* This article originally appeared on smk.co – as one of our resident guest blog posts.

Last month we started exploring the good news that Programmatic delivers us marketers.

This month in Part 2 if our mini-series, let’s kick off with the not-so-good news.


Just like any program, garbage in = garbage out. Implementing Programmatic requires greater clarity from the advertiser over precisely what they want the algorithm to achieve.

Here is where Programmatic exposed several of our unwritten rules & assumptions we use when manually optimising – but didn’t explicitly think to instruct the algorithm to perform.

Example 1: You don’t always want the highest ROI.

The classic rookie mistake we made was to set for highest ROAS account-wide.

However, since certain campaigns always deliver high ROI (eg. bottom of the funnel), the algorithm does exactly what its told and skews budget here to maximise ROI.

We got our wish – high ROI but at the expense of the rest of the marketing funnel. No top of the funnel, no bottom.

Example 2: You sometimes don’t want ROI at all.

The second rookie mistake we made was forgetting there is one campaign with terrible ROI but is tactical and necessary: Competitors.

Bidding on Competitor brands and audiences will typically have low ROI – but that doesn’t mean we cull it.

In fact, sometimes we willingly take zero ