When I was starting out in the world of advertising, the first web banner ad had not long been created. Giving away my age a bit here… Fast forward 20 or so years and we can make sure we get the right ad to the right consumer on any screen and on any channel. That’s programmatic technology for you.

Like all technology, though, programmatic technology needs to be harnessed in the right way for advertisers to get maximum value from it.

We’re here to make the case for using programmatic technology to deliver valuable content rather than just your standard ad. We think programmatic technology could do wonders for your content marketing – but there aren’t too many brands who are using it from a content perspective right now.

With programmatic advertising expected to grow faster than all other digital mediums in 2017, it’s vital that marketers are getting as much bang for their buck as they can.

A very brief guide to programmatic

We’re not here to tell you in great detail how programmatic works – there are comprehensive guides out there that can do that. However, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t at least define what it is.

So, programmatic ad buying is to use technology to purchase digital advertising against desired target audience online in real time. The buying of the ad space is automatic – i.e. without human interference – which allows advertisers to show highly relevant ads for the audience, at the right time and in the right place.

There are two main types of programmatic advertising: Programmatic Direct (purchasing ad space in advance) and Real Time Bidding (purchasing ad space in real time).

Both have their place, but RTB programmatic advertising makes the best use of the technology available. The technology allows the process of buying and selling to happen really quickly – in less than a second as the page loads – without impacting users.

So, when a user clicks into a website, advertisers instantly have the opportunity to bid against others based on the profile of the consumer, with the winning bidder then immediately allocated that advertising space.

The benefits

Programmatic has many strings to its bow, but in the interests of keeping things nice and succinct, we’ll concentrate on the top four benefits of the technology.

1. Greater targeting

Programmatic offers the opportunity to reach a target consumer group in a much more sophisticated way, with advertisers able to provide appropriate content to the group wherever they happen to be browsing online.

2. Greater understanding of customer behaviour

Any brand that wants to be successful with its digital marketing needs to be able to get a grip on consumer behaviour and determine return on investment. Programmatic enables a host of insights to be drawn, including which inventory is performing, what types of consumer are responding to the content, and crucially, what times of day and types of content are proving popular.

3. Greater ability to be proactive

Programmatic encourages advertisers to spread inventory across a range of publishers, which emboldens brands to be agile and proactive to the needs of their customers. They can scale at speed, if needs be, and ensure campaigns are responsive to market conditions.

4. Greater transparency

Any marketing manager wants to clearly see where their money is being spent and how it is performing. Programmatic is very transparent in this sense, with money spent directly on inventory rather than administration or logistics. It’s also patently obvious which avenues are providing good value for money and which are found wanting.

Bringing it back to content

Typically, brands will use programmatic to push advertising creative. However, our argument is: why not use it to push an amazing piece of content?

According to Econsultancy, 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. Imagine how effective it could be, then, to use advertising space to highlight an amazing piece of review content.

Say you’re a UK watch brand – you could promote a piece of content like ‘Best Men’s Watches Under £200’, which just happens to list one or two of your brand’s watches. We reckon you would see a greater return on your investment promoting valuable, brand-relevant content than you would by just delivering a display banner.

The beauty of programmatic is that you can get some specific insights into what it is your target audience is looking for and use them to deliver a rich content experience. It’s an opportunity that’s too good to turn down.

Now, if only there was someone who could create some high-quality content for you…