In the fast-paced realm of digital advertising, staying ahead of the competition requires more than crafting compelling creative and targeting the right audience: It demands a deep understanding of campaign performance and the ability to derive strategic insights from consumer actions.

But tracking and understanding consumer actions today is far different than it was a few decades ago, as advertisers are dealing with a complex landscape where emerging channels, platforms, and screens muddle traditional conversion paths. Whereas a typical consumer journey used to follow a fairly predictable and linear progression from awareness to consideration to (ideally!) a conversion, that's not always the case in today’s world. Instead of clear stages, consumers are following a cyclical approach where they can jump in and out of stages or skip stages entirely.

At the same time, the rising complexity of digital advertising with shrinking media budgets, and it has become even more important for advertisers to understand what messaging, optimizations, and targeting are driving a desired action, or conversion.

Today, we’re exploring what conversions are, how advertisers can track them utilizing a demand-side platform (DSP), best practices for optimizing a campaign with a conversion-based KPI, and what impact the loss of third-party cookies in Chrome will have on tracking and measuring conversions moving forward. Read on for everything you need to know.

What Is a Conversion?

Imagine this: You’re scrolling through TikTok after a long day at work. Between silly duck videos and mesmerizing cook-along clips, you see one of your favorite creators promoting a skincare product. It’s one you’re familiar with—you remember seeing a different ad for it on YouTube. You click the link in the video, fill out your credit card and shipping information, and voilà! The product will be on your doorstep in a few days.

Sound familiar? This purchase is an example of a conversion.

At its simplest, a conversion is a specific action a user completes on your site. Beyond making a purchase, examples of conversions can include:

Why are Conversions Important?

By tracking conversions, advertisers can evaluate campaign performance and make optimizations based on what is working and what isn’t. And because advertising budgets tend to be finite, advertisers will often measure the success of a conversion campaign by controlling for cost.

Sample KPIs for conversion tracking include:

By tracking conversions and evaluating the results against these KPIs, advertisers can gain a deeper understanding of which ads, placements, and targeting tactics are resonating with consumers and driving them to take action.

How Are Conversions Tracked?

To track an action or conversion, an advertiser must employ a conversion pixel. A conversion pixel is a piece of code specific to a platform (i.e., Meta, Pinterest, or Basis) that tracks a specific action based on how it was created or where it was placed. This pixel can then track activity, such as whether a user clicks on or sees an ad.

How Do You Set Up a Conversion Pixel?

While there are nuances based on the platform and/or client, the general process for advertisers to place conversion pixels to track conversions is as follows:

  1. Create pixels in the relevant platform
  2. Place the appropriate code
  3. Conduct quality assurance on the pixel to ensure it is firing and that relevant data is being tracked and stored
  4. Set up a digital campaign and ensure the correct conversion pixels are selected

Once the conversion pixel is set up, it’s ready to do its job of tracking and collecting data around consumer actions. When a customer sees an advertisement and completes the relevant action (aka the conversion), the conversion pixel fires and drops a cookie. This cookie allows the advertiser to identify who the user is and check if they saw or clicked on an ad that was served via the corresponding platform. If a user clicked on an ad and immediately took an action, that counts as a click-through conversion. If a user saw the ad, did not click, but ended up taking an action later on, that counts as a view-through conversion.

Best Practices for Optimizing a Conversion-Based Campaign

Once you've ensured a conversion pixel has been placed and is firing correctly, you can make optimizations based on the results you're seeing. Such optimizations could include the following:

The Future of Conversion Tracking and Cookieless Conversion

As the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome approaches, it’s important to note that conversion tracking will be impacted. The most significant change will be that advertisers will not be able to track view-through conversions, as they require a third-party cookie to track a customer’s behavior after they have seen an ad.

However, advertisers will be able to track click-through conversions in a privacy-friendly manner, given the right technology. Universal pixels can track how consumers behave on a website without collecting any of their personal information. Through the use of universal pixels, marketers can track click-through conversions when third-party cookies aren’t supported in a given browser.

Here’s the key takeaway: The absence of third-party cookies will necessitate the adoption of alternative tracking methods, such as first-party data utilization and privacy-compliant technologies, reshaping the landscape of conversion tracking and prompting advertisers to explore new strategies to maintain precision and effectiveness in gauging campaign success.

Next Steps: Conversion Tracking

In the ever-evolving digital advertising landscape, conversion tracking is one way that advertisers can measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, make intentional and data-driven optimizations, and maximize their budgets. As the consumer journey becomes less linear and more complex, understanding precisely what is driving audiences to take action will grow increasingly important.

