as open exchange buys at the same time. This makes it easier to manage frequency, targeting, etc across a larger segment of your ad buy.

For experienced programmatic traders, a PMP is essentially a deeper relationship with a specific publisher or group of publishers.

Why should we leverage Private Marketplaces?

  • PMPs can come with access to a publishers’ first party data. Do you want to target 25-40 year olds streaming their television content? There is a solution for you.

  • Secure guaranteed ad placement. Do you want to ensure 80+% viewability? Want to do a full page takeover? There are solutions out there for that too.

  • Get really creative with the types of deals you put together with publishers. It also gives you the flexibility to work on incredibly niche deals. Are you looking to get in front of millennial gardeners and you know of blogs they typically flock to? Set up a PMP!

In an era when Facebook, YouTube, et al seem to be constantly moving the goal posts in terms of what audiences you can reach and how you can reach them, it’s good to know that there are opportunities to reach your audiences beyond the walled gardens.

If you are a brand that has squeezed all of the efficiency that you possibly can out of search and social, the next step for you is testing PMPs!

Contact Population Science today to learn more about how to leverage PMPs for your brand!