What You Need to Know About Programmatic Advertising

In the past, real-life human beings were solely responsible for buying and placing ads on media platforms. If that sounds incredibly inefficient to you, it’s because it was. Humans are prone to mistakes, forget things, call in sick, show up hungover, etc. Compared to machines, humans are slow and a lot less capable of handling ad buys at scale.

To make up for our shortcomings, advertisers have increasingly turned to programmatic advertising technologies to facilitate the process of buying and placing ads. By 2023, U.S. advertisers will dedicate more than 91 percent of their total digital display spending to programmatic ad buys, according to eMarketer.

U.S. programmatic digital display advertising spending

(in billions and % of total digital display ad spending)


With the ability to scale and automate complex tasks, programmatic technologies are already a dominant force in digital marketing. And, programmatic will only become more valuable as agencies and tech companies introduce ways to make the process even more efficient. To make sure your brand can take full advantage of the opportunity, here’s an introduction to programmatic advertising and what it can do for you.

What exactly does programmatic advertising mean?

Programmatic advertising is the practice of using technology to automate the buying and selling of ad impressions on media platforms. These impressions could be for digital display banners, native advertising, online video ads and a myriad of other ad types.

What is the primary function of programmatic technology?

In terms of the ad buying process, the main function of programmatic technology is to automate the bidding process of auctions that occur in real time when users visit webpages and websites serve ads. These real-time auctions allow advertisers to buy ad impressions and publishers to sell advertising space at scale.

How does programmatic technology automate bidding?

In a programmatic setting, publishers serve ads dynamically based on the individual user visiting a webpage or app, thereby limiting impression waste by focusing on the right users in the right place at the right time. To do this, publishers use real-time auctions to determine which ad shows each time a user visits one of their webpages or app screens.

For example, let’s say you visit a webpage. When you click on the URL, the browser sends information about you (e.g., demographic information and online behaviors) and the webpage (e.g., main page topics) to a series of platforms that handle the buying and selling of ad impressions.

Upon receiving the information, these platforms initiate an auction to determine what ads you’ll see on the page. The auction’s buyers are brand advertisers and their media/tech partners who set targeting criteria to determine how much they’re willing to pay to get their ad in front of specific audiences.

Using a process called “real-time bidding,” these platforms can handle this auction – along with billions of others each day – in the milliseconds between the time you land on the page and when all the content loads.

Why is programmatic ad buying a good thing for advertisers?

The biggest reason is what we just alluded to – programmatic ad buying allows advertisers to target ads based on specific consumers rather than having to buy set inventory directly from publishers. This type of ad buying allows your brand to focus more on who you’re serving the ad to, than where the ad displays.

Programmatic ad buying allows brands to focus on who they’re servings ads to, rather than where they’re serving the ad. Share on X

Another benefit to advertisers who partner with a programmatic agency like Mindstream Media Group? We have certified programmatic traders working in tandem with platform AI to monitor and optimize campaigns, combining human strategy and ad technology to achieve the most efficient results.

Who are the major players in programmatic advertising?

Remember how we mentioned there are a series of platforms that handle the buying and selling of ad impressions? Well, that series includes a fairly intricate roster of platforms and vendors to make sure the right ads from the right brands get in front of the most relevant consumers. To give you a closer look at the logistics of programmatic advertising, here’s a brief overview of the major players:


The companies that are looking to reach target audiences with their advertising messages.

Media agencies

The vendor partners that connect brands with programmatic platforms and develop campaign strategies.

Demand-side platforms (DSPs)

The platforms that help advertisers and agencies analyze available inventory and adjust bidding strategies in real-time.

Ad exchanges

The platforms that handle the buying and selling of programmatic ads (i.e., where the real-time auctions take place).

Supply-side platforms (SSPs)

These platforms help publishers identify audience segments, manage price points and facilitate sales across ad exchanges.


The companies that sell ad impressions on the websites, platforms and apps they own.


The people who view the ads on publishers’ websites and apps.


If your brand is already leveraging programmatic advertising, check out this blog on how to make sure you’re getting the most out of your campaigns. If you haven’t started running programmatic campaigns yet, contact Mindstream Media Group to learn how our innovative display solution can help fast-forward your business.

Editor’s note:  This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

Meet the Mindstreamer – Bradi Slovak

In addition to managing the programmatic team in the Dallas office, Mindstream Supervisor, Programmatic Operations, Bradi Slovak is also responsible for running and optimizing display, pre-roll video, CTV and digital PR Out of Home campaigns for a number of clients. With the explosive growth of programmatic advertising in recent years, Bradi had no idea this is what she would be doing when she selected Advertising as a major in college 10 years ago. But the constant evolution of digital marketing is exactly what excites Bradi about her job. She says, “The Programmatic World changes so often, there is always something new to learn, a new vendor to meet with, new ways to reach audiences, etc.”

Bradi enjoys putting together full-funnel programmatic media strategies and works to drive maximum efficiency, spending media dollars at the right time with the least amount of waste. Her efforts have earned her a nomination for the 2021 Alliance of Women in Media Dallas Award of Excellence. AWM has been providing educational, networking and professional development support and growth opportunities for over three decades. Each year the group holds an awards gala to recognize outstanding individuals in the field. In fact, two other Mindstreamers have been nominated this year as well, Chandler Swanner (Agency Rising Star) and Shelby Clement (Local Planner). Winners will be announced in October.

When she’s not busy executing and optimizing campaigns across the variety of DSPs Mindstream leverages for programmatic campaigns, Bradi enjoys spending time with family and friends, spending time with her puppy Becki and traveling. She also loves to gamble and has been to Las Vegas over 20 times. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

An enormous part of what makes Mindstream Media Group successful is the collective talent and collaboration of its employees across the country. While we as an agency love to share stories about client successes, industry news and product updates on our MMG Blog, we also want to feature the actual people behind the work we are doing to grow client business.

Our recent video series, Fast-Forward the Conversation, discusses the HOW behind supporting client growth through media strategy, with topics like shopper marketing, franchise work, QSR challenges, agency partnerships and more.

 We’re also now featuring a Mindstreamer (as we like to call ourselves) periodically to share their stories and celebrate the diverse people, backgrounds, interests and qualities that make us unique.

What You Need to Know About Native Advertising

Let’s talk about a massive advertising opportunity that has been flying under the radar for a lot of advertisers. It’s not that advertisers have ignored this opportunity, it’s more that they don’t really understand it. The opportunity we’re talking about is native advertising – a misunderstood format with serious potential for brands.

In 2021, U.S. advertisers will spend over $57 billion on native ads, which represents almost two-thirds of all digital display spending. In other words, it’s a pretty big deal. Still, even in the marketing and advertising worlds, not everyone is 100 percent sure what native advertising even means or what types of ads fall under its umbrella.

Some of that uncertainty lies in the nomenclature. When someone says “TV commercial” or “paid search ad” it’s fairly simple to figure out what they mean. But “native advertising” isn’t as intuitive. So, let’s take some time to peel back the layers of this [native advertising] onion and help marketers like you understand how to incorporate native advertising into your Q4 2021 and 2022 media strategy.

What is native advertising?

Let’s start with a softball question: what is native advertising? Here’s a simple definition from our friends at eMarketer:

“Digital display ads that follow the form, feel and function of the content of the media on which they appear, be it a webpage or an app.”

The key to native advertising is its non-disruptive nature. Ads don’t really look like ads; they integrate so smoothly with the page content and design they feel natural or “native.”

What do native ads look like?

Native ads come in several formats and on a variety of channels and platforms. Here’s a look at some of the more popular native ad formats.

In-feed ads

In-feed ads are paid social media posts that display in users’ feeds along with organic posts, usually with the denotation “Promoted” near the top of the post.

