Jun 3 2022
Hope Lowdermilk

Programmatic Advertising 101: Aligning Campaign Objectives with KPIs and Targeting  


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. Check out last month’s post to learn about the art and science of cross-device targeting! 

The emergence of demand side platforms (DSPs) in 2007 triggered a renewed focus on buying audiences, rather than websites. Suddenly, brands could follow consumers across websites. Now, we're even able to track users across all their connected devices.  

Having access to audience data is a targeting goldmine. However, when that data isn’t used strategically, it can lead to waste, high CPMs, and poor campaign performance. Below, we’ve put together a little cheat sheet for how to approach KPIs and targeting based on campaign objectives. 

Targeting recommendations based on campaign goal

Objective 1: Awareness and Engagement  

If the objective is to increase awareness and engagement, you want to expose a brand or product to as many people as possible. This is the first step to driving consumers through an action or purchase cycle. The focus should be on reaching as many people as possible while starting to build up first-party audiences—a method of understanding your customers that’s increasingly important as the industry moves away from third-party cookies.  

Recommended Key Performance Indicator(s):  

When planning for how to measure the success of an awareness or engagement campaign, viable KPIs include the following (hint: these KPIs also illustrate the type of creative mediums brands should be developing): 

  • Video completion rate (VCR) 
  • Audio completion rate (ACR) 
  • Click through rate (CTR), and  
  • Cost-per-thousand impressions, or CPM (the closest thing a DSP has to a reach KPI).  

Recommended Programmatic Targeting:  

With an emphasis on reach and scale, programmatic buyers should focus on targeting tactics that are as broad as possible. Common targeting tactics include prospecting, demographic targeting, and native.  

Objective 2: Traffic and Consideration 

Unlike the early days of marketing, where consumers acted in a linear fashion, the path to purchase today can be quite circular—with customers moving from awareness, to lead, back to consideration, and then back to awareness. What we know for sure is that prospects who visit a brand’s website are more likely to convert than those who don’t, so marketers must be hyper-focused on driving quality site traffic as efficiently as possible.  

Recommended Key Performance Indicator(s):  

When determining if a traffic or consideration campaign is effective, buyers use a cost-based KPI such as: 

  • Cost-per-completed view 
  • Cost-per-landing page visit, or  
  • Cost-per-click.  

Recommended Programmatic Targeting:  

With the introduction of cost-based KPIs, it’s important to ensure a campaign has the right balance between refined targeting (such as contextual targeting (a great cookieless option that’s having a moment), hyperlocal, behavioral targeting, private marketplace deals (PMPs) or custom site lists (CSL)), and email targeting and cost. Keep in mind that options like PMPs, CSLs, and email tend to have higher CPMs.  

Objective 3: Conversion and Action 

If a brand has utilized the above objectives effectively, a conversion campaign’s focus is to drive an online or offline action from an audience that’s not only aware of the brand, but has already engaged.  

Recommended Key Performance Indicator(s):  

As you can imagine, the KPIs for a conversion or action objective are focused on efficiency. But unlike traffic and consideration, the conversion objective is focused on driving a specific outcome. Recommended KPIs include: 

  • Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) 
  • Number of conversions 
  • Return on ad spend (ROAS), and 
  • Cost-per-verified walk-in 

Recommended Programmatic Targeting:  

By the time a brand gets to the conversion and action phase, all audience testing/building is complete— allowing brands to really focus in on their targets. These tactics include retargeting (whether it be display/video/location/search or click) and first- party audiences (CRM lists, lookalike modeling, etc.).  

Things to Keep in Mind:  

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s important to acknowledge that there will always be targeting tactics that can be used across objectives. For example, one could argue that retargeting benefits all KPIs—or that prospecting can be used as an audience-builder for awareness objectives but can also be used to drive down overall eCPMs for a conversion-based campaign.  

The questions marketers must ask are: why am I using this tactic? What is its purpose in supporting my objective? Will the scale or cost of this tactic impact performance? When KPIs or targeting mixes are held to this level of scrutiny, marketers are well on their way to driving success for clients.  

Looking for more programmatic training? You’ve come to the right place: Check out Basis Technologies’ free Programmatic Advertising Course

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