How to Get the Most Out of Programmatic Display Campaigns (and Make Sure You’re Not Throwing Money Down the Drain)

Recently, we covered how programmatic advertising campaigns have become a force in digital media. But, if you want programmatic display to be a force for your business, you need to optimize your campaigns to drive the results that matter most to your brand.

To make sure your brand isn’t pouring money down the drain, we outlined 17 questions you should ask your programmatic display agency right away to make sure your campaigns are set up for success. The questions are split into four categories to help you identify any areas that should give you a particular cause for concern. If you see a lot of red flags along the way, it may be time to take a deeper dive into your programmatic campaigns.

If you want to avoid the hassle of doing the audit yourself, contact Mindstream Media Group today to talk to one of our paid media experts about your programmatic display campaigns. 

Programmatic display agency qualities

No. 1: How much is your agency partner charging you based on your spend?

When it comes to programmatic display, there can be several brokers between you and the publisher that serves your ads. The list includes media vendors, ad tech firms, data providers, etc. By the time the bill gets back to you, the price tag could be considerably higher than the publisher’s original cost.


This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If your vendor is working with reputable partners, each cog in the programmatic machine is essential in getting the most out of your media spend. It does mean, however, that you want to choose a partner that’s transparent about their pricing models and partnerships.

No. 2: How much of your media spend goes to viewable impressions?

Here’s a dirty little secret of programmatic advertising: ad impressions don’t always equal ad views. Since programmatic campaigns typically use a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) model, this is a big deal. A few years ago, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) created the following standard for viewable display impressions:

A minimum of 50 percent of (an ad’s) pixels in view for a minimum of 1 second.

So, how do advertisers end up getting charged when their ads aren’t viewable? Well, unfortunately, not everyone follows the rules. Even with that lenient standard, some programmatic display vendors still limbo under the bar. To make sure people can actually see the ads you’re paying for, ask your agency partner what standard they use to qualify viewable impressions. Also, ask to see reporting on how many of your current impressions are “viewable.”

No. 3: Does your vendor have access to beta technologies?

Programmatic display advertising is a rapidly evolving practice, making it essential to partner with agencies and tech vendors that are at the head of the pack in terms of innovation. To make sure you have the latest and greatest techniques powering your programmatic campaigns, ask your agency partner questions like:

  • What kind of beta programs are you involved in (either internally or through ad tech partners)?
  • What plans do you have to improve our campaigns in the future with new technologies?

Campaign targeting and scheduling

No. 4: Who are you targeting?

The main reason programmatic campaigns are so powerful is all the data involved. With programmatic, you’re privy to a wealth of information to help you target the right consumers at the right times. But, that targeting is only as good as the data that powers it and the strategy behind it.

To make sure your agency partner is targeting the right audience segments, ask them questions like:

  • What targeting methods are you using?
  • What characteristics are you using to define our target audience?
  • What data points do you use to identify those audience segments?
  • What audiences are you excluding?

No. 5: Where are you targeting?

Taking that last question a step further, make sure your audience segments are in the right places geographically. This is especially important for multi-unit and franchise brands that need to target audiences close to their locations.

To make sure your programmatic campaigns are fully optimized, ask your agency partner questions like:

  • Have you set up geo-targeting around our locations to make sure we’re only reaching nearby consumers?
  • Are you able to distribute leads fairly and accurately between locations that are close to one another?
  • Can you run a report that shows the breakdown of impressions by geo-location?

No. 6: What sites are your ads appearing on?

At Mindstream Media Group, one of our programmatic philosophies is to focus more on who we’re serving ads to than where we serve ads. Having said that, you probably don’t want your ads showing up on sites with explicit content or on publisher platforms whose principals aren’t aligned with your own.

To safeguard your brand’s reputation, find out which sites are included in your programmatic vendor’s network and work with them to block any unsavory sites. If your vendor partner is unable or unwilling to share this list with you, that could be a serious red flag.

No. 7: What schedules are your ads running on?

This question is essential if you’re running direct response ads. For example, let’s say you’re a restaurant running ads that encourage consumers to visit your location, but you’re closed on Mondays. Since you’re not there to serve guests, you probably don’t want to run ads that day.

Pretty basic stuff, right? We agree. Make sure your agency partner does as well.

No. 8: What are your frequency settings?

If you’re like most internet users, chances are you see a lot of ads from the same company. At best, these ads are for things that are relevant to you and are somewhat valuable (you’d probably just like to see less of them). At worst, they’re akin to an overaggressive telemarketer who can’t take a hint. Make sure your brand isn’t “that guy” by finding out what frequency settings your programmatic vendor uses.

