In 1994, the very first banner ad appeared on the internet.

Thirty years later, there are billions of banner ad impressions served online every day. More than 70% of them are programmatic display ads.

Programmatic’ is a term describing the complex process of computerized, algorithmic ad buying that happens every minute of the day in the digital ecosystem. Not just display ads, but mobile ads, in-app ads, digital out-of-home, audio and CTV ads too. With so many digital ads being bought and sold worldwide, a smart automated system is the only way to make it possible. It’s not surprising then that programmatic advertising spend has been growing steadily the past few years, expected to reach over $500 billion in 2023.

Source – Statista

The reason programmatic advertising is growing at such a rapid pace is all the benefits it affords for the parties involved, on both the advertiser and publisher side.

Join us for a deep dive into the programmatic advertising ecosystem, how programmatic advertising works, the benefits, latest programmatic trends and more.

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    What is programmatic advertising? 

    Programmatic advertising is the automated process of buying and selling ad placements in the digital ecosystem. Programmatic media buying connects online publishers and advertisers in real-time auctions for ad space on websites, apps, and any other digital screen where ads are placed. 

    Unlike traditional media buying, which involves a lot of complex and time-consuming manual work, programmatic buying enables centralized, automated, algorithm-based bidding on multiple publishers sites, so advertisers can win the best ad impressions at the best possible price for their target audience and campaign goals. For publishers, programmatic advertising helps drive website and mobile monetization by filling ad inventory automatically and in real time with the most suitable ads, with far less effort. 

    How does programmatic advertising work? 

    Every day, many billions of ads are served on desktop, mobile and digital TV screens all over the world. Programmatic advertising automates the complex process of connecting thousands of advertisers and publishers in real-time auctions for available ad space, filling the space and serving ads instantly to the user – all in the blink of an eye, in real time.

    Programmatic advertising relies on several online systems that ‘talk’ to each other to make the media buying process happen. Let’s take a look at those systems and how they work together.

    • An advertiser is looking to purchase ad space to promote their product or brand, so they turn to a trade desk or programmatic ad agency. These programmatic advertising companies use a DSP (demand side platform), which automates the bidding and buying process on behalf of the advertiser. 
    • The DSP connects the programmatic agency to multiple publishers at once, bringing a wide range of options for where the ad might be placed. With the help of a DMP (data management platform), the DSP analyzes the audience data based on a range of parameters, such as geo, user behavior and demographics, to decide which ad placement to bid for, and at what price.
    • On the publisher side, there is the SSP (supply side platform). Via this platform, publishers can supply ad inventory for DSPs to bid on. When a user lands on a website, the website sends a request to the SSP, the SSP connects to the DSP, and an auction begins. The DSP bids on behalf of advertisers, using the DMP to decide which ads are best suited to the particular website visitor, and the ad placement is filled by the most suitable ad at the highest bid.

    This entire process happens automatically, in a few seconds, in the time it takes for the user’s website page to load. For both sides of the transaction, programmatic advertising takes the manual work out of digital media buying and selling, while making it more optimized and efficient. In a complicated and constantly dynamic marketplace, programmatic advertising is a win-win for publishers and advertisers alike.

    In App Advertising Ecosystem

    What are the 4 main types of programmatic advertising?

    There are several types of programmatic advertising that give publishers different functionalities and controls in offering their inventory to advertisers. Here are the 4 most common types used in the industry:

    1. Real-Time Bidding (RTB)

    Real-Time Bidding is a type of programmatic advertising in which advertisers compete for ad inventory in auctions conducted in real time. RTB operates with the CPM (cost per mille) model, meaning that advertisers set their bid and pay publishers for the ad space per 1000 impressions. 

    1. Private Marketplace (PMP)

    Private Marketplace, or PMP, is a type of programmatic advertising that takes place in a closed auction, in which exclusive advertising partners participate. It provides advertisers with access to unique ad inventory that is not available on open exchanges. PMP enables publishers to tailor their inventory and provide specialty offerings to advertisers, giving them the opportunity to build relationships with advertiser partners.

    1. Preferred Deals

    A Preferred Deal is a programmatic buying method in which the publisher and advertiser negotiate on a price at which the advertiser may buy the ad space. The media buyer gets preferential treatment, in that they are offered the opportunity to bid at the agreed upon price. However, the Preferred Deal is not guaranteed – the publisher does not need to hold the ad space at that price for the advertiser, and the advertiser is not obligated to bid for the space.