That said, some aspects of conversion tracking will shift as advertisers prioritize privacy compliance. In light of consumers and regulators alike demanding increased privacy, it’s critical that advertisers adapt the ways they are targeting and measuring their campaigns to meet those demands.


Want even more insights on how to adapt to the cookieless future? Check out Beyond Third-Party Cookies: Your Guide to Privacy-Friendly Advertising to learn how marketers can best prepare for the changes coming to digital advertising

Say you're running an ad campaign, and you want to target 35-year-old moms who enjoy board games and luxury fashion. How do you serve ads to that specific audience? Without knowing where board-game-loving, luxury-fashion-buying moms spend their time, it could take months of trial and error to figure out which ad placements will reach that audience most effectively.

The great news? Programmatic advertising allows marketers to leverage data and streamline the process of connecting with the right audiences on the right channels. Today, we’re digging into how marketers can use different campaign targeting tactics to reach consumers, as well as how they can do so in ways that respect consumer privacy.

Data is Programmatic’s Best Friend

Unlike site-direct planning, programmatic media is focused on audience buying. In other words, programmatic allows advertisers to focus more on finding the right audience than on finding the right website. This emphasis on audience means that advertisers can pull from a variety of data sources to determine how best to target consumers based on where they live, the content they consume online, their brick-and-mortar visitation, the apps they have downloaded on their mobile device, and more.  

By targeting specific audiences, marketing teams can ensure they aren’t wasting ad spend on consumers who aren’t likely to convert. And with a variety of targeting options and the ability to combine them within one campaign, programmatic makes it easy to use your budget wisely and efficiently.

Types of Targeting Tactics for Programmatic Advertising

There are many targeting options available for marketers using programmatic. Read on to learn about six common targeting strategies in detail:

Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting allows marketers to serve ads to unique individuals across multiple devices based on their demographics, behavioral attributes, intent, or interests. Demographic data could include gender, age, income, or education, while interests might include cooking, gardening, or fitness. In addition to using second- and third-party data for behavioral targeting, marketers can leverage first-party data gathered via tracking behaviors or actions completed on their websites (i.e., page activity, purchase history, etc.).

It's important to note that the deprecation of third-party cookies will impact how advertisers can leverage third-party data in behavioral targeting. To adapt to the privacy-first future, marketers will need to lean into more privacy-friendly targeting techniques, such as first-party behavioral targeting.

Custom Site Lists

Leveraging website or app targeting is a great strategy when you know what sites or apps you want your ads to run on. Marketers often combine inventory types in a single campaign to best use the targeting options available. For example, you can use a list of sites you want to target (either website or app), and layer on the audience segments you’re looking for on these pages using behavioral targeting.

Custom site lists help ensure your ads are serving on the desired sites and generally come at a more efficient cost than private marketplace deals (more on these shortly!). The only downside to running custom site lists programmatically is that there is less control over where ads will serve on the site and how much budget will spend. If an advertiser needs more control, it’s better to go through a private marketplace deal. 

Private Marketplace

A private marketplace (PMP) provides access to prepackaged deals where publishers and providers bundle high-quality ad inventory. Typically, these deals come at a higher CPM and ensure that the best ad placements on a website go to the highest bidder. Though less cost-efficient, PMPs are one of the best ways to get your brand in front of qualified traffic in highly visible placements. For example, within Basis, users have access to an Inventory Directory. There, users can select deals or negotiate directly with providers. The PMP will show all details on price, volume, device types, and supported ad formats. 

PMPs are a great option for campaigns where a brand wants to be exposed to high-quality traffic and premium placements. Even more, PMPs are a privacy-friendly way to tap into high-quality, targeted audiences.


Depending on the product, it can take several visits before online shoppers decide to make a purchase. To keep consumers engaged, marketers can leverage retargeting to bring them back to a website, maintain their interest, offer additional info, or keep their brand top of mind.

How does it work? Well, in platforms like Basis, advertisers can build audience pools based on website interactions such as specific page visits, cart abandonment, or button clicks, and then target custom messaging to those segments. Overall, retargeting is an essential strategy for engaging consumers who have already shown interest, and earning their conversions.


Geotargeting or geofencing is a hot topic for marketers because it focuses on targeting individuals within a specific geographic perimeter, or “fence.” These digital boundaries are built around specific places of interest, such as a competitor’s location or a place where your audience group is congregated.

