Programmatic media buying has garnered increased adoption recently within the advertising industry. This way of buying media adopts programmatic advertising technology which is a process where you don’t have to manually plan and buy your media in advance. Instead, programmatic advertising is a self-serve process where you can buy ads by bidding on certain keywords, targeting certain audiences, and more.

In this article, you will learn about programmatic media buying and the reasons why this should be part of your advertising strategy. So let’s start at the beginning.

What is Programmatic Media Buying?

Many advertising and marketing professionals now refer to programmatic media buying as ‘an approach to buying media through technology.’ This term can be misleading for some. A term that is more appropriate would be ‘an approach to media buying through technology.’ Programmatic buying involves making bids on a media mix that is based on user behavior and consumer preferences, which can vary depending on factors such as geographic location, demographics, online and offline behavior, app usage, and so on. The goal of programmatic buying is to automatically match buyers and sellers in real-time. The whole process of buying advertising space, from creation to delivery, is often referred to as “programmatic advertising.”

What is Real-time Bidding? And why is it relevant?

Real-time bidding (RTB) auctions are the best-known form of programmatic ad buying. As the name suggests, there’s no pre-canned selection of ads to buy. RTB is the buying and selling of ad impressions via real-time auctions. Advertisers and media buying agencies often utilize demand-side platforms to assist them with choosing which ad impressions to buy and how much to pay for them depending on a range of characteristics, such as the sites on which they appear and the historical behavior of the people loading them. With RTB advertisers or media buying agencies can pick and choose the ad impressions that they consider most important to them.

But, What is the difference between RTB and Programmatic Media Buying?

RTB bidding will still be the most important media buying method, especially for programmatic. That’s because RTB bidding is the one where the advertising receives the most focus, and it’s the most familiar to the majority of marketers. However, the difference between RTB and programmatic media buying is that RTB is a very manual process, where advertisers and media buyers take part in a bidding war to buy TV, radio or even online ads. The technology behind RTB was built specifically for digital media buying, but a lot of digital publishers only offer the same inventory that TV publishers have. Programmatic media buying is like running a job for a client, who’s bidding for their ads to be purchased.

The Benefits of Programmatic Media Buying

The implementation of digital ad-buying technology has led to greater transparency in the digital advertising ecosystem. Programmatic media buying is one of the biggest benefits to online advertisers because it provides them with greater transparency. A media buying campaign is no longer made opaque by mysterious buyers and bidding algorithms.

With programmatic media buying, advertisers have achieved overall improved campaign performance, due to more accurate buyer persona information and a greater understanding of where their customers are online, so they can target them in these places.

Programmatic media buying allows advertisers and agencies to analyze and adapt their campaigns in real-time, meaning they aren’t wasting advertising dollars in the wrong places. Advertisers and media buying agencies can ensure that they have less wasted ad impressions from campaigns being displayed to the wrong audience. Which is where contextual targeting has also been a huge benefit to programmatic media buying, with advertisers and media buying agencies controlling exactly what ad is being shown to customers and when.

According to Statistica, advertising spend in the US was $263.05 billion in 2020, and is set to increase to $276.06 billion in 2021. In this same time, the average consumer on the web has seen an almost ten percent increase in their data usage. These numbers are staggering. As a result, advertisers and media buying agencies are always seeking new ways to make digital advertising more efficient and effective, which is why many businesses have adopted programmatic media buying today.


With more and more brands starting to embrace programmatic advertising, it is becoming an increasingly popular and practical tactic for growing businesses. It is also gaining a reputation for generating increased returns for advertisers, so it’s no surprise that we’ve seen such a rise in the number of businesses taking it on. However, programmatic advertising can be misunderstood and has often been associated with opaque bidding processes and poor quality content, which is why many brands are still wary of doing it. With yearly advertising spend on the rise, it’s likely that these companies will learn more about programmatic media buying and build confidence in the concept, allowing them to use it more frequently in their advertising purchases.