What’s The Difference Between Programmatic and Display Advertising?

Terms like display advertising and programmatic advertising come up in lots of marketing strategy sessions these days. But what’s the difference between the two? Some people use the phrases interchangeably, but are they really the same?  Programmatic and display advertising go hand in hand, but they aren‘t twins. 

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we, and examine the differences between these two interrelated and popular buzzwords.

Begin with basics

  • What is Programmatic Advertising: This refers to an automated algorithm-based, real-time bidding process for buying digital ad space. Ad publishers or sellers offer ad space via marketplaces and ad exchanges. Digital advertisers or buyers purchase ad space via a bidding process. Programmatic tools help marketers curate highly targeted content for specific demographics, and agencies can purchase ad impressions on mobile apps and websites within milliseconds. (You might also read this article to know essential terms related to programmatic marketing and advertising.) 
  • What is Display Advertising: Display advertising or display network advertising has been with us since the 1990s. A display ad or banner ad is a paid online advertising strategy that is typically an image. This method refers to hopefully eye-catching banners of different shapes and sizes. Unlike text ads, display ads do not appear in search results. These banners are served up to online audiences via display ad networks. One of the most popular  is Google Ad Network, which has around two million sites and reaches 90% of users on the Internet. Besides Google, other examples include Bing and Yahoo.

Display Advertising and Programmatic Advertising: Spot the Difference! 

Both these technologies of programmatic and display advertising are auction-based bidding platforms that marketers use to reach targeted audiences via mobile applications and domain placements. 

Despite many similarities, they do have some differences. 

  • Reach: Display advertising or display network advertising performs in a closed ecosystem and doesn’t have access to many premium private marketplaces. Display networks are limited to websites that are part of their network. Programmatic advertising has a far greater reach in comparison to display networks. It extends to innumerable ad exchanges, ad inventory and marketplaces across the web, thus reaching a broader prospect base. To conclude on the reach, programmatic has a wider reach as hundreds of exchanges participate in facilitating the inventory, whereas display network advertising happens in a closed network. Broader targeting options are available in Programmatic as compared to display network advertising 
  • Pocket Pinch: Display advertising like the Google Display Network (GDN) is a cost-efficient budget item for marketers. There are fees to access display network platforms, but for the most part they’re manageable and convenient. Programmatic advertising is costlier than display ads, as it includes the expense of the ad platforms. It’s based on the CPM model, which means you pay for the impressions and not engagements, like PPC or pay to click. 
  • Content Type: With display networks, you have to stick to image ads such as banner ads. Audio and video ads can only run through sites like YouTube. Content type is limited to image ads, unlike programmatic advertising, which supports diverse content. Programmatic advertising supports creative placement and retargeting options, videos and interactive HTML5. Through the latter, you can manage marketing campaigns by analyzing ads’ completion percentages. For example, if your user has watched above 50% of the video, you can move on to the next video. 
  • Convenience: If you have a Gmail account, use Google Drive and Google+, Google Sheets or other services, you can access the Google Display Network (GDN). You can track your ads on the same platform. Programmatic advertising is more efficient and precise due to the level of automation and algorithms it uses. It requires less manual involvement and promotes higher accuracy and wider reach.

Final Takeaways when Comparing Display to Programmatic

Which one should you choose? Well, you’re the best judge of your business needs, budget and engaging your targeted audiences. Whichever you choose, you must have a clear message, attractive content, and effective marketing and advertising strategies. Find a solid B2B demand gen partner if you need help executing.  If you’re interested in more on programmatic and ad strategies, see this article by our COO, Craig Weiss: “The Future of Display Ads without Third-party Cookies.”

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