Programmatic Advertising: A Guide to Digital Marketing

The digital advertising industry is constantly evolving. The major evolving is the people buy ads in the first place. Programmatic Advertising is the use of automated technology for media buying i.e. automatically buying and selling digital advertising space, as opposed to traditional methods of digital advertising.

The traditional method was manual and complicated process. But recent advancement, like programmatic advertising has improved automated way, buying and selling online ads. As per the survey at the end of 2021, 88% of the digital display marketing was done via programmatic marketing.

Programmatic advertising exists in a wide range of digital channels, including display, mobile, video and social. Traditional offline channels are well way to become digitalized too. We see channels advertise programmatically through digital screen on bus station, shopping malls and billboards. Previously programmatic campaigns has been served for the larger budgets but the rapid rise in the tools gives smaller brands increased access to the technology and offers them compete with the larger brands.

What is Programmatic Digital Advertising?

Understanding programmatic advertising can be fairly complicated. Let’s answer the question, “What is programmatic advertising?” by looking at the two key players: publishers and advertisers.


Publishers (e.g., websites & apps) use tools called ad exchanges (SSPs) to help monetize the space they’ve allocated for digital advertising. Advertisers then purchase this ad space to market their products or services.

When a consumer visits the publisher’s site or app, the SSP serves up personalized, relevant ads based on predetermined criteria from the advertiser. When they click on an ad, this action generates revenue for the publisher and drives new traffic to the advertiser’s website.


Advertisers (brands) purchase available advertising space on demand-side platforms (DSPs). DSPs are media platforms that businesses and agencies use to set up their ad campaigns. Once the advertising campaign and creative are uploaded to the DSP, the software searches its entire network of publishers for sites and mobile apps that best fit the advertiser’s criteria and makes a real-time bid for placement. This entire process occurs in real-time, using data insights and algorithms to serve curated ads to the right user at the right time and price point.

Programmatic advertising allows hospitals, addiction centers, or multi location practices to scale their advertising quickly and affordably by eliminating all manual work typical of direct buy advertising. While there is still plenty to consider (strategy, creative, media buying, ad placement, performance tracking, and campaign optimization), brands can create a single ad, sign up with a DSP, choose their target audience, and let the platform run their campaigns.

You can use this method to target audiences, using one or more of the following tactics:

  • Audience targeting (gender, income, age, interests, etc.)
  • Cross-device targeting (mobile, laptop, tablet)
  • Contextual targeting (relevant ads alongside related content)
  • Behavioural targeting (shopping habits, website interactions, product interests, etc.)
  • Geotargeting (location-based targeting)
  • Retargeting (e.g., relevant ads based on past website or landing page visits)

Direct Buying Versus Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising takes direct-buy advertising to the next level. Direct buying means businesses approach publishers (e.g., newspaper, a magazine, or a website owner) one at a time to request their media kit. Among other things, media kits include specifications on digital ad options (size, placement, pricing), so businesses can find one that best fits their budget.

Next, businesses submit a proposal to each publisher to negotiate terms for ad space, placement, and the number of ad impressions. Not only does this require a lot of back and forth between brands and their list of publishers, but it’s also costly and inefficient.

With programmatic advertising, advertisers can leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to automate their ad buying from thousands of publishers in real-time. This strategy also means advertisers can significantly expand their reach and optimize ads on the fly with automated reporting of real-time data.

Why Programmatic advertising is important for medical practices?

Initially healthcare companies relied heavily on traditional advertising to increase brand awareness and increase revenue. Offline tactics have still place in marketing mix today. Few key reasons why programmatic advertising should be a part of medical practices:

1. Increased ad efficiencies: Programmatic advertising streamlines manual processes (e.g., calling, negotiating, contracting, optimizing, and analysing) into a single platform, shortening campaign launch time and giving healthcare brands visibility on millions of quality sites. This expands audience diversity far beyond manual capabilities. Programmatic advertising also gives healthcare brands the ability to leverage unique data sets (first- and third-party) and collect better insights to leverage consumer behaviour. Programmatic marketplaces offer the ability for advertisers to layer on advanced data targeting to pinpoint the patients who are most ideal for the treatment they provide. For example, with programmatic advertising, you can add behavioural targeting to show your ad only to people who have searched for or interacted with content related to the conditions you treat.