Native advertising - In-feed ads

Sponsored content

Sponsored content includes ads for online articles, blog posts and other content pieces that show up in the sponsored content section on publisher sites (typically below an article from that publisher).

Native advertising - Sponsored content

In-app reward videos

In-app reward videos appear in mobile apps and reward users for watching (e.g., Pandora videos that offer extended periods of uninterrupted listening after users watch them).

In app reward videos

How can I use native ads in my digital media strategy?

For creative advertisers, native ads offer plenty of opportunities to drive results throughout the consumer buying journey. The key is focusing on your target audiences’ needs, demonstrating how you provide value to those audiences and building purposeful campaigns. After you lock in those three components, it’s a lot easier to decide which formats to use.

Focusing on your target audience

Before you start building your campaign, make sure you have a clear idea of the types of consumers you’re trying to reach. Conduct in-depth research into your target audience to figure out their needs and wants, what media channels they frequent and how they prefer to interact with brands.

Demonstrating your value

Once you understand your audiences, identify how your products and services address their needs. Your ad messaging should center on that value proposition in a way that resonates with specific consumers.

Building campaigns with a purpose

Ask yourself “what specific results do I want native advertising campaigns to drive for my brand?” Make sure your team understands what you’re trying to accomplish and the metrics you plan to measure success against.

What does the future have in store for native advertising?

2021 is already a huge year for native advertising. Despite slower growth in 2020 due to the pandemic, native ad spending grew by over two billion dollars in 2020 and has increased by over 22 billion since 2018.

U.S. native digital display ad spending


Mobile channels, programmatic platforms and social networks are the main drivers behind this increase. And, since there’s a lot of overlap between the channels, there are plenty of opportunities to run campaigns that incorporate all three.

Native ad formats like video and sponsored articles are becoming more popular as well, which has taken a chunk out of social media’s share of the ad spend. But social ads will still account for around three-quarters of native ad spend in the foreseeable future.

Percentage of native ad spending


There’s also a lot of growth happening in native advertising. Ad tech companies are building out the infrastructure necessary to handle large-scale programmatic native advertising campaigns that have:

  • The ability to test multiple creative messages
  • More sophisticated audience targeting
  • Better tracking and measuring capabilities

For brands, this means the already warm waters of native advertising should heat up even more with increased engagement and higher conversions. If your brand is interested in diving in, contact Mindstream Media Group to learn how our native advertising solutions can help Fast-Forward Your Business.

Editor’s note:  This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

Mindstream Media Group Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Dillard’s

On September 11, Mindstream Media Group celebrates a 20-year business relationship with Dillard’s. We are proud to have maintained such a lengthy partnership with the national department store chain, as it confirms the value provided to the brand through innovative and impactful advertising and media strategy. We are looking to the future and are excited to continue bringing integrated, multichannel solutions with positive business results to the Dillard’s brand.

Dillard’s Inc. was founded by William T. Dillard in 1938 in Nashville, Arkansas and is now headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dillard’s Inc. department store chain now ranks among the nation’s largest fashion retailers, with 250 locations and 32 clearance centers spanning 29 states and operates online at dillards.com.

Dillard’s “focuses on delivering style, quality and value to its customers by offering premium fashion apparel, beauty and home collections from both national and exclusive brand sources. Dillard’s complements this curated merchandise assortment with exceptional, client-focused customer care.”

When Dillard’s joined the agency client roster in 2001 (formerly as Southwest Media Group), it grew the size of the agency business by almost 50 percent. It also was the first of many retail clients to follow. Now, 20 years later, the partnership continues to grow and evolve along with the rapidly changing media landscape.

Celebrating 20 Years


About Mindstream Media Group

Mindstream Media Group is a national, full-solution media agency comprised of bold, strategic advisors who exist to Fast-Forward Your Business. We understand the need for urgency at all times, operating at an energetic pace to deliver meaningful progress on well-defined goals. With a full range of digital and traditional capabilities, Mindstream Media Group works with national and multi-location brands to scale momentum and growth.