Ad Ops Experts Debunk: 12 Common Myths In Programmatic

January 12, 2024
9 minutes

Programmatic advertising continues to quickly evolve and is being discovered by more marketers and brands that are looking to deliver precisely targeted and personalized ads at scale.

However, with the rise of programmatic, many misconceptions and myths have also emerged, often leading to misunderstandings or even doubts about adding this form of digital advertising to overall advertising strategies.

Over the years, we’ve talked with tens of thousands of people and we’ve heard and seen it all.

Ad Operations experts at Eskimi decided that it’s time to separate facts from fiction, debunk some of the most common myths surrounding programmatic campaigns, and provide actionable insights using years of experience in the industry.

Myth #1: Programmatic is about getting the lowest price

Justinas Velicka

Programmatic advertising is actually quite a sophisticated way of buying and selling online advertising. 

The technology behind it is really complex and impressive. It allows advertisers to target specific audiences, collect data, and measure results in real-time. With programmatic, advertisers can reach their unique goals.

Therefore, I think that programmatic is not about minimizing your CPMs. It is about being able to deliver relevant ads to your audience, leading to higher engagement and brand awareness.

Myth #2: In programmatic, you are not able to target accurately

Akvile Gustaite

This myth is false – I’d say that programmatic advertising is actually key to almost unlimited targeting possibilities

The essence of programmatic advertising is automated and data-driven technology which helps to purchase and place digital advertisements in real-time with high accuracy. 

As a result, programmatic lets you precisely target audiences using the information every user leaves behind them while browsing, such as demographics, location, interests, behaviors, telco operators, devices, operating systems, and more. 

The accuracy of programmatic targeting can be improved by incorporating first-party data, such as information about a company’s existing customers, and third-party data from sources, such as cookies and data management platforms (DMPs). 

By leveraging these data sources, programmatic advertising can deliver highly relevant and targeted ads to specific audience segments, making it a valuable tool for advertisers looking to reach their ideal customers. 

Myth #3: The narrower your target audience, the better

Shuvajeet Sen

When running programmatic campaigns, a narrower target audience doesn’t necessarily mean better results. This highly depends on the brand and its presence in the market. 

A narrow target audience may bring better results and ROI for brands that are market leaders and are already familiar with the audience's behavior. However, it’s important to understand that it will result in a narrower reach, too. 

In comparison, a narrow audience may not work for smaller brands as they will only be risking losing a lot of potential customers due to limited scale. 

While it is always a case-by-case decision, which depends a lot on the objective of the campaign and awareness about the brand in the market, it will always be appropriate to find the sweet spot between reach and precision.

Myth #4: Programmatic is only for brands with big budgets

Sotiria Bouri

Programmatic advertising is not only for brands with big budgets. In fact, it can be especially beneficial for smaller advertisers/brands as it enables them to target their audience more effectively and efficiently.

With programmatic advertising, small advertisers can reach their desired audience at a lower cost per impression, as they only pay for the impressions that are delivered to their target audience.

Programmatic ad tech offers a set of tools for targeting precision and optimization that can maximize the impact of a smaller budget. As a result, programmatic ads provide small advertisers/brands with an effective way to compete with larger brands without throwing money at advertising.

Myth #5: Programmatic lacks transparency

Malika Tuleubayeva

The myth that programmatic lacks transparency is not entirely false, yet everything in this industry is changing quickly. This too.

The level of transparency you get can highly depend on the programmatic partner you choose to work with. Some of them will give you basic stats, and others will come back to you with advanced reports where you can easily filter information, monitor your campaigns, and find everything that you need to know about their results.

Often, you can also get secure login credentials that enables you to view all account campaign details, creatives, and impressions whenever is convenient to you. Various integrations, like the one we have with Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio) via API, can provide you with a centralized, neatly organized dashboard with all the necessary data.

So, if in doubt, make sure your programmatic platform prides itself of providing maximum transparency and you get the best tools for smooth campaign execution at your disposal.

Myth #6: Programmatic is not brand-safe

Roberta Karpoviciute

In general, programmatic covers a huge variety of sites and apps that you can use for running ad campaigns. The internet is full of different types and qualities of content, and it’s not a secret that not all of it is safe for the brand image. Naturally, you don’t want your ads to appear in a harmful environment.

Harmful environments can be anything from negative news or events to general topics that are very different from your ads, their content, and messaging. For example, alcohol ads that appear alongside health or parenting content, or Festive season ads that you can see in the criminal's section on the news site.

Obviously, advertisers try to avoid such cases, and this is where programmatic might seem tricky – when the ad placement buying process is automated, you might feel that it’s not entirely safe.

However, various brand safety tools can help avoid such situations, including internal solutions that DSP and programmatic inventory providers can offer. It can be category blocking, e.g., excluding content related to IAB categories that are not a good match with your brand, keywords blocking to prevent showing ads near negative keywords, or human-curated whitelists/blacklists that can be provided or managed by the support team or media buyers internally. 

While the programmatic inventory itself is very wide, there are ways how it can be limited to find what is relevant to your brand. In addition, there are external tools that can provide the brand safety measuring or do the blocking for you, allowing advertisers to set the rules to define their brand-safe environment and monitor performance while slicing data through different angles (checking performance by media channel, publisher, placement, etc.).

Since the programmatic inventory is cost-effective and can help to reduce spending on advertising, it’s also a good opportunity for advertisers to invest in tools that will help to analyze the inventory quality and find a happy medium in terms of both costs and quality.

