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How to Tell if Programmatic Advertising is Working


Programmatic media continues to be one of the fastest-growing digital marketing channels. With all the technologies, data, and tools available, it’s important to not only understand how the channel works but also understand if programmatic channels are driving success for your brand. This article will explain what you should be measuring, how you should measure success, and what you’ll want to consider when making optimization decisions for your programmatic strategy.


Establish Proper Key Performance Indicators

It won’t be possible to tell if your programmatic strategy is working unless you’ve first established clear and useful key performance indicators (KPIs). The only way to usefully measure campaign performance is to set specific goals and then measure those goals against specific KPIs.

When you are designing your campaign’s KPIs, it is important to think about the specific goals you want to achieve in your campaign. For example, if your campaign’s objective is to increase brand visibility, it is recommended that the campaign is evaluated on different KPIs than if your campaign's goal is to generate sales or leads.  

As you evaluate your campaign’s goals, consider the KPIs most useful for measuring success against those goals which will allow you to be able to determine whether or not your strategy is truly working.


What KPIs Should You Consider Monitoring?

Prioritizing KPIs will depend on your campaign’s objectives.

For a campaign seeking to drive consumer actions such as a purchase or lead, we suggest measuring against the KPI Cost Per Action (CPA). For campaigns such as a new brand or product launch seeking to drive awareness. We suggest considering the following KPIs for each: 

While it may be useful to leverage multiple KPIs for your programmatic campaign, you should pick a single KPI as the primary objective. Having too many KPIs can end up harming campaign performance by making it incredibly difficult to make effective optimizations.


How Should You Handle Reporting?

Reporting should be run and reviewed throughout the campaign, allowing you to review data and performance midstream, as well as after the fact. The exact reporting cadence should be determined prior to the campaign’s launch in order to ensure all parties are aligned.

It is recommended that you receive performance reports regularly to gauge how well the campaign is performing. Ensure that any optimizations and changes made are given enough time to have a significant impact before determining success.

Reporting should also allow for insights beyond just numbers in order to identify areas of opportunities for improving performance. These other insights can include demographics, behaviors, and geographies that generate that positively impact your KPIs. 


How Should You Handle Optimizations?

Once you’ve established your campaign’s goals and specific KPIs, you’ll need to measure against those KPIs and then deploy optimizations to increase efficiency and response. All optimizations should be made based on performance relative to the campaign’s primary KPI, but optimizations can be deployed on several levels, including increasing or decreasing bids on the following:

When thinking about optimization options and as you review data after making adjustments, it's important to remember that external factors such as holidays, privacy updates, and current events can and will impact campaign performance. Once a campaign generates enough performance data, external factors tend to not have as much of an impact, but this will naturally vary depending on campaign parameters.

Additional Considerations

Programmatic strategy can also be heavily impacted by several other important considerations, including:

  • Diminishing return curves by channel - you’ll need to develop models to identify where and when this is happening so that you can avoid overspending.
  • Fraud and viewability problems - you’ll need to monitor for campaign fraud and low viewability, each of which would signal that you’re wasting spend on impressions that simply aren’t worth paying for. The best way to control for this is by using approved lists and conducting regular audits.


Maximize the Value of Your Programmatic Marketing Strategy with USIM

USIM combines the power of data with the scale of digital marketing to deliver targeted media impressions to the right audience at the right time via Programmatic Advertising. Our team will ensure that your budget is used where it works best to deliver a successful campaign that maximizes return on investment.

Some key steps we take in order to ensure we are delivering the best value for our clients include:


  • Holistic evaluation of inventory sources and providers ensuring that our client’s messages are served to the most relevant audiences in the most relevant environments
  • Thought leadership and education of various partners in order to properly differentiate the wide variety of programmatic options, with a heavy emphasis on the emerging CTV and Audio programmatic offerings
  • Detailed attention to industry trends with a recent focus on privacy changes (e.g., removal of 3rd party cookies, Apple iOS 14.5 updates) in order to ensure campaign impact is minimal
  • Careful monitoring of campaign delivery to ensure impressions are viewable and served in brand-safe environments
  • Continuous and ongoing evaluation of new and emerging platforms and technologies in order to further bolster programmatic strategies and execution


Our leadership and foresight in the industry were recognized when we received the Programmatic Agency of the Year award from MediaPost for 2015, 2016, and 2018.  We are ready to leverage our expertise as industry leaders to optimize your approach to programmatic media.  


For details on how we can help, please call us at (310) 482-6700, or fill out our Contact Form.


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