What’s the Big Deal on Programmatic Advertising?

July 8, 2017

Programmatic advertising is the new buzz word in the digital media landscape. It is not just a just a buzz word, it a revolutionary way of using media to reach audiences effectively. The simplest definition of programmatic advertising that I have come across is; delivering the right content, at the right time, at the right place to the right audience, using technology. While we typically hear about programmatic in the digital space, it can be applied in above the line media like TV and radio.

In the image featured on this post (Courtesy of Coke Studio Africa), there are several people sitting at the table, and others watching, at this press conference. With programmatic media, every single person in that room would receive content that is relevant to them based on their interests, which could be music, sports, cooking, fashion, news. The only efficient way of doing so is using technology.

In the programmatic advertising landscape, there are many players: Simply put, on one side there is the marketing, and on the other side there is the consumer. In between the two there are several different players. Agencies, agency trading desks, demand side platform (DSP), the supply side platform (SSP), ad exchange, ad networks, ad servers, data management platforms (DMP), data aggregators, data suppliers, and publishers. It’s a complex environment that is powered by technology and it is evolving rapidly.

As much as the ecosystem appears complex, to the marketer, there are several advantages for using programmatic technology.

  1. Programmatic delivers actions!

My first experience with programmatic goes back to early in 2015 when I was running the Share a Coke marketing campaign in Nigeria for Coca-Cola. This coincided with the country’s presidential, national and gubernatorial elections.  As expected there was media clutter on TV and radio as politicians invested heavily to get the word out.

What we didn’t expect was significant media clutter on digital as well. Both presidential candidates, Goodluck and Buhari were spending large amounts daily on Google Display Networks, and Social media platforms. This essentially drowned out our digital media efforts for the Share a Coke campaign and we saw very poor CTR and Conversion rates on the Share a Coke website.

Our agency, Sponge West Africa, through their programmatic arm, ARC, real time bidding specialists, suggested we use programmatic advertising to increase conversation rates of audiences to the Share a Coke Website. The day after the programmatic campaign was launched, the number of users visiting the site increased by 239%, from 2,363 to 8,008 visitors. This trend continued throughout the campaign resulting in its overall success.

2. Marketers should focus on buying audiences, and not sites

Through real time bidding (RTB), programmatic advertising enables the buying of audiences rather than buying sites or ad placements.

How this works is through the use of Cookies-the anonymous user ID that is generated when someone visits a website. As a user moves from one site to the other, leaving cookie (crumbs) behind, Ad exchanges alert the vendors asking for a bid on the ad impression that’s about to serve an ad to that user. The ad vendor then decides in real time if they want to bid, a decision which is based on the campaign goals or target audience. So for example if the user is visiting football sites, and the campaign is sports related, then the ad vendor would place a bid. If they win the bid, then the ad is served to the user. All this happens in real time through the use of technology.

3. Programmatic eliminates wastage by optimizing media buying

In 2016 we started using Eskimi, a demand side platform that has great audience reach in Africa. Through this platform we were able to reach our target audience with engaging content at an optimized cost.

We ran the Coca-Cola Taste the Feeling campaign on Eskimi in 14 markets in Africa, and we were able to achieve Cost per Clicks (CPCs) of $0.04 that was 8 times lower than on other platforms used!

On video, through optimization our Cost per Views (CPVs) were 10 times lower than on other platforms. The reason behind this low CPV is simple: Through the Eskimi platform, we were able to target a specific audience e.g. mums or teens, making sure that we reached only people who are interested in watching this video, and hence we do not waste time or money on audiences who would just skip the video. The focus was put on placement on sites which generate higher conversion rates.

Check out what Industry Experts had to say about Programmatic Advertising at the Eskimi Talks held in Nairobi


4. Programmatic is performance driven unlike direct placements through publishers

A certain blog in Nigeria charges advertisers USD 6,000 for a banner each month on the home page. The amazing thing is that on that blog site there were multiple home page banners resulting in an eye sore of advertising. I did a quick count at all the banners on the site to calculate the revenue this publisher was getting and it was in the area of $30,000 in banner revenue a month! I almost wanted to quit my corporate job and go open a blog.

I asked about traffic to this site and content and guess what, the traffic is ok but the content is re-purposed and not of high quality.

Any marketer who will spend USD 6,000 a month a banner ad that doesn’t deliver impressions or CTRs is a joker! In this day and age performance of a banner should determine placement.

In summary…

Programmatic is a performance based media buying strategy that ensures optimization hence ability to meet KPIs. Optimization ensures that a campaign is served where the performance is best. If a site, banner, operator, OS, browsers, audiences, is not delivering results, then placement simply stops the ones which do not deliver the CPC you need.

So with that, yes, programmatic is a big deal even here in Africa, as it is disrupting the way we traditionally buy media online.



  1. Joe Otin - July 8, 2017 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Waithera, this is excellent experience and it helps us in the digital field as we come to an end of experimentation and move towards what works. Programatic works and its hard to justify any other method of online display advertising. Thanks for this great piece.

  2. Eunice Nyandat - November 7, 2017 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Brilliant, so glad brands are having this conversation

  3. Richard - November 8, 2017 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    Nice take on our West African brothers. That blogging example on banner ads too, wow, still seems at its infancy & the blogger is taking full advantage.

  4. Marvin Bisanga - November 8, 2017 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Insightful case study. Thank you. Makes my work easier convincing my team on where to invest & partner with in the future.

  5. Olurotimi Adeboye - November 9, 2017 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Programmatic is the way to go if you’re after the best performance and value for your spend, Waithera. We have an interesting solution that brings programmatic to both radio and television, I’d be glad to engage you further and show you how it works.

  6. Olumuyiwa George - January 25, 2018 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Interesting thoughts on programmatic advertising. I’m starting to get more interested in this field but it seems to be only accessible to big agencies and companies with huge ad spend budgets.

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