Jul 22 2023
Hope Lowdermilk

Programmatic Advertising 101: Campaign Targeting Tactics


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.

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