Myth #7: Programmatic doesn’t require human intervention

Ruta Zbciuke

In the realm of programmatic advertising, it is crucial to have a combination of both automation and human expertise. 

The automated aspect leverages historical data, pre-optimizations, and market insights to inform decisions, while the human aspect brings a deep understanding of market trends and client expectations. 

For example, a high-performing app like My Talking Tom may have great engagement, but it may not align with the client's expectations of being surrounded by well-known local brands. By blending the strengths of both automation and human intuition, programmatic advertising can be optimized for maximum success.

Myth #8: Programmatic inventory is low-quality

Asif Iqbal

Programmatic advertising gives us greater control and flexibility over inventory quality, and it highly depends on your own choices where your ads appear.

One of the advantages of programmatic advertising is that you can choose when and where to buy ad inventory. In addition, you can choose publishers that are relevant to your brand's target audience. 

Depending on your needs and goals, you can also control ad positions and show your ads above the fold, in full-screen, in headers, or in sidebars. You can also choose specific ad exchanges, devices, and ad placements.

Moreover, frequency capping allows you to determine how often an ad will be shown to your target audience. You can reach publishers through oRTB and use other types of programmatic advertising to ensure adequate ad inventory.

As you can see, possibilities are nearly endless, and it all depends on your campaign objectives and overall strategy.

Myth #9: Programmatic means buying leftover inventory

Simion Simiyu

This statement sounds incorrect as most clients tend to misunderstand programmatic as a marketing strategy. 

Programmatic allows clients to push different brand marketing strategies by effectively placing their ads on both premium and open RTB placements. 

Moreover, with programmatic, there's a large scope of targeting options that enables one to reach the right users and interactive formats that encourage users to engage more with ads.

The question is – why does programmatic feels like buying leftover inventory? 

Most clients want to run digital campaigns at the lowest cost possible, while in reality, the cost of digital media has been increasing over the past few years. Hence, with the lower bids, you'll automatically reach the low-quality inventory. 

Also, with the evolution of the digital landscape, it's now easier to place ads on local sites and apps. Let’s take the as an example. 

A few years ago, it would have been hard to place ads on this site since users who visit the site is high-class, and the site itself was considered premium. Now with open RTB, we can easily place ads on the same site at a lower price, even with an increase in digital consumption. Also, the site evolved, meaning that the audience is much broader now as it is easy to access these sites using smartphones.

Lastly, in-game ads is on an upward trajectory to change our digital landscape in the few coming years. Currently, we have so many online game users playing via smartphones and game consoles, but brands still haven't realized that some of them are missing an opportunity to reach a wide audience as part of their programmatic strategy.

Myth #10: Gaming apps are only played by children

Malika Kazhibekova

As someone who’s working in the advertising industry, I can surely say that the audience in gaming apps is very diverse in terms of age and gender. 

The variety of mobile games you can find online is huge, ranging from simple ones to really complicated, therefore, each of them is aimed at and played by different audiences. The image of a “playing teenage geek” is a pure stereotype in this case.

In fact, some of the latest research shows that the majority of people who play mobile games are between the ages of 25 and 34 and split between 46.1% women and 53.9% men. There’s even a small percentage of people over 60 who still play video games.

So when you’re about to deny the opportunity to advertise in some mobile racing game because you assume it’s only played by children, think twice – often, parents are very much involved in the fun, too. And even better – they are a paying audience that you might not want to lose.

Myth #11: In programmatic, creative formats are limited

Justina Rutkauskaite

I would like to debunk this myth regarding creatives' limitations in programmatic advertising.

Programmatic advertising actually supports one of the widest varieties of creative formats, including display ads, video ads (IBV, VAST), native ads, rewarded videos, and blended in-game ads. 

Display banners have different formats, such as static, GIF, HTML, and rich media banners. Rich media ads can be custom and templated ones, which opens many opportunities to combine creative format with the right targeting and reach your ideal customers. 

For example, you can use custom Rich Media banners with weather targeting to promote supplements like vitamin D and reach users in cold and cloudy places.

Creatives can be limited depending on the platform, but overall, programmatic advertising offers a wide range of creative formats that can be tailored to meet different advertisers’ needs and campaign goals.

Myth #12: Сreative size 320x50 is too small to read

Vladimir Popkov

Banner sizes play a big role in the effectiveness of an advertising campaign. Do not underestimate the small mobile sizes, as they are often considered “too small and unreadable.”

Actually, data in reports show that the Mobile Leaderboard (320x50) format can deliver exceptional results. This format is characterized by a high proportion of sticky placements, which enhances the visibility of your advertising campaign. 

The 320x50 banner takes up a large amount of the mobile inventory compared to other mobile sizes and can be placed both in browsers and in applications, making it an ideal choice for maximizing your advertising reach. 

Therefore, I strongly recommend paying more attention to different sizes of creatives and planning to use the Mobile Leaderboard format in 2023.

Ready to give programmatic a chance?

Rules exist to be broken, and programmatic myths have arisen to be debunked. 

Knowing what you can really do with programmatic advertising and leaving behind all doubts and misconceptions can be a game-changer for your advertising strategy. 

Or in other words – knowledge is power, so be smart about it and use it to your advantage to see programmatic advertising delivering you results that you expect.

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.
Share this article

Level Up Your Advertising with Eskimi

  • Reach 96% of Open Web
  • 2,500+ Targeting Options
  • 100% Managed or Self-Service
  • In-House Creative Studio Team
  • Display, Video, In-Game & CTV
  • #1 Rated DSP on G2

Create Your Next Ad Campaign With Us

Suggested reading