When Not to Choose Programmatic Buying

Programmatic Buying
Tom Waterhouse

Programmatic offers true efficiency of media buys. It provides higher control, higher impact and higher returns for campaigns, which are all great. Yet, marketers still have questions about programmatic, i.e. do we choose programmatic buying with everything? When is it not right to use programmatic?

Plus, many marketers still fear that the inventory that they need is not going to be available or that the quality of inventory is going to be poor. Yet, programmatic is growing everywhere, and areas where it’s not available are steadily decreasing.

In fact, the amount of available inventory is constantly increasing. For example, over half of publishers now make premium video available via programmatic. Programmatic is now the fastest growing form of media buying. It’s even available on radio.

While it is rapidly growing, there are some instances where programmatic doesn’t make sense.


Custom, sponsorship opportunities must be achieved outside of programmatic. These are longer, larger advertising deals, and are typically secured via direct negotiations. They are one-on-one deals with publishers, allowing marketers to, for example, create packages that are outside of 128×90 leaderboard/skyscraper ad deals.

Typically, these deals are a combination of content native integrated app placement, custom sweepstakes, expandable banner unit and, custom exposure. Those types of heavy, deep form formats are fully suited to a non-programmatic way.

Rich Media Ad Units

IAB has been offering new, innovative expandable rich media ad units, called Rising Stars. Currently, these cannot be placed via programmatic so marketers must look outside of programmatic buying if they wish to use these ad units.

High-end Sites

This relates to the myth that programmatic only has access to lower quality inventory. This really isn’t true anymore. Therefore, if a marketer is thinking of buying an ad on the more prominent sites like The Huffington Post or The New York Times, they should check with their programmatic vendor to see if these types of deals are available via the regular exchanges or the private marketplace that the partner has hopefully developed.

Hybrid Opportunities

In addition, there’s also opportunity to identify and negotiate on a one-on-one basis with publishers for certain types of advertising or customized packages. Then, marketers can identify ways to automate the actual buying via programmatic.

For example, the marketer could go to Publisher A and cut a deal that includes various aspects of media buys or sponsorship opportunities. Then, certain types of processes and placements can actually be purchased via the programmatic forms, where the publisher can guarantee the marketer wins every single impression. This is a hybrid model, where marketers negotiate on a manual basis, but then place and optimize via the programmatic side. In contrast, programmatic direct only applies to automating direct ad buys for set campaigns.

Marketers shouldn’t always be looking to run their campaigns 100% via programmatic. Instead, they should be using a healthy mix of avenues to reach their potential customers. The goal is to bring brands in front of core audiences in the most effective ways.