Geotargeting allows teams to reach audiences in strategic locations, and to do so in a privacy-friendly way. Marketers can leverage first-party data (such as a zip code entered at checkout) or location-based data (summer in Texas = HOT) to personalize ads and target them to key audiences.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting is another privacy-friendly targeting solution that advertisers can leverage in their programmatic campaigns. Contextual targeting serves ads based on the content of a specific website, page, or channel. This could look like an online bank running ads during a personal finance podcast, a makeup brand serving display ads on websites with makeup tutorials, or a sports gambling company targeting live sports content on CTV devices. That’s the beauty of programmatic: You can get very specific with targeting different types of content on specific pages. These content targeting segments can be topics as broad as sports, news, or entertainment, or as specific as baseball, healthcare news, or award shows.

Privacy-Compliant Targeting

Targeting is one of the areas that the impending cookieless future will impact most. The good news is that many of the targeting strategies we just discussed are either inherently privacy-friendly (such as PMPs and contextual targeting) or can be adapted to be privacy-friendly through the use of first-party data.

That said, this shift will require advertisers and marketers to test and adopt new strategies and technologies for effective programmatic targeting. Advertisers will need to focus on building direct relationships with consumers, leveraging their own first-party data, and shifting their targeting tactic mix to identify and reach relevant audiences in a privacy-conscious manner.


Want to learn more about how marketers can connect with audiences in meaningful and privacy-friendly ways? Check out our guide, Beyond Third-Party Cookies: Your Guide to Privacy-Friendly Advertising, for a deeper dive.

You’re setting up a programmatic campaign and reviewing your digital checklist before the campaign goes live. Have you targeted a specific audience? Check. Established the KPI? Check. Set the bid, uploaded the creatives, and chosen the inventory? Check, check, check. Now you’re ready to sit back and watch the data flow in... right?

Not quite.

While setting up a campaign involves careful planning and execution, there’s a world of potential that lies in continuously monitoring and refining its performance. Through data-driven insights and strategic adjustments, optimization empowers marketers to enhance targeting precision, maximize conversions, improve ROI, and ultimately drive impactful results.

In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, adapting and optimizing campaigns is key to effectively engaging your target audience. Read on to learn more about what digital marketers need to know about campaign optimization.

Performance Starts with Campaign Planning

Similar to how an athlete’s performance is impacted by how much training they put in before the game, programmatic performance is largely shaped by the decisions made during the planning process. In order to have something to optimize toward, you should look at your goals and translate them into measurable KPIs during planning (CPC, CPA, CTR, conversions, etc.) It's a lot like picking a campaign targeting tactic. Without doing the work and research beforehand, you’re playing a guessing game and casting your net too wide.

Here are some questions advertising teams might consider throughout their planning process:

All of these factors will influence campaign performance and an advertiser's ability to optimize effectively.

Making Optimizations to Drive Performance  

Once you’ve decided what you want to achieve, and once your campaign is live, it can be a challenge to figure out how to start optimizing. Let’s break down the different optimization strategies to help you get started:

1. Dive into Data

First things first, you need dataBut that doesn’t mean you can or should make major optimizations based off just any amount of data. The sample size needs to be large enough to be valuable and allow for informed decision-making.

Optimizing a campaign based off one hour of campaign data is not sufficient. Generally, you want to wait until either 10-20% of the campaign is delivered, or the campaign has been running for one week.

2. Embrace a Combination of Manual and Technology-Based Optimizations

Once you’ve got campaign data, advertisers should leverage a combination of manual and tech-based optimizations, as each has its own focus.

Manual optimizations have a broad scope and can impact performance by drawing upon historical insights, considering additional metrics beyond the key performance indicator, and accommodating campaign intricacies (such as directing funds to a nascent market with limited brand awareness).

Technology-based optimizations employ advanced algorithms to uncover patterns, trends, and opportunities that are solely focused on the key performance indicator. These optimizations also automate repetitive tasks, effectively conserving valuable time and resources for advertisers.

3. Make Minor Optimizations

Minor optimizations can be made on a tactical level to push spend towards delivery and performance, and include adjusting the bid for win rate and efficiency or shifting your budget to higher performing tactics. You can also look at your top spending sites to see if they are meeting or exceeding your KPIs. If they are, increase your bid, and if they’re not, turn the site off.

Some sites might get thousands of impressions, but not enough engagement. That’s often a sign that an ad might not be reaching the right audience, or that the content on the page doesn’t have a strong call-to-action. If that happens, you may want to consider turning those sites off and reallocating budget to sites that are producing better results.

4. Consider Major Optimizations

Major optimizations are made once you notice the campaign needs more dynamic changes. As a best practice, a tactic should spend at least $1,000 or deliver 1,000 impressions before teams make any major optimizations.