2.Increased cost efficiencies: Real-time reporting and analytical on ad performance, help brands reduce their overall advertising cost.

3. More media buying transparency: Before programmatic advertising, brands had minimal insight into their campaigns.

4. Real-time audience targeting: Optimize, target, and engage with audiences wherever they are:

a. Location-based targeting (e.g. event targeting)

b. Contextual targeting (e.g., keywords, metadata)

c. Site retargeting (e.g., relevant ads based on search history)

d. CTV/OTT (Connected TV or “over the top”)

e. Cross-device targeting (e.g., desktop, mobile, connected TVs or other devices)

Programmatic advertising helps brands reach users across multiple devices with the ability to follow specific audience segments wherever they go.Together these help healthcare organizations:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Promote traffic to your website
  • Provide insight into your audience
  • Reach and target new audiences
  • Boost ROI and advertising metrics
  • Decrease overall ad spend
  • Increase ad visibility
  • Support paid search and other advertising efforts

Tips to get started with programmatic advertising:

Programmatic can sound very complex compared to most digital advertising, but like all other digital advertising, it requires a sound strategy before starting:

  • Select appropriate software partner: The most important first step is to sign up with software that allows you to buy them. Self-service software allows brand or agencies to buy them. Some agencies buy on behalf of clients. If you are interested in growing your business with programmatic advertising, consider partnering with and agency having industry specific experience and expertise.
  • Set your Goal: Once you have selected your software partner it’s time to do research, define your business goals and develop a strategy. For example, if your goal is to increase website traffic, you need to select less specific targeting parameters and develop broad messaging those appeals to larger audiences. One important note to keep in mind: The more targeting data you add, the more expensive reaching that audience will be. Also, build your targeting too narrow, and your audience may be smaller than you’d like.
  • Choose your ad format: One of the most interesting aspects of programmatic is that you can buy many ad types, including standard display ads, video ads and native ads. It’s important that you establish a clear objective for your ad as you make this determination. For example, if you’re trying to drive site traffic, video ads may not be the best ad format, as they are built to drive views not clicks. Your healthcare marketing agency or partner can recommend the best ad formats based on industry knowledge, current trends, available budget, and business goals.
  • Build your target: Build your audience from a range of criteria including age, gender, education, income, ethnicity, interests, etc.
  • Define targeting options: Use data and predefined goals to ensure your ads reach the higher audience. The most common targeting tactics are:
  • Behavioural targeting based on demographics, behavioural attributes, intent or other interests.
  • Custom site lists, list targeted websites or apps to optimize your target audience further.
  • Purchase first party data from other resources and target them directly.
  • Reengaged users who have previously visited on your site.
  • Target individuals within specific geographic. For an example target people who work in companies known to carry the types of insurance they accept.
  • Display ads based on website content.
  • Attract new audience using in stream ads on popular TV shows, U-tube videos or video games.
  • Measure your goals: Measuring your programmatic advertising is very crucial for ensuring you are reaching the right audience. What you have measured will largely depend on goals you have selected.
  • Optimize and improve your campaigns: Continually monitoring and optimizing your ad can mean the difference between earning revenue from your campaigns and losing ad spend on advertising that falls flat.


The advanced programmatic advertising alone offers an opportunity that only the most forward-thinking medical marketers should have adopted, yet it’s within reach of even a single-location practice. Of course, you have to get the fundamentals right first. Make sure you’ve maxed out your search engine advertising spend. But when you’re ready to really grow, it’s time to put together a plan for programmatic advertising. Partnering with a professional agency for your healthcare programmatic advertising will give you the speed and expertise your need to develop, monitor, analyse and optimize advertising campaigns that achieve your business goals.

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