The five golden rules of programmatic for brands


Gawain Owen, Digital Strategy Director from Jellyfish and guest speaker at the IAB ‘Getting up to speed in Programmatic’ briefing highlights the top 5 golden rules for programmatic.

So much has been said about programmatic that it’s often difficult for brand marketers to know whether they’re on the right track with their approach. The truth is that despite all the industry talk, no one really knows what or how everyone else is doing.


Bodies like ISBA and the IAB play a crucial role in furthering the discussion as they bring brands together to discuss best practice in a confidential manner. While working client-side, I sat on industry committees, such as ISBA’s Digital Action Group, and saw first hand the things that brands are really concerned with and how these impact their strategies.


Having consulted with publishers, tech companies and venture capital firms, and worked for brands and now a digital agency, I have a 360 degree view of the industry, which I’m going to share from the lens of a brand marketer. Regardless of whether you’re a brand doing amazing work with data in programmatic with full-on attribution or starting out in programmatic, the following five golden rules are applicable to all to ensure a solid foundation and full internal stakeholder engagement.

Define programmatic


  • First off, define what programmatic means for your business. Starting with a clear definition of programmatic for your organisation will help all internal and external stakeholders to be on the same page.
  • Who owns programmatic within your business? Could or should it be more than one person? Defining roles and responsibilities for programmatic is important for long-term success.
  • How does programmatic integrate with other forms of media buying and how will it fuel your future marketing efforts? You should plan where programmatic is going to add value within your wider media plan.
  • What do you expect programmatic to deliver to your business? Set clear realistic goals for your programmatic activity and ensure your measurement framework is in place before you start buying media programmatically.




Establish your operating model


  • Collaborative communication with your agency is essential. When it comes to programmatic, most brands aren’t in control of their own destiny. Agree roles and responsibilities from the outset.
  • Understand the technology being used and why. What parts should you own and which should you have a login for? What will you do with that login? Who actually owns the data?
  • Pay your agency fairly. Programmatic involves many talents. Don’t be afraid to ask for the very best talent.
  • Do you need third party advice to up-skill and offer a considered viewpoint? The programmatic supply chain is complicated. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from industry experts.


Get to grips with brand safety, ad fraud and viewability


  • This is very much a shared responsibility with your agency partners. There should be constant communication with regards approach, learnings and updates.
  • Do you have access/control of the whitelist and negative keywords? i.e. Do you know what creative is appearing where and to which audience?
  • Is viewability a consideration? What is being used to measure viewability and what is an acceptable rate?
  • Do you understand, influence or own the software being used? You should have a clear understanding of what technology is being used to deliver your programmatic campaigns, why that technology is being used and what you are actually paying for that technology.
  • What contingency and communications plan do you have internally if the worst were to happen? Waiting until after the worst happens is often too late.


Publishers are key


  • As part of everyone coming together it is important that brands engage with publishers to understand what type of inventory is available and to work with agency partners to understand who each technology vendor is and exactly what they do.
  • Take ownership of the publishers and networks you work with.
  • Meet publishers and create win-win business opportunities. Think data first and link back to the other golden rules.
  • Remember consumers don’t visit websites to admire your adverts.
  • Great content costs money to produce.

Be clear on measurement


  • Be clear and concise on your campaign objectives. Direct Response vs. branding and how they work together. Do the KPI’s even make sense?
  • Are you even able to measure? Does the software you use for all forms of media buying even allow for this?
  • Integrate programmatic into the wider media plan.
  • Work with agency partners to define your attribution model and stick to it.
  • Make everyone accountable.


The five golden rules should be looked at holistically and not in silos as they intersect and overlap. Their purpose is to offer brands a solid foundation, from which they can build and measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. 


All the presentations from the ‘Getting up to speed with programmatic’ briefing on 10th October 2017 can be viewed here.

IAB MoVi 2017, a deep dive into Mobile and Video including new Irish Mobile and Video Research is on 26th October at the Guinness Storehouse.  For speaker line-up and to book click here.