Once a campaign has reached this threshold, advertisers should focus on:

Building Allow Lists & Block Lists

By identifying domains that demonstrate exceptional performance as well as those that underperform, advertisers can strategically develop an allow list comprising top performers or implement a block list to exclude domains with subpar results.

Optimizing Creatives

By reviewing creative performance, advertisers can optimize out of poor-performing sizes or versions. As a best practice, each creative should have delivered at least 10,000 impressions before determining whether it should be shut off. In addition, advertisers should consider uploading a different creative type or style in the same size if a particular ad size is doing well.

Evaluating Tactics

Through analyzing data provider and tactic performance, advertisers can strategically redistribute their budget to prioritize top-performing entities while also exploring the availability of additional data segments offered by these high-performing data providers.

Reviewing Exchanges

Advertisers can identify if a particular exchange is hurting performance and remove it accordingly. It’s important to note that this should only be done on campaigns running for a few months or with a large budget (at least 10,000 impressions per exchange). Don't be afraid to make a change and see what happens. If removing an exchange doesn’t produce the desired results, you can always add the exchange again.

Campaign Optimization Best Practices

Whether an advertiser is implementing a minor or major optimization, there are some best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t optimize too quickly. Give the campaign time to accrue enough data, so you can take a data-driven approach.
  2. Don’t optimize too frequently or infrequently. There is no right time to optimize. You don’t necessarily need to optimize every day—checking into the campaign on a weekly basis is a good place to start. Always allow enough time, spend, and data between changes.
  3. Keep track of all your changes. Even using a simple Excel doc to track campaign tweaks will be very helpful to see what changes produce what results. If the CPC goes up, and you’re tracking changes, you may notice you recently removed an exchange, and that could be the reason. You can always undo, revert back to the original, or try something else.

Next Steps: Campaign Optimization

In the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape, mastering the art of optimization is essential for advertisers to unleash the full potential of their campaigns, connect with their target audiences, and drive strong performance. By using these strategies and best practices, advertising teams can optimize their campaigns in an intentional and data-driven way to maximize return on ad spend.

Hungry for even more knowledge about campaign optimization? Check out our optimization learning path on AdTech Academy!

Each month, Basis Technologies’ Programmatic 101 series tackles a different facet of programmatic advertising—from best practices for buyers, to competitors in the space, to trends you should know.

With 73% of consumers expecting companies to understand their unique needs, personalization in marketing is no longer an option—it’s an imperative.

Behavioral targeting is one of the most common techniques used by marketers to deliver personalized messages. At the same time, the impending loss of third-party cookies in Google’s Chrome browser will change how marketers are able to use this kind of targeting in their campaigns.

Looking to understand how behavioral targeting works, what benefits it offers, and what it might look like in a future without third-party cookies? You’ve come to the right place.

What is Behavioral Targeting?

Behavioral targeting is when an advertiser targets potential consumers based on their interests or behaviors demonstrated online, in-app, or in-store. To leverage behavioral targeting, advertisers must have access to first-, second-, or third-party behavioral data.

Digital marketers collect first-party behavioral data by tracking behaviors or actions completed on their websites, such as site page activity and purchase history.

Marketers can also tap into second-party data (i.e., first-party data that is collected by a business other than your own) and third-party data (i.e., data sets that are aggregated by data collection companies) to power behavioral targeting.

How Does Behavioral Targeting Work?

Behavioral data is used to build better, more individualized customer experiences. For example, Target collects shopper data for all in-store and online purchases. They can then use this first-party data to make personalized suggestions based on individual customers’ buying history.

As mentioned earlier, behavioral targeting can go beyond first-party data. For example, let’s say you’re an advertiser looking to target new moms and have maxed out first-party data targeting (retargeting, CRM, lookalike, etc.) from your own website. You could tap into second-party behavioral targeting by purchasing Visa’s New Mom Segment, which they create based on the first-party credit card information they collect.

Marketers can also turn to third-party data providers, which create various audience segments based on aggregations of data, for behavioral targeting. However, with the coming loss of third-party cookies in Chrome, increasing regulation over how companies can use consumer data, and a public that’s concerned about data privacy, it’s best for marketers to lean into more privacy-friendly targeting techniques.

Benefits of Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting offers marketers a variety of benefits, including the ability to:

  1. Test and learn key audiences: Behavioral targeting empowers advertisers to test, learn, and discover which audiences drive the highest value without incurring the financial costs of expensive audience segmentation studies.
  2. Personalize customer experiences: Behavioral data allows marketers to better understand their audiences, which in turn enables them to craft custom messaging designed to resonate with those audiences.
  3. Increase sales with relevant recommendations: By understanding what consumers have previously purchased, which pages they spend the most time viewing, or what products they are researching, brands can reach consumers when they’re in the right mindset to buy.