    1. Programmatic Guaranteed

    Programmatic Guaranteed, on the other hand, is when a publisher and advertiser negotiate the cost and terms of a particular ad inventory, and that inventory is reserved for the specific advertiser at the agreed-upon price.

    What are the programmatic advertising channels? (Programmatic ad formats)

    Programmatic advertising is used to buy and sell digital ad space for a wide range of formats and channels, from display ads, to in-app ads and even digital billboards. Here is a quick overview of the channels and ad formats that are available programmatically: 

    1. Display ads

    Display ads, or banner ads, are ads that appear on desktop and mobile websites. They typically appear at the top or sides of a web page. Programmatic display is one of the most common types of digital advertising, as it offers a fairly cheap and accessible way to reach large audiences. On the downside, CTR rates of display ads are typically low. With programmatic ads, advertisers can track, test and optimize display ads quickly and efficiently, to help improve ROAS.

    1. Video ads

    Programmatic video advertising is a popular method for buying and selling video ad space, particularly for apps, CTV and social media. Video is an effective advertising tool, generating higher engagement among audiences than simple display ads.

    For example, a user completes a level on a gaming app and is about to move to the next level. The app publisher provides an ad space here, during this transition between levels. Advertisers selling a product that is relevant to the user demographic can bid programmatically for this ad space and show a video ad that is likely to pique the user’s curiosity at this prime moment, when the user is enthused and engaged. 

    1. Social ads

    Almost 60% of the world’s population is on social media. Social programmatic advertising is a powerful tool to reach a vast potential audience in the most efficient and cost effective way. Advertisers can use DSPs to bid programmatically for ad space on social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, Reddit and more

    1. Native ads

    Native ads are designed to fit the form and feel of the web page they appear on, so they don’t immediately look like ads. For this reason, native ads are less disruptive than display ads or banner ads, and users tend to ‘see’ them more than other ad types. By partnering with a programmatic trade desk, advertisers can access native ad inventory programmatically, taking advantage of more advanced targeting options that native ad exchanges typically offer, such as contextual targeting.

    1. Audio ads

    The digital audio industry has enjoyed continued growth in recent years. Over 60% of people aged 12+ in the US have listened to a podcast. Music streaming continues to rise in popularity, jumping 25% in revenue between 2020 and 2021. Advertisers can bid programmatically for digital audio ad space on platforms such as podcasts, music streaming apps and digital radio

    1. Digital out-of-home (DOOH)

    Digital Out of Home advertising includes digital billboards and screens positioned in public spaces. DOOH is an important part of an omnichannel advertising campaign, as it enables brands to reach customers when they are out and about, and not on their phones or computers. With programmatic advertising for DOOH, advertisers can bid automatically for this important ad space at the most effective times and locations.

    1. In-app programmatic advertising

    In the US, people spend an average of 4.1 hours a day on mobile apps, making in-app advertising an attractive option for advertisers. Mobile programmatic advertising works the same way as programmatic advertising on the web, however in-app ads have unique formats and sizing to fit the smaller mobile screen. The main ad formats for in-app advertising include interstitial ads, banner ads, splash ads, rewarded ads, payable ads and rich media ads, and these can all be bought programmatically.

    What are the benefits of programmatic advertising?

    There are two sides to the ‘coin’ of programmatic advertising – advertisers and publishers – and it has advantages for both. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of programmatic advertising that explain why it has become so popular:


    Programmatic advertising connects advertisers to multiple publishers at once, so the potential audience reach across platforms is far larger. For publishers, the programmatic method makes their ad inventory available to an enormous pool of advertisers, increasing the competition for placements and boosting revenue. This is a good tactic for web and app monetization.

    Omnichannel targeting

    One of the biggest challenges for marketers today is generating audience awareness across several touchpoints, including desktop web, mobile web, apps, OOH, and CTV. Programmatic advertising enables advertisers to bid for optimal placements on all platforms in real time and build an effective multi-channel advertising strategy. 

    Automated tasks

    Automation takes most of the legwork out of the online advertising process, making it simpler and easier to manage. More importantly, by eliminating most of the rote tasks of ad bidding, buying and placement, programmatic advertising frees up advertisers to focus their resources on audience research and strategic optimization to get more from their campaigns. 

