Display Network Advertising Vs. Programmatic Advertising

April 14, 2023
6 minutes

There’s an increasing number of advertising terms being thrown around, and sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the differences. Let us help. The onslaught of bigger and better technologies means advertising is rapidly evolving. We pride ourselves on staying up-to-date at Eskimi, and want to keep you there with us.

Programmatic media is increasingly leading the charge in advertising strategies, and it’s important to differentiate it from other ad buying and sharing platforms. 

You’ll have heard of a Display Ad Network, for example. This article outlines its essential differences with programmatic advertising (PA), and aid you to weigh your best option in your next ad campaign. 

What is display network advertising?

Let’s start with display ad networks. It’s a direct ad distribution system connecting a large number of third-party websites that you can share your promotions over. It primarily shares display ads, the ads that appear on the borders of online pages. Think of the ad network as a middle man between publishers and advertisers.

Display ad networks can be a great solution to developing an audience. It can help intrigue customers in your brand or product before they have actually searched for it.

It is important to note that PA also carries display ads as one of its main formats - the difference is the system supporting the purchase and distribution. 

Popular display networks

Let’s consider some of the main display ad networks. You’ve heard of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. Because their platforms have some of the highest reach in the world, they’re all display ad networks themselves. The Google Display Network (GDN) is one of the most well-known, connecting over two million websites. Google allows a fine-tuning of your target audience through interest, domains, demographics and other criteria, and control of scheduling and placement. 

Many smaller display ad networks specialise in particular ad formats or targeting strategies, useful for generating specific campaign results. An advertiser might be tempted towards a network like Facebook or Google because of their usage, but this can be less cost-effective; the more people who use it, the more expensive it can be. 

What are programmatic media solutions?

We talk about PA a lot, but let’s recap its differences from traditional methods. The essentiality of ad buying is placement; no matter how great the ad, it won’t do much if it’s never seen by the audience it needs. Buying and selling ad space is therefore the forefront challenge in advertising. 

PA is an automated, computerised solution to the literal countless ad placement options. The traditional approach involves manual processes that drain time and resources, such as negotiation and requesting permissions.

This method allows for more effort dedicated to learning from and improving campaigns. Decreasing human error and increasing efficiency is something every business owner wants, which is why programmatic display advertising has grown over 565% in the last nine years.

How does it work?

When a user clicks on a website, ad exchanges are informed. Advertisers are entered into an auction through DSP if the user matches their target audience. Algorithms regulate the most cost-effective bid, determining which ad the user is best suited for. All this happens before the webpage even loads.

DSP (Demand-Side Platform) and SSP (Supply-Side Platform) are the two computerised platforms involved in the ad exchange. The former buys ad space from websites that match advertisers’ audiences, and the latter lets publishers sell their ad inventory. 

All of this is managed by a DMP (Data Management Platform), which collects all the first and third-party data of your campaign. DSPs will buy advertising space based on data collected from their DMP. At Eskimi, we have our own DSP, SSP, and DMP all working together, allowing advertisers access to high-quality traffic, premium placements, and rich media formats. 

Do I go for ad networks or programmatic display campaigns?

There’s many essential operative distinctions, but what are the tangible differences in success?


While display networks are huge, your advertising capacity is limited only to its collection of websites, and only the one ad exchange. With PA, you get inventory from multiple networks and over 20 ad exchanges. This sky-rockets your potential reach across more than websites, but also apps and video platforms. If you think your brand is better-served advertised elsewhere than websites, programmatic is the way to go. 

Targeting options

While some display networks have automated targeting, PA’s options are simply more extensive because of the more complex data delivered using real-time analysis and third-party agents.

Segmenting audience groups can reduce costs, it guarantees exposure to users taking a real interest in your product. You can choose from a plethora of targeting options; including geolocation, device, contextual, in-depth demographics, even time-scheduling. 

Efficiency and costs

Transactions for programmatic media buying are done in seconds. Automated, in real-time, it is far more cost-effective than display ad networks. Advertisers have more control over their spending, they can observe their campaign progress and can recalculate ROI and ROAS numbers, optimising ad spend for future campaigns.

Ad types

While many display networks support a range of ad-types, many don’t support rich media, a format quickly becoming most apparent in advertising formats. The over-saturation of advertising means users are increasingly immune to many traditional image-text banners prevalent in display networks. 

Programmatic supports all kinds of ad formats, unique  creatives that maximise CTR’s. Eskimi has a huge amount of rich media options, check out our gallery. You should get involved with as many as possible, including video, mobile, display, in-app, and CTV.


The extensiveness of PA data allows buyers to better understand the performance of the ad, giving them more confidence in their campaign choices. This allows for stronger relationships between buyers and sellers, with increased value in ad space and trust in advertising intention. 

Join the love for programmatic media

We love programmatic advertising. It’s what we do. There are core similarities, with their bidding-based nature and targeting strategies. A display network could be a good option if you’re new in town and haven’t developed much capital yet, but missing out on PA could be less cost-effective in the long run. It’s important to consider your individual goals.

PA is growing exponentially, eMarketer forecast it to reach 86.2% of all digital display advertising by 2020. Programmatic helps advertisers keep up with rapid changes in customer data and ad environments. With more creative control over ad placements and fine-tuned targeting options, it allows you to both stay in the game and excel in it. 

We’ve been operating Eskimi’s DSP platform since 2015; we connect over 50 ad networks, accessing websites and apps all over the world, across markets, on every device. 

If you’re intrigued by how PA works, check out our much more in-depth webinar.

Whatever you choose for your next media strategy, it’s crucial to have a solid concept with eye-catching content. We’ll guide you through building your campaign and each step of your programmatic display journey. Get in touch with our dedicated experts to bring you unparalleled results to your next campaign. 

Philip is the CMO of Eskimi. When he’s not busy growing the Eskimi brand, he spends his time with family and playing ping pong.
Philip is the CMO of Eskimi. When he’s not busy growing the Eskimi brand, he spends his time with family and playing ping pong.
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