The Future of Behavioral Targeting

While browsers like Safari and Firefox are already operating without third-party cookies, the loss of third-party cookies in Chrome will impact advertisers even more significantly.

Since third-party behavioral targeting relies mainly on cookies, data companies must find new privacy-compliant ways to create the same—or similar—audiences. As a result, we expect the use of third-party data to become model-based instead of a one-to-one match. To make up for the changes in third-party data opportunities, advertisers will do more to make the most of their first-party behavioral data and lean into second-party behavioral targeting tactics.

Want to learn more about how you can prepare for the cookieless future? Check out our guide to navigating the identity crisis.

Each month, Basis Technologies’ Programmatic 101 series tackles a different facet of programmatic advertising—from best practices for buyers, to competitors in the space, to trends you should know.

Advertisers have enjoyed the benefits of programmatic media since 2007, when demand side platforms were first introduced. With the flexibility, transparency, and access to real-time data that programmatic provides, advertisers have the option to either plan a full funnel campaign or focus on specific initiatives such as awareness, site traffic, or direct response. With so many objectives and corresponding key performance indicators (KPIs) to choose from, advertisers must make their selections carefully in order to set performance expectations and drive results.

Translating a Business Goal Into a Digital Objective

One of the first aspects of campaign planning is to translate a client’s business goal into a digital objective. For example, a client may want to focus on increasing market share. You have a few options here: You could translate the goal of increasing market share into an awareness objective and focus on reach; you could translate it into a traffic objective and focus on site visitors, or you could translate it into a direct response objective and focus on sales or return on ad spend (ROAS). The best way to cut through the digital objective clutter is to identify the top two or three metrics the executive team wants to look at to determine success, and match those metrics with a corresponding KPI.

Determining KPIs for Your Programmatic Advertising Campaign

Once you have identified the business goal, the digital objective, and the key metrics that you’ll use to evaluate success, the next step is to select the KPI that will help drive performance. Ultimately, you want your campaigns to produce full-funnel results, starting with awareness, moving to traffic or consideration, and finally, eliciting an action (i.e., a conversion). Let’s review these three stages:

Awareness KPIs

Advertisers have two main goals when running campaigns with the objective of awareness:

  1. Reach as many customers as possible, as efficiently as possible. Cost-per-thousand (CPM) or click-through-rate (CTR) are best suited to measure this.
  2. To communicate a message, such as brand history, key differentials, or a new product or program. Video completion rate (VCR) or audio completion rate (ACR) are best suited to measure this.

It’s key to remember that when a client is running an awareness objective, the KPIs are not set up to control for cost. Why? Because the client’s focus is on reach and communication, not efficiency.  

Traffic/Consideration KPIs

Advertisers have two main goals when running campaigns with the objective of traffic or consideration:

  1. Increase consideration by re-engaging with key consumers to remind them of your brand, product, or messaging. Cost-per-completed view (CPCV) is best suited to measure this.
  2. Drive consumers to specific landing pages within a website. Cost-per-landing page visit (CPLPV) or cost-per-click (CPC) are best suited to measure this.

Note: CPLPV and CPC are very similar KPIs, but CPLPV requires a pixel placement to ensure a page has fully loaded before counting. CPC, on the other hand, does not require a pixel, and only counts if a user clicks on an ad.

Conversion KPIs

Advertisers have one main goal when running campaigns with the objective of conversion: to drive a consumer to complete an action. That action could be purchasing something online, downloading a visitor guide, requesting more information, or visiting a brick-and-mortar location.

Like a consideration objective, it is imperative that the KPIs you use in a conversion/action campaign control for cost, or at least take cost into consideration, as advertisers want to drive as many actions as possible as efficiently as possible. The recommended KPIs for this objective include:

Advertisers will also sometimes use the number of conversions as a KPI. However, we don’t recommend it—since the focus is on the number of actions rather than driving those actions as efficiently as possible, this strategy can drive up cost.

Need a visual recap of what we just discussed? Check this out:

A table listing client objectives and associated measurable KPIs.

Setting Campaign Goals and KPIs—Wrapping Up

It’s important to keep in mind that depending on a client’s business goal and budget, a single programmatic campaign may have multiple objectives, targeting tactics, and KPIs. In this case, you’ll need to consider each factor both individually and in context of the larger campaign.