Conversely, if you want to generate brand awareness and search lift then the campaigns need to reach a minimum frequency to have the desired effect. Ask your agency to report on these key metrics so that you can maximize your overall goals for the campaign.

Performance metrics

No. 9: How are you measuring the success of your programmatic campaigns?

One of the most important considerations in any marketing effort is to make sure the goals of your campaign align with the business results that your brand values most. To make sure these concepts align, find out what metrics your agency is reporting on to measure the success of your programmatic campaigns.

One thing to look for is the quality of the metrics you see in your reporting. Is your agency reporting valuable conversions like form fills, calls and visits to your location(s)? Or, are they simply reporting vanity metrics like impressions and clicks?

No. 10: Is your performance connected to revenue?

Taking that a step further, the ability to connect conversions to actual revenue is important in measuring the overall success of your programmatic display campaigns. Find out if your agency is able to connect your programmatic campaigns to your other tools – e.g., your customer relationship management (CRM) or point of sale (POS) systems – and measure the overall return on investment (ROI).

No. 11: How are you approaching view-through attribution credit?

While programmatic advertising can and should be used as a direct response initiative, digital display ads also excel at building brand awareness and generating conversions well after an ad is served.

For example, let’s say you’re reading an article online and you come across a display ad for running shoes. You like the shoes but you’re really into the article so you continue reading and end up clicking on another link after you finish it. Then you remember the shoes and head to Google to find them.

In a scenario like this, that original display ad deserves some of the credit. This is known as view-through attribution (VTA) – while the ad didn’t directly lead to a conversion, the fact you saw the ad led to a profitable action in the future.

Programmatic campaigns have sophisticated tracking methods that allow advertisers to track these types of conversions, but not everyone uses them. As you audit your programmatic campaign, make sure your agency partner can and does.

No. 12: What is your attribution window set to?

While VTA is key to understanding the non-direct actions consumers take after seeing your ads, there’s a right way – and a wrong way – to set it up. Typically, VTA is most valuable when the conversion occurs shortly after a consumer sees an ad, not weeks or months later.

To make sure your programmatic campaigns are only measuring recent conversions, ask your agency what window they’re using to measure VTA. The appropriate amount of time will vary by brand and product, but if the window is more than a few days, make sure there’s a good reason.

No. 13: Is your vendor able to calculate search lift?

Here’s another indirect metric your agency partner should be able to measure – search lift. A recent study found that brands who advertise on Google’s search and display networks experienced a 31 percent lift in search interest compared to advertising on Google’s search network alone.

Branded search lift on Google

Branded search lift on Google

The ability to measure search lift is key to understanding what impact your programmatic display campaigns have on brand awareness. If it’s not already in your typical reporting, ask your agency if they’re able to calculate search lift across the programmatic networks used in your campaigns.

Optimizing campaign creative

No. 14: What creative assets are you using?

One of the biggest mistakes advertisers make with programmatic advertising, especially with video ads, is forcing ad creative from other media campaigns. For example, if you’re running a programmatic video campaign, you need to make sure your creative fits the media platforms you display your ads on. Copying and pasting a TV commercial typically won’t cut it.

No. 15: What is your creative testing strategy?

A key advantage of programmatic campaigns is they allow you to serve ads based on which ones are most likely to perform well in a given situation (i.e., based on the consumer viewing the ad, the website serving the ad, etc.) But, this advantage is null and void if you don’t have enough ads.

Make sure you’re leveraging the full value of programmatic by finding out how many ad variations your agency is running with each campaign. This will not only allow you to run tests to find the most effective creative messages, but it will also mitigate audience burnout from seeing the same ad too many times.

No. 16: How are you leveraging video creative?

Start with asking your programmatic agency a simple question: “Are we using video creative?”

If the answer is no, follow it up with a sternly worded version of this question: “Why the hell not?”

Your programmatic agency might not be responsible for ad creatives, but they should be looking for any opportunities to optimize your campaign and video is a great way to grab consumers’ attention.

No. 17: Are your programmatic campaigns using dynamic creative?

We’ve hit on this point plenty of times, but we’ll say it again: a major perk of programmatic campaigns is that they allow you to determine in real time what message is most likely to resonate with a specific consumer. To fully unlock this power, make sure your campaigns can dynamically adjust creative elements like ad copy, calls-to-action and images based on the specific consumer viewing your ad.

