What is Programmatic Direct?

Reading time: 5 minutes

The world of online ad space is complicated, with more platforms to buy and sell ad space popping up every day. Its complexity gets further exaggerated when considering each method includes several key players, like ad exchanges, ad networks, and supply-side and demand-side platforms.

Not surprisingly, this is confusing for publishers and advertisers. However, one of the new platforms making it easier for both publishers and advertisers is programmatic direct. 

Programmatic direct is a direct deal between a publisher and an advertiser, eliminating exchange parties. There are three types of programmatic direct: 

  • Preferred deal: Consists of one-to-one trading where the price is fixed and volume is not.
  • Private auction: An invitation is required and a minimum price is established, but volumes are not fixed.
  • Guaranteed deal: Consists of one-to-one trading where the price is fixed and volumes are guaranteed.

What is Programmatic Direct? 

Programmatic direct is a form of programmatic advertising where a publisher contacts a specific advertiser to purchase ad space at a negotiated cost for a fixed time interval. The added benefit is that advertisers get guaranteed ad impressions by displaying ads on the publisher’s premium web pages. With programmatic direct, both publisher and advertiser negotiate on a fixed CPM that is fair for both parties. 

Publishers get a chance to sell inventory to interested buyers and advertisers get to reach a specific audience with guaranteed impressions. 

For example, let’s say a popular parenting blog has ad space on its site and decided to enter an agreement with a high-end baby stroller company. Programmatic direct would be a great deal for both parties. The publisher gets ad space related to its targeted niche, and the advertiser is guaranteed a certain number of impressions. It’s a win-win. 

How is it Different from Other Programmatic Deals?

While it may sound similar, programmatic direct shouldn’t be confused with other forms of programmatic advertising, like real-time bidding or private marketplace.

Real-time bidding (RTB) is an automated process where publishers put ad space up for auction for advertisers to bid on, with the highest bid getting the ad space. It all happens in real-time and takes fractions of a second to complete. 

A private marketplace (PMP) runs similarly to an RTB but on an invitation-basis. Here, sellers (publishers) invite specific buyers (advertisers) who bid on the space. The highest bidder earns the space and the process is more private and secure than RTB.

Programmatic direct requires much more human interaction, but it also offers more control over the deal for both publishers and advertisers. Additionally, programmatic direct deals offer a guarantee on the CPM and impressions between publisher and seller for a fixed price and duration. 

Unlike programmatic direct, with RTB agreements, publishers don’t have any control over who the buyer is for their ad space. The buyer could be an advertiser that has nothing to do with the overall niche of the site. 

What are the Pros? 

Programmatic direct makes sense for publishers who are looking to be more in charge of their inventory. The opportunity to have direct control over the ads that appear on premium pages like the home page or landing pages can be very advantageous for publishers. Programmatic direct improves the quality and security of buying and selling ad space compared to other forms of programmatic advertising. 

Here are a few benefits of using programmatic direct: 

Quality: Every advertiser wants to ensure that they get quality impressions for their advertisements. It’s only natural. Programmatic direct offers guaranteed quality impressions at a fixed rate and time in a niche they want to reach. It creates quality that’s hard to beat in the market. 

Control: Publishers and advertisers alike want to have control over their advertising and inventory. The opportunity to negotiate with specific buyers makes it easy for publishers to control their premium inventory. They can ensure their ad space connects with their site and their users.  

Security: Both advertisers and publishers stand to benefit from programmatic direct, with a guaranteed agreement and fixed price and duration worked out by both parties in the deal. 

Are there any Cons?  

While programmatic may work for most publishers and advertisers, it’s not a perfect system for all. Here are a few drawbacks to programmatic direct: 

You can’t sell all of your inventory: While it would be ideal to sell all of your inventory like this, the reality is that it isn’t feasible. One reason for this is that major brands want your most coveted space and won’t settle for the less-travelled pages on your site. 

Not that flexible: The fact that programmatic direct is a secure, guaranteed agreement is both a great benefit and an Achilles heel. Sometimes deals don’t always go as planned, especially when it comes to impressions. 

Barrier of entry: For smaller publishers, it can be challenging to land exclusive deals with premium advertisers. As a smaller publisher, you may not have the audience size the publisher is looking for. 

How do You get Started? 

You can manage a programmatic direct deal in a few simple clicks using Google Ad Manager. You (the publisher) start a programmatic direct deal, and the buyer then has the opportunity to accept. Both parties need to agree to the Google Ad Manager policies to continue.

Here’s how to set up your programmatic direct in Google Ad Manager: 

Step 1: Enable and Configure Programmatic Direct

Make sure you have an Ad Exchange Account before starting. 

  1. In Google Ad Manager, navigate to Admin, then Global Settings, and then Features
  2. Slide the toggle for Programmatic Direct to turn it on
  3. Save the settings. 

Now that programmatic direct is enabled, you need to configure it. Configuring the deal gives you a name in the marketplace, where you’ll find buyers.  

Important note: Once programmatic direct is turned on, it cannot be turned off. 

Step 2: Configure Environment for Campaigns

The environment display helps buyers identify what type of format can be served (display, mobile app, instream video and audio, or mobile in-app outstream). 

Your Ad Exchange account can be linked to one or more environments, but an environment cannot be linked to multiple Ad Exchange accounts. 

Google Ad Exchange has numerous restrictions. These restrictions are there to protect both publishers and advertisers. Be sure to familiarize yourself with Google’s Ad Manager Policies

Is it Right for You? 

Only you know if programmatic direct is right for you. There’s no telling what the future holds for programmatic direct, but its current popularity indicates that it will be strongly used in the future. 

As with any new technology, it can be daunting to start — go slow, take your time, and ask questions.

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