Mar 9 2020
David Alexander

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 data on 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 reach that audience. The beauty of programmatic advertising is that, using data, it does that leg work on behalf of marketers.

Data is Programmatic's Best Friend

Programmatic advertising can be customized to target a core group based on where they live, the content they consume online, their brick and mortar visitation, and more. With a variety of targeting options and the ability to combine them within one campaign, programmatic makes it simple to use your budgets 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, and interests might be cooking, gardening or fitness. Third-party data providers, such as Lotame, Exelate or BlueKai, generate these audience lists by building segments using algorithms and data collection strategies. Audience targeting campaigns are useful if you have an idea of the people you are looking for, but you don't know exactly where to find them.

Custom Site Lists

Leveraging website or app targeting is a great strategy when you already know what sites or apps you want your ads to run on. Marketers often combine inventory types in a single campaign to make the best use of 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 are looking for on these pages using behavioral targeting.

Custom site lists will ensure your ads are serving on the desired sites, and generally come at a more efficient cost than private marketplace deals. The only downside to custom site lists is that they have less power over where ads will serve on the site. To gain access to premium inventory, it’s better to go through a private marketplace deal. 

Private Marketplace (PMP)

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. Although less cost efficient, this is the best way to get your brand in front of qualified traffic in highly visible areas of the site.

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. 


Retargeting is essential for re-engaging users who have previously visited your site, taken action on your site, or have past-purchase history. This is an effective targeting strategy to bring customers back to the site, keep them interested, offer additional info, or make sure your brand is top of mind.

Depending on the product, it can take several visits before online shoppers decide to make a purchase. In platforms like Basis, users have the ability to build custom audience pools based off of website interactions. This can be anything from a specific page visit, to actions such as cart abandonment or button clicks. This is an essential strategy for marketers who want to understand their product’s purchase funnel and consumer journey.

Geo Fencing

Geo fencing is a hot topic for marketers because it focuses on targeting individuals within a specific geographic perimeter, or fence (hence the name). These digital boundaries can be built around a specific place of interest—whether it is your physical location, your competitor’s location, or a place where your audience group is congregated. This type of geo targeting is ideal for mobile campaigns. You can target specific locations for desktop campaigns, but since geo fencing campaigns use GPS data, it is much more effective for mobile devices. This campaign type can also be referred to as a hyperlocal campaign.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting is similar to an audience campaign in that it targets based on a set of third-party data segments. The difference is that contextual targeting looks for the type of content users are browsing. The beauty of programmatic is that you can get very specific with targeting different types of content on specific pages. These content targeting segments can be as broad as sports, news or entertainment, or more specific, like baseball, healthcare news and award shows.

Another benefit of contextual is that it sidesteps the collection of user data completely. As marketers transition away from third-party cookies and privacy compliant marketing becomes the new norm, identity solutions like contextual will be more important than ever.

Privacy-Compliant Targeting

Targeting is one of the areas that will be most impacted by the upcoming cookieless future. To learn how marketers can best prepare for a privacy-compliant future, check out Beyond Third-Party Cookies: Your Guide to Overcoming the Identity Crisis.

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