Want to learn more about the stages of the marketing funnel, and discover how a consumer’s decision-making process lines up with each stage? Check out AdTech Academy’s Marketing Funnel Basics Certification!

Each month, Basis Technologies’ Programmatic 101 series tackles a different facet of programmatic advertising—from best practices for buyers, to competitors in the space, to trends you should know.

Thanks to consumer demand for both privacy in advertising and relevant and personalized ad messaging, contextual targeting is having a moment. With 61% of advertisers expecting to see an increase in buy-side budgeting for contextual-based campaigns, it's important for marketers to understand how this targeting method works, as well as the benefits it offers.

Ready to get clear on all things contextual? Let's dive in:

What is Contextual Targeting?

Contextual targeting is a tactic that allows advertisers to target according to the content of a webpage, instead of according to user IDs or behavioral data. Contextual segments are categorized based on the keywords found in the digital spaces where consumers spend time, or the topics that characterize those spaces. For example, if you’re served an ad about paint products while reading an article about the best way to paint smooth walls, you were served a contextual ad.

Contextual targeting can be utilized for a full funnel strategy: It's often leveraged to drive awareness of a new brand or product, increase creative engagement, and drive traffic to an advertiser’s website.

Contextual Targeting vs. Behavioral Targeting

When an advertiser uses contextual targeting, the content of the ad aligns with the content of the website. In contrast, behavioral targeting leverages a web user's past browsing behavior to serve relevant ads.

For example, if you Googled "holiday gifts for my dog," and were later shown an ad for puppy pajamas, that ad was served to you via behavioral targeting.

Contextual Targeting Benefits

Let's dig into some of the top benefits of contextual targeting:

1. Brand Safe

Unlike other types of targeting that prioritize user behavior or past website actions, contextual targeting focuses on content, which allows advertisers greater control over where their ads show up—and more importantly, where they don’t show up.

2. Cookie Free

Consumers are more comfortable with contextual than other forms of targeting, as it's easy to understand how the ads are served, and feels like less of a privacy violation as a result. As marketers prepare for the eventual demise of third-party cookies, contextual targeting offers a tried-and-tested, cookie-free solution that brands can (and should!) start testing and refining now.

3. Cost-Efficient

Contextual targeting is more cost-efficient than behavioral targeting when it comes to cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-viewable impression (vCPM), and cost per thousand impressions (CPM). This targeting tactic can also offset the higher data fees that come with first- and third-party data.

4. Reach Niche Audiences

Contextual targeting is a fantastic solution for advertisers trying to reach audience segments that are unique or hard to define based on website actions. For example, if you're a hot dog brand trying to find relish enthusiasts or a cannabis brand who wants to reach indie festival attendees, contextual targeting allows the granularity needed to build these custom segments.

The Future of Contextual Targeting

As a result of more and more advertisers tapping into this tactic, contextual is evolving. Publishers are using technology to decipher the context of both images and videos in order to add additional scale for advertisers, and advertising platforms are leveraging AI to understand the sentiment of online articles to further help brands decide where they should run their display and video ads.

The takeaway for advertisers? This targeting tactic isn't going anywhere—and it will continue to develop and mature as we move towards a more privacy-friendly world.

Want to become even more of a contextual targeting expert? Get certified with AdTech Academy's contextual targeting certification!

Each month, Basis Technologies’ Programmatic 101 series tackles a different facet of programmatic advertising—from best practices for buyers, to competitors in the space, to trends you should know.

The advertising industry is constantly expanding with new channels, platforms, and formats, but video continues to be an important part of any advertiser’s media mix. In fact, eMarketer predicts that $62.96 billion will be spent on programmatic digital video this year, and that over half of total programmatic digital display ad spending will go to video. Clearly, now is a critical time for advertisers to tune in!

In order to do so, advertisers must understand what programmatic video advertising is, the different types of programmatic video available to run in a DSP, and the advantages it can bring to media campaigns. Need a refresher? You’ve come to the right place!

What is Programmatic Video Advertising?

Programmatic video advertising leverages technology to buy and serve video ads that are shown during other video content. These ads may be served across exchanges or publishers, within traditional display ad slots, or across television devices.

There are two main buckets that programmatic video can be organized into: online video and advanced TV.

Online video:

Within the online video bucket, there are two different types to be aware of: instream and outstream video.

Instream video is served before (pre-roll), during (mid-roll), or after (post-roll) streaming video content. One example would be the ads that run before YouTube videos (if you’re not using an ad blocker extension, that is!)

