April 16, 2019

How to get the most from your programmatic advertising

Q&A with Global Senior Commercial Manager Stefan Zahariev (SZ) and Global Programmatic Ops Manager Elliott Donnelly (ED)


SZ: Be realistic! Demand side platforms (DSPs) tend to offer a full product suite with multiple features and targeting capabilities. Make sure you only use the ones that you need. By adding every available targeting segment or filter, you risk limiting your reach and missing out on some of the best-performing audiences. Don’t forget: the DSP algorithm should be doing the leg work for you!

Always start with a top/down approach. You should start by targeting as many publishers as possible so you can gain an understanding of what works the best for your brand. You can then move on to building those one-on-one partnerships by locking down Programmatic Guaranteed deals with the top performing partners. This allows you to leverage the publisher’s own targeting capabilities to give you unique segments – available to you and no one else.

A/B testing is a must. Programmatic is a highly dynamic industry that changes rapidly. What worked well today might not perform as well tomorrow. Allocate a small budget to run experiments and play around with new features, audiences and sizes. It’s important that you look at a separate strategy by device (mobile versus web). Travellers behave differently on their mobiles and desktop web browsers. Apply different targeting segments to each so you can tailor your format and message to travellers – whether they are at home or on the go.

ED: Identify your audience. Developing precise, granular targeting strategies is key to getting the most out of your campaigns. The rise in the number of devices used by travellers today means curating unique audiences on a variety of platforms is crucial to delivering on variables such as gender, geo, timeframes, education, devices, websites etc.

“Programmatic is a highly dynamic industry that changes rapidly. Something that did work well today might not perform as well tomorrow. ”


— Stefan Zahariev, Global Senior Commercial Manager

Messaging, creatives, and call-to-actions

SZ: Programmatic is all about automation and personalisation. Therefore, asset management should be the same. Aim to strike the right balance between a creative that can be served across hundreds of programmatic ad units, yet still be highly targeted at the same time. The programmatic industry is more about the ability to build a creative that can easily be adapted to meet the individual traveller needs (for a fraction of the creative investment), and less about developing an expensive creative to be shown to millions of people.

Quality is a must! Travellers want to be inspired, and programmatic is the easiest way to inspire millions of travellers at once. High-quality creatives drive more conversions, but you should also bear in mind the publisher serving your creative: check that your high-quality creatives are only served by premium publishers to ensure positive brand recognition.

ED:Context is everything. Whether you’re setting up a brand awareness or direct conversion-led campaign, correctly identifying, measuring and adapting your message to travellers, depending on the context in which they are seeing the ad, is essential. Creatives should be clearly branded so travellers can identify your brand at a glance.

Be clear. Your call to action (CTA) should provide enough clarity to travellers on the desired action or message (e.g. click here). A strong, branded creative with compelling imagery and minimal use of white space will promote this clarity and inspire the audience to engage.

Test and learn. Using multiple creatives across multiple platforms allows advertisers to use the most effective messages for any given campaign to optimise using existing A/B testing. These learnings can then be used strategically to help plan and deliver the next set of assets.

Timings and frequency

SZ: Do your research. As you start making one-on-one deals, make sure you gain a better understanding of the ads structure of your chosen media partner. Avoid those that offer a high number of ad units on their pages, and prefer premium partners who thinks user-first. A good partner will be able to offer an environment with a light and pleasant mix of content and ads that guarantees that your creative, when served at a moderate frequency, will be well-received.

Localise carefully. Consider seasonality, market and economic conditions as part of your frequency strategy: what works well in EMEA might not necessarily yield the same results in other regions.

Ask for feedback! The media owner is best-placed to help you come up with the right frequency formula. Technology is not there to limit your conversations, but to empower them. Start discussing best practices with your media partner, and ask about the trends they are seeing across different markets to deliver the golden formula for your ad frequency strategy. Finally, consider not just daily, but hourly frequency as well.

ED: Seize the moment. Programmatic advertising offers marketers the ability to capitalise on the moment – so timing is key when delivering programmatic campaigns. Publishers and advertisers can set a frequency cap to limit the number of times an ad is served to each unique user to maximise their return on investment, reduce wastage, and avoid 'banner blindness' (which occurs when adverts become ineffective due to over-exposure and lack of intent-based messaging)

“Programmatic advertising offers marketers the ability to capitalise on the moment – so timing is key when delivering programmatic campaigns.”


— Elliott Donnelly, Global Programmatic Ops Manager