Now that you’ve gotten through all the questions, how did your programmatic campaigns stack up? If too many of the answers were a cause for concern, contact Mindstream Media Group. We can pull back the curtain even further to give you a better idea of how to improve your programmatic display campaigns to get the most bang for your media dollars.

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 2020, U.S advertisers will dedicate more than 85 percent of their total digital display spending to programmatic ad buys, according to eMarketer.

U.S. digital programmatic advertising spending

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

US Digital Programmatic Advertising 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. 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. Click To Tweet

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, subscribe to our blog to catch our next post 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 you deliver the results that matter most to your brand.

10 Digital Marketing Strategies for Franchise Brands

The franchise business model has a lot of advantages for brands and franchisees alike. Franchise brands get to grow their business and increase their footprint faster by relying on investments from individual owners to open new locations. And, franchise owners get many of the perks of owning their own business with the added advantage of being able to leverage the awareness and resources of an established brand.

But, the franchise model can make executing effective digital marketing campaigns at the local level a challenge. Unlike more centralized models, brand marketers don’t always have strict control over local marketing efforts which can lead to campaigns that don’t align with the brand’s overall business goals or style guidelines.

After helping scores of franchise and multi-location brands implement successful local marketing campaigns here at Mindstream Media Group, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. But before I dive into specific digital marketing campaigns, there are a few things that need to happen to align brand marketers and their franchisees.

  • Brands need to establish clear business goals to guide marketing efforts and communicate them throughout the organization.
  • Brands need to provide franchisees the resources they need to succeed (co-op dollars, a National Ad Fund, ad creative, training, ongoing support, agency relationships, etc.).
  • Franchisees need to commit to investing the time and money necessary to implement brand-compliant campaigns at the local level.

Once these critical steps are taken care of, franchise brands can move on to actually implementing campaigns. Below, I’ve outlined 10 digital marketing initiatives I think are the most important for franchise brands. I’ve divided these efforts up by Owned, Paid and Earned Media types.

Owned Media Definition

When it comes to Owned Media, location-specific assets are crucial for franchise brands. When given the choice, consumers are far more likely to engage with local assets (e.g., location pages, local listings, social profiles, etc.) than brand assets.

Consumers prefer local assets over brand pages-v2Here are some of the most important Owned Media assets for franchise brands.

No. 1: Local business listings

Franchise brands need to implement a robust program to manage local business data for franchisees across major data aggregators (e.g., Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup), search engines (e.g., Google, Bing, Yahoo!), social media profiles (e.g., Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp) and online directories (e.g.,, Superpages, CityGrid).

Related – Best Way for Multi-location Brands to Manage Local Data

It’s especially important to maintain updated information on search engines, as most consumers turn to search when looking for local businesses. But, incorrect information anywhere in the local ecosystem can wreak havoc so it’s important for franchise brands to manage location data across a wide range of sites.

Percent of U.S. consumers who have used the following sources to find local businesses in the past week

Percent of US consumers who have used the following sources to find local businesses in the past week

No. 2: Optimized location pages

Each franchise should have a specific landing page with unique, location-specific content. These pages improve local SEO efforts and the consumer experience by providing a more relevant experience than sending searchers to generic store locator pages that require them to conduct another search.

It’s important that the business information on these pages matches the corresponding listings. To make sure it does, franchise brands should find a local SEO agency that is able to manage both local listings and location pages.

No. 3: Content Marketing efforts

Blogging and other Content Marketing initiatives are very difficult to implement at the franchise level. But, the corporate marketing team should still provide regular blog content to both educate franchisees and inform local consumers. There are a variety of tools available that allow franchisees to promote this content on their individual social media pages.

No. 4: Maintaining an active social media presence

U.S. social network users

U.S. social network users

Most listings management solutions also populate and optimize location-specific profiles on key social media platforms. Once the local profiles are set up, it’s important to post on a regular basis. Brand marketers can support this effort using the Content Marketing initiatives mentioned above, with franchisees supplementing that content with locally-focused posts. (For brands concerned with rogue content getting pushed out by franchisees, there are a number of tools available to require approval for local posts.)

Paid Media definition

For franchise brands, paid media campaigns work best when they’re set to geo-target consumers in specific areas. Whether managed at the corporate level or by individual franchisees, paid media campaigns should focus on consumers within each location’s service area and deliver custom, localized ads. Any advertising dollars spent outside of that radius is likely to be wasted.

Consumers typically travel less than 20 minutes to make everyday purchases

Here’s a real-life example. Recently, a crack appeared on my car’s windshield. I pulled out my phone and searched for “car window repair.” I didn’t include any geo-modifier, assuming I’d only get results for companies in my area. (This is becoming more common. According to Google, local searches without a “near-me” modifier have grown by 150 percent as more consumers expect to just see results for nearby businesses for certain searches.)

I started calling for quotes. When I called the second result in the paid search ads, I was told they didn’t serve my area. As a consumer, I was a little annoyed, but as someone who works in digital marketing, I was surprised and disappointed. Why would this well-known national company (which I’ll keep anonymous), one of the premier brands in their industry, spend money on actions from paid search results from consumers that can’t even convert?

I pulled up Google AdWords to check, and the top of page bid (high range) for that search term was almost $19 based on my location. Which means that company wasted as much as $19 on a consumer they had no chance of converting. For a one-time event, that’s not a big deal but that term is searched for hundreds of times a month in my area and the brand’s ad appeared second in the paid search results, meaning they could be wasting a few hundred dollars of ad spend per month in my market alone.

To avoid that fate, here are a few paid advertising campaigns franchise brands should optimize around individual locations.

No. 5: Launching local paid search campaigns

Franchise brands should supplement national paid search efforts with hyper-local campaigns targeting consumers in specific markets with ads and landing pages for specific locations. For Google AdWords campaigns, franchise brands should leverage local tactics like:

  • Location extensions: These ad extensions provide searchers information to help them find your locations (e.g., business address, phone number, map markers, etc.).
  • Local inventory ads: These ads show searchers the available inventory at nearby locations in near real-time.
  • Local bid adjustments: These allow you to increase your bids when nearby consumers search for one of your keywords.
No. 6: Launching localized display campaigns
No. 7: Launching localized video campaigns

Franchise brands should follow a similar approach with display and video ads. Keep national efforts going, but make sure they’re complemented by local campaigns that focus on consumers within specific locations’ service areas.

One interesting way to target display ads to local consumers is with Geo-fencing. Brands can connect with consumers in the moments they’re ready to buy by creating “geo-fences” around relevant places (e.g., competitors’ locations). Brands can then serve ads to consumers in those areas and for up to 30 days after they leave. You can also target your locations to stay engaged and promote repeat sales.

Related – [Infographic]: 5 Ways to Target Digital Display Campaigns

Earned Media

Earned media definition

As I mentioned above, the majority of consumer engagement goes to location-specific assets rather than the brand. This means that a lot of the public communication between consumers and brands is done at the local level. Franchise brands need to provide individual owners the resources to begin and maintain a conversation with consumers online.

No. 8: Managing and responding to online reviews

It’s important for all brands to monitor their online reviews but with franchise brands, the process becomes trickier as reviews are scattered across hundreds or thousands of locations. With the number of sites customers can use to leave reviews (e.g., Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc.), this is almost impossible for franchise brands to do without a tool or an agency partner.

No. 9: Encouraging customers to leave positive reviews

Consumers are more likely to leave reviews after negative experiences. However, people are becoming more likely to leave reviews after positive experiences across a variety of business-types. It’s important not to be pushy, but franchise owners and their employees should encourage customers to leave positive reviews when they visit a location.

No. 10: Engaging with social media audiences

Going a step further than responding to reviews, franchise brands should also engage with social media followers who have reached out (e.g., commenting on a Facebook post). Social media allows two-way communication between a business and its customers that can develop strong relationships, brand loyalty and repeat purchases.

That’s a big to-do list for brands and franchise owners alike. If you need an agency partner who can help you accomplish all of these marketing efforts, contact Mindstream Media Group to learn about our full suite of digital and traditional marketing solutions designed to Fast-Forward Your Business.

How to Improve TV and Digital Video Advertising Campaigns as Viewing Habits Change

Video content has proved adept at engaging audiences with its combination of sight, sound and motion. And for years, TV was the main vehicle for audiences to consume video content on a regular basis. The combination of these two factors has driven years of heavy investment in TV commercials.

But, things have changed. Video content remains a powerful way to engage, but audiences have a lot more ways to consume that content.

Continue reading “How to Improve TV and Digital Video Advertising Campaigns as Viewing Habits Change”

[APRIL 2018] TL;DR Roundup – Obligatory Facebook Update, YouTube TrueView Ads and Programmatic Ad Spending Updates

Welcome to the TL;DR Roundup, Mindstream Media Group’s recap of the biggest stories in digital media, marketing and advertising. We know there’s too much going on to read everything, so we break down the most important stories for you. Continue reading “[APRIL 2018] TL;DR Roundup – Obligatory Facebook Update, YouTube TrueView Ads and Programmatic Ad Spending Updates”