Outstream video is served outside of video player environments. This type of ad unit typically includes less traditional video placements, such as:

Advanced TV:

Advanced TV is an umbrella term for TV that’s delivered outside of the traditional linear TV model. In general, advanced TV offers increased targeting and measurement when compared with linear TV. Advanced TV includes:

Benefits of Programmatic Video

While buying video programmatically comes with a variety of benefits, let’s review the top five:

1. Greater Targeting Precision

Advertisers can tap into first- and third-party data when buying video programmatically, which allows them to target their audiences more precisely.

2. Low Barrier to Entry

The use of programmatic technology means that advertisers don’t have to worry about high minimum spends or upfront contracts. In addition, since most programmatic inventory is sold on a dynamic CPM, any cost efficiencies that are driven via optimizations are passed right back into advertiser’s wallets.

3. Increased Scale

When an advertiser buys video programmatically, they get access to 40+ exchanges in one buy. In addition, thanks to the invention of cross-device targeting, advertisers can target a user who saw their video ad across multiple devices, allowing for higher frequency and greater recall of video messaging.

4. Greater Agility

Since advertisers don’t have to work with middleman publishers when buying programmatic video ads, they can quickly update their video messaging, turn off creative that’s not performing well, and change their targeting in real time.

5. Advanced Reporting

Buying video programmatically offers advertisers a suite of performance metrics to look at, plus the flexibility of slicing and dicing performance data by DMA, audience, and more. However, there can be limitations with reporting for advanced TV depending on how you end up buying the inventory—if you’re buying traditional TV spots, for example, you won’t be able to track things like click-through-rate or viewability.

Of all the different ways advertisers can leverage programmatic video, connected TV advertising is becoming increasingly important. CTV is leading the significant growth of digital video ad spend, and has been particularly impactful in the 2022 US election cycle.

Now that you know all about programmatic video and its benefits, take your knowledge to the next level by diving into our guide to connected TV advertising!

Each month, Basis Technologies’ Programmatic 101 series tackles a different facet of programmatic advertising—from best practices for buyers, to competitors in the space, to trends you should know.

Looking to kickstart a career in digital media? You’ve made a good choice: from the metaverse, to live sports, to TikTok, there’s a lot to get excited about. Plus, it’s an industry that’s forecasted to see steady growth in years to come.

For digital media associates, understanding the basics when it comes to programmatic is a must. To help guide your career journey, we’ve outlined the top three skills digital media associates should have in order to run successful programmatic campaigns:

1: How to Align Business Goals with Digital KPIs

The most important part of any programmatic campaign is ensuring that a client’s business outcome (increasing market share, driving more traffic to a website, etc.) is translated to the correct digital key performance indicator (KPI).

For example, a client’s goal may be to increase their reach in a new market—but reach isn’t a key performance indicator you can optimize towards within a DSP. You can achieve a similar goal by instead using KPIs like eCPM, which estimates how much revenue is generated per thousand impressions, or delivery, which shows how effectively your ads are being delivered within your chosen tactics.

For a traffic or consideration campaign, the business outcome may be to increase site traffic, but if you don’t control for cost then you’ll likely end up spending a lot of money on just a couple of site visits. To track traffic while controlling for cost, a DSP campaign can be optimized towards a cost-based KPI such as cost-per-click or cost-per-landing page view.

For the same reason, it’s important to control for cost if you hear a client say they want to drive more sales. To avoid spending your whole budget on just a few sales, you can use KPIs like Return on Ad Spend or Cost-Per-Acquisition to track sales while spending efficiently.

2. How to Use Programmatic Ad Types Strategically

Let’s discuss three of the main formats to consider when building out a programmatic strategy: audio, video (this includes CTV), and display (this includes interstitial and native advertising). We’ll break down why each format should be used, when it should be used, and some of the strategy red flags to keep an eye out for.


Use Case: According to eMarketer, digital audio will account for 12.7% of overall media time among US adults. That’s more time than US adults will spend on social media networks or watching video on their mobile devices! No wonder audio is digital advertising's fastest growing category. Plus, it's one of the last ad types that isn’t affected by ad blockers.

Best Used For: Awareness campaigns whose KPIs are focused on reach or completion rates.

Strategy Red Flags: Audio shouldn’t be used as the main ad format to drive conversion. While significant progress has been made with campaign-specific promotional codes and custom landing pages, advertisers should always complement audio placements with display ads to help drive efficiency and scale.


Use case: In 2022, nearly 84% of all US households will use a connected TV.  And according to eMarketer, 2022 is the first year that video will surpass non-video formats in programmatic ad spending, largely due to the rise in connected TV ad spend.

