Forget Bitcoin. There’s a more interesting currency at play that affects us both as individuals (based on our online behaviours), and as property sellers and real estate marketers. It’s called programmatic advertising – the process of buying ad inventory on the ‘open market’ or through an Ad Exchange.

To date, programmatic advertising has been restricted mainly to online media; however, we believe that in the near future, programmatic advertising (including programmatic direct and programmatic guaranteed) will be rolled out to include traditional media such as press ads, TV spots and out-of-home media.

This level of automation will have a profound effect on the efficiency of media companies and advertising agencies, and change the playing field for real estate agents and property marketing.

eMarketer, in its April 2017 report, predicted that spending on programmatic in the US will reach over $45 billion by 2019.

What is programmatic advertising?

Media buying has traditionally involved human-to-human transactions, with long lead times and planning. Then your ad was placed with a load of paperwork to execute.

Programmatic ad buying refers to the use of software employing complex algorithms to buy (mainly) digital advertising (such as native ads, display ads, banners and video). However, we’re seeing a crossover into traditional media such as TV spots.

Programmatic is generally described as the ability to reach the right audience with the right message at the right time. The ‘right time’ could occur at multiple points along the purchasing journey, and programmatic advertising, with its complex analytics, can capitalise on these to target exactly the people who really want your product or service.


The process for programmatic media buying includes using demand-side platforms (DSP), data management platforms (DMP) and supply-side platforms.

With programmatic advertising, campaigns for new developments and commercial property businesses can place the most relevant ad, in the most relevant context, in milliseconds.

What are Demand-Side Platforms (DSP) and Supply-Side Platforms (SSP)?

Both DSP and SSP are software platforms; the key difference is their target market.

A demand-side platform is for advertisers and marketers, to allow them to find the most cost-effective ad impressions and targeted audience for their brand. Buyers have direct access (through real-time bidding, or RTB) to multiple sources of inventory. DSP technology can give advertisers the value (clicks, time on site, etc.) of a single impression in real time based on the user’s browsing and buying history.

A supply-side platform exists to maximise ad impressions. They’re used by publishers to connect – through a single interface – their inventory to multiple ad exchanges, DSPs and ad networks. With SSP, publishers can manage their digital ad inventory and maximise their revenue.

Data management platforms (DMP) manage and analyse first-party data (such as the advertiser’s data gathered from its CRM, website cookie data and social data) and second-party data (used by a DSP and including social, POS, location and website cookie data). A DMP might also use third-party data; that is, data that is collected from a third party that doesn’t have a direct relationship with the advertiser’s customers.

RTB versus Programmatic Direct or Programmatic Guaranteed

Most property marketers would be familiar with RTB (real-time bidding). Until relatively recently, most marketers and media agencies equated RTB with ‘programmatic’. Both are, essentially, machines talking to machines via APIs (or connector interfaces).

Real-time bidding is a component of programmatic, and refers to the real-time auction that takes place between the DSP and an ad exchange.

Real-time bidding is generally used to move lower-quality inventory. It favours the buyer as far as cost is concerned. However, it buys inventory ‘blind’; that is, the advertiser will learn the site category on which their ads will appear, but not the exact site, the context or the quality.

With programmatic guaranteed or programmatic direct, the software enables media buyers, advertising agencies and advertisers to buy – in advance – guaranteed ad impressions from targeted publisher sites. They negotiate directly with the publisher to ensure appropriate cost, context and quality. So, the major value of programmatic direct and programmatic direct guaranteed is that an advertiser or media-buying agency can determine the quality of the inventory, and can buy packages or general inventory in advance for a set price for a defined number of guaranteed spots.

From having to intervene at multiple points in the process, media buyers can now negotiate positions, context, quality, ad impressions – but the execution is ‘programmatic’.

“With automation, media planners spend more time on strategy and less time on execution of ad campaigns.”

Advertisers can direct their ads so they’re delivering the right message to the right viewer (using complex behavioural targeting such as ‘look-alike’ targeting – finding viewers who ‘look like’ your ideal customer). That message is delivered at the optimum time in the purchasing journey on the best publisher for their needs.

And ad impressions are served immediately once an advertiser has bought them. Everything happens in milliseconds.

“Transactions occur in milliseconds and your ad is served to your customer immediately.”

Automating the execution has markedly improved efficiencies. Humans no longer need to spend time on processes that could be automated, and can spend more time on planning and customising real estate ad campaigns.

Real-time analytics allow advertisers to move and change their advertising rapidly. A human makes the decision but the changes are automated.

Ad Networks, Ad Exchanges and Private Marketplace

What’s the difference?

An Ad Network is an online, controlled marketplace for advertisers (buyers) and publishers (sellers) that aggregates publishers’ inventory, and segments it according to location, age, gender, and so on. Large ad networks include Google AdSense and BuySellAds.

An Ad Exchange is also an online platform but it’s powered by RTB and auctions each impression to the highest bidder. Examples of ad exchanges include DoubleClick (Google), Rubicon Project, Microsoft Media Network and AppNexus.

With ad exchanges, advertisers can manage budgets better, and track ads with greater ease.

A Private Marketplace is for high-calibre publishers, who use it to control the advertisers and creative on their sites without the need to deal with individual buyers.

How safe and effective are ad exchanges for your brand?

According to the Association of National Advertisers in the US, 78% of advertisers were either ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about brand safety issues in programmatic advertising. The major concern is that their ads could run in an environment not in alignment with their brand values.


RTB is unable to recognise, or determine the value of, different types of inventory. It ‘sees’ available inventory but doesn’t recognise if that inventory is from a quality site like The Australian or The New Yorker, or from an obscure site where no one will see your ad.

As well, RTB is unable to recognise context, which could lead to unfortunate ad placements; for example, an ad for cheap flights next to a news item about a plane crash.

P&G, the world’s largest advertiser, drastically reduced its digital advertising spend in 2017. The company has an ongoing program to combat online fraud, non-viewable inventory, bot traffic and lack of frequency capping across channels.

Fortunately, companies such as Integral Ad Science, comScore, or DoubleVerify can verify your ads to make sure they’re viewable, and viewed by humans, not bots. Verification agencies also insure that you haven’t bought fraudulent inventory.

Advertisers’ concerns regarding fraudulent content and inventory quality are pushing them from ad exchanges to programmatic direct guaranteed, rather than simply buying the cheapest inventory through open-market exchanges.

The value of a human media buyer for real estate marketing

At a brand and national campaign level, large real estate corporate brands and franchises can use programmatic in their brand-building activities to gain greater reach and more ‘bang for their buck’.

However, it’s not just about the cost. RTB, while cheaper, isn’t able to manage the fine-tuning (such as placement or dynamic creative optimisation) needed for specific property marketing campaigns.

The beauty of programmatic is that advertising is measurable, trackable and flexible. Using real-time tracking, we can recalibrate your campaign quickly so it’s more effective. And we can keep your viewers happy by capping retargeting.

For programmatic advertising buying companies, the automation frees up time in campaign execution. It gives media planners more time to analyse activity, and apply the agreed strategy to get better conversion rates for your real estate marketing campaign.

Automated advertising has transformed the industry but the real key is integrating online and offline data for best conversions.

And for that, you need a human.

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Mark Cairns, General Manager

Mark Cairns, General Manager

With a rare mix of marketing, sales and digital experience, Mark’s our resident ‘spearhead for innovation’. Having helped many brands to grow, Mark’s adept at spotting opportunities that will improve our clients marketing activities, and help them become the local market leader.

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