    Real time results and optimization

    Data transparency is a huge benefit of programmatic ads. By tracking campaign results in real time, advertisers are much better positioned to optimize ads effectively and get better results from their campaigns faster. Furthermore, the transparency afforded by programmatic platforms enable advertisers to assess publishers in real time based on ad performance and avoid low-quality and fraudulent placements. 

    Better ROI

    Automation, data-based insights, and enhanced optimization capability in real time all add up to higher return-on-investment for advertisers. Programmatic advertising enables advertisers to keep a finger on the pulse of multiple campaigns running on several platforms in one centralized operation, so they can make optimization decisions faster, and get better return on ad spend. 

    Improve ROI by following programmatic advertising best practices

    By keeping up with programmatic best practices and mastering the latest hacks and tools, advertisers can maximize their campaign potential and ROAS. Let’s take a look at the programmatic advertising best practices you should follow today:

    • Align your campaign goals to the programmatic channel and ad type

    All digital campaigns should be based on specific goals and KPIs, and this is no different for programmatic ads. To achieve the best possible performance, make sure to define and align the objective of your ad campaign to the particular programmatic channel and ad type.

    For example, the campaigns for programmatic display and in-app ads will have very different creatives and KPIs, even as they promote the same product or service. 

    • Segment your audience

    By grouping your audience into user segments based on their location, online behavior, interests, or marketing funnel stage (awareness, consideration, conversion), it will be easier to target them with programmatic ads that offer the right message at the right time. Explore your web and mobile audiences to understand them better, identify their pain points and segment them accordingly. Then you can use programmatic methods to target and optimize ad campaigns in real time to the best potential segments.

    • Use data to drive you

    With programmatic, advertisers have access to a broad set of real-time data across all campaigns and channels, to understand which ads are performing best and why. Advertisers should take full advantage of this information to make smart and accurate decisions about campaign targeting and optimization, to get better ROI for their ad spend.

    • Test and optimize

    Programmatic advertising is the ideal platform to test and optimize campaigns to drive better performance over time. Use the fast-moving pace of programmatic to your advantage by frequently A/B testing campaigns and optimizing in real time according to the results.  

    • Use an omnichannel approach

    Programmatic advertising works best with a multi-channel approach, targeting audiences on different channels at different times. By reaching out to audiences across multiple touchpoints and media, such as mobile web, video, apps, OOH, retargeting, and more, you can access a larger pool of data that can be used to test campaigns and scale them for the best results.

    Programmatic advertising trends for 2023

    The programmatic advertising ecosystem is developing exponentially, supporting scale and performance potential that was unheard of in the early days of RTB auctions. Let’s explore some of the programmatic advertising trends that have got the industry buzzing at the moment:

    • Contextual signals

    Digital advertising has traditionally relied on third-party cookies to identify and target suitable audiences. However with cookie depreciation on the horizon, this will soon no longer be an option. Programmatic advertising is trending towards contextual targeting of first-party data, in which audiences are grouped according to interests and shown relevant ads. Contextual signals, such as content topics, page categories and lookalike audiences, will be the future of programmatic targeting.

    • Omnichannel rises

    The shift towards an omnichannel programmatic advertising strategy is already happening, and will only accelerate in the future. Brands are operating in a highly competitive marketplace where grabbing consumer attention is tougher than ever before. On the other hand, there are many channels and devices where brands can reach audiences, such as desktop, mobile, OOH, social media and CTV. Programmatic will become even more sophisticated in integrating these platforms, enabling advertisers to better craft, promote and optimize campaigns across all channels, automatically and in real time.

    • AI programmatic advertising

    AI and machine learning are rapidly advancing, and will be increasingly adopted in programmatic advertising to support even better ad targeting and optimization. Predictive AI will enable advertisers to pinpoint high potential users with higher accuracy, and serve personalized ad experiences at a more granular level. Combined with the dynamic speed of programmatic advertising, advertisers will ramp up their performance at unprecedented precision and scale. 

    How to get started with programmatic advertising?

    There are numerous programmatic advertising examples and platforms for web, mobile, DOOH and CTV. Although similar, each has its own features, tools and processes. supports mobile programmatic advertising, with 500K integrated apps and vast global reach of mobile audiences. Here’s how to get started with programmatic advertising for mobile on the platform:

    Additional Sources