Best used for: Like audio, video is best used for awareness campaigns whose KPIs are focused on reach or completion rates. In addition, video is great for brands and products that benefit from visual storytelling to communicate brand differentiators or explain a nuanced product.

Strategy red flags: Comparing programmatic video performance to social video performance is a big red flag. Unlike other channels (who have companion banners or specific call to action buttons), programmatic video and connected TV are consumed before or in the middle of other content. While these videos are great for awareness, consumers are unlikely to leave their content to go complete an action on a website, making them an inefficient way to drive conversions.


Use case: Display ad spend saw huge growth in 2021, and is forecasted to increase by 20.9% in 2022, according to eMarketer. Native ads are particularly well-positioned to deliver higher click-through rates, because their blended-in feel helps to combat banner blindness.

Best used for: While display can be used for any objective, it’s best suited for driving an action, as consumers are used to clicking on a display ad to learn more about a product.

Strategy red flags: When display creative doesn’t have a strong call to action or when the same display creative is being used month-over-month. As a best practice, display creative should be updated every 4-6 weeks, even if it’s a simple CTA or image change.

3. How to Troubleshoot Delivery Issues

There’s nothing worse than taking the time to build out a campaign, upload and map all the creative, and set it live…only to find it isn’t spending. If your daily budgets are not being met, we’ve created this helpful checklist for you to run through.

Set Up:



Wrapping Up

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Check out AdTech Academy’s learning path for Digital Media Associates here!

Each month, Basis Technologies’ Programmatic 101 series tackles a different facet of programmatic advertising—from best practices for buyers, to competitors in the space, to trends you should know.

Programmatic is dominating digital. According to eMarketer, it will account for over 90% of display ad spending this year—and the tide is rising for other digital channels as well, including both linear and connected TV. 

But as programmatic has brought automation, transparency, and accessibility to the advertising landscape, that same landscape has grown increasingly competitive. To cut through the noise, it's imperative that programmatic media buyers don’t “set and forget” their campaigns. 

To that end, let’s walk through four of the most common mistakes media planners and buyers make when it comes to programmatic advertising—and how to avoid them. 

1. Launching Without a "Test and Learn" Plan

One of the many advantages of a programmatic campaign is the amount of targeting, creative, and inventory that’s available. This variety allows advertisers to test hypotheses around their target audiences, creative formats, and messaging. Unfortunately, when effective controls aren’t set up in the building phase of a campaign, these tests can quickly become underfunded or inconclusive. 

Instead of winging it, advertisers can succeed by: 

2. Utilizing Too Many Providers and Segments  

When building a programmatic tactic, it can be tempting to layer on a variety of targeting options to ensure that each dollar is spent as efficiently as possible. What advertisers might not realize, however, is that low scale, the use of multiple data providers, and Boolean logic (a fancy way of referencing the selection of "and” or “or” between segments) are the top three ways to drive up CPM and negatively impact performance.  

Instead, advertisers should always look to use the same data providers, and default Boolean logic to "or” whenever possible. They should also keep an eye on formats that can be difficult to scale within smaller geotargets (zip code, city, small DMAs), such as audio

3. Assigning Multiple KPIs To the Same Tactic   

While programmatic advertising can address all aspects of the funnel, it’s important to understand where each tactic can work best. For example, contextual targeting is great way to drive consideration or purchase, while prospecting should be utilized to cast a wide net for awareness. On the other hand, the audio format isn’t well suited to a cost-per-acquisition KPI, and first-party audiences shouldn’t be held to an efficient CPM. 

Instead of assigning multiple KPIs to the same tactic, advertisers should differentiate accordingly. For example, create one line item that’s focused on awareness-driving tactics and formats, and a separate line item that’s focused on driving conversions and executing against first-party data.  

4. Optimizing Without a Schedule  

Advertisers spend a significant amount of time evaluating what KPIs and benchmarks should be used, but often don’t spend enough time outlining what types of optimizations will be made and when.  

Instead of skipping your optimization plan, we recommend adhering to minimal optimizations (pacing, bids, and line items) daily and focusing on creative and tactic optimizations on a weekly to bi-weekly cadence. This presents an opportunity to align the campaign’s “test and learn” plan with its optimization schedule to ensure there is enough time to apply learnings to drive performance.  

Programmatic Advertising Best Practices—Wrapping Up 

Programmatic has revolutionized the advertising space, but the sole incorporation of programmatic technology isn't a silver bullet for winning campaigns. By avoiding these four “no-no’s,” advertisers will be well on their way to programmatic success.


Want to learn more about programmatic best practices? Check out AdTech Academy, a learning hub designed to demystify all things adtech!