At Tuff, our team is well-versed at a variety of growth marketing tactics. On a daily basis, we partner with clients to set the roadmap and then get to work experimenting with a variety of different tactics based on their goals.
More recently, when we identify our channel mix and consider how we’re going to diversify across the entire user journey, programmatic has continued to make its way into the conversation.
In this post, I’m going to break down what this means and how it could impact your acquisition channel mix.
What are programmatic ads?
Programmatic advertising is the leveraging of automation tech for media buying. It leans on data insights and algorithms to deliver ads to users at the optimal time to drive them to a specific action (buying a product, filling out a lead form, etc.)
Programmatic offerings take control of where and when your ad gets placed on the web. Some campaigns even go as far as generating ad creative for you as well. These campaigns use automation to help you hit your marketing goals. Chances are, if you’ve done any sort of digital advertising in the last few years, you’ve used programmatic ads in one form or another.
What are some examples?
Almost all modern digital ad platforms have some aspect of programmatic ad buying baked in. There’s automated app ads on PPC platforms, dynamic product ads on paid social platforms, and countless other examples within the channels most digital markets are familiar with.
A great example of the shift towards programmatic is Google’s newest campaign type, performance max. This offer allows users to upload a number of images, videos, logos and headlines to a campaign. From there, the Google algorithm combines these and places them across the web. This campaign can show up as a youtube ad, display ad, or an ad in someone’s gmail inbox.
On the paid social ads side of things, Facebook’s dynamic product ads have some programmatic elements to them. They still allow the user to dictate the audience, but ad creative is pulled from a product catalog uploaded to Facebook. The Facebook algorithm will then select product images based on the users interests or their activity on your website, and deliver ads across Facebook, Instagram and their audience network.
How did we use programmatic channels at Tuff?
As a growth marketing agency, we are always looking for new avenues and channels to help our partners grow their businesses. This typically manifests itself through a variety of paid and organic acquisition, with conversion rate optimization and creative strategy layered in.
Programmatic solutions offer us a great way to complement these strategies and bring in new customers that wouldn’t be found through more traditional methods. That being said, we’ve learned that these more automated strategies can’t really carry the full weight of growth marketing strategy. While they are great at finding users to convert who you wouldn’t find with more traditional methods, they often struggle to achieve results at scale. This makes programmatic campaigns the perfect tools to complement strategies that can achieve results at a higher spend.
Where does programmatic fit into a paid acquisition strategy?
Let’s look at this through a real breakdown of one of our partners. They are an ecommerce brand that brought us in to use paid acquisition to drive new customers to purchase online through their site.
We were having a unique problem here that was tough to solve with our existing channel mix. Cold traffic was converting at a great rate with really strong results, but the price of getting users who have already interacted with the site was too high to be sustainable. This led us to explore alternate channels to re-engage these users, ultimately ending with us launching programmatic ads on Mountain.
Mountain has a few different campaign types, but we take advantage of their display network in the context of this partnership. Our strategy with this channel is very focused, using their display network and dynamic, programmatic ads to target users who have added items to their cart, but not completed a purchase.
Like I mentioned earlier, these strategies can struggle to work at scale, so it made sense for us to use it on a smaller, highly interested audience. We also leaned on Mountain’s programmatic tools to help build ad creative for this campaign. Mountain allows us to build a template where they’ll pull in relevant product images through an uploaded Shopify catalog. This means that the user is seeing ads with images of products they added to their cart on the website.
After extensive testing on this channel, we found that spending any more than $5k/month here would result in a higher than acceptable cost per purchase. Keeping the budget on Mountain at $5k/mo (which is about 5% of our total ad spend across channels) resulted in CPAs that were half of what we were seeing on our next top performing paid social channel, Facebook.
This campaign was a huge success for us in an area where other channels struggled. After introducing this as a technique to target users who have added to cart, we’ve kept it running as an incredibly efficient tool for bottom of funnel spending.
There are definitely programmatic channels out there that can handle a larger spend (Google performance max comes to mind) but for our needs bringing in Mountain to pick up high intent users did the job incredibly well at a low budget.
For this partner, programmatic is only a piece of the puzzle. Without support from our social ads channels (Facebook, Pinterest, Tik Tok) as well as PPC channels (Google search and Youtube,) it would fall flat. This is a specific example of how to work programmatic ads into your channel mix, but it’s representative of how we treat this advertising technique here at Tuff. It can be a very effective tool, but it’s not a silver bullet. Mixing programmatic ads into your larger acquisition strategy is the best way to achieve results.
The partners we work with often require a complex channel mix to achieve their goals. The digital advertising landscape is always changing, and the growth marketers and channel experts here at Tuff love testing new campaign types and channels.
If you’re looking for a team to put together an acquisition plan and execute on it, drop us a note!
Hi there! I’m Ethan, a Growth Marketer based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I have four years of digital agency experience under my belt creating and executing acquisition strategies for companies in a number of different verticals across a variety of channels. When I’m not at my desk you can find me skiing, mountain biking or chasing my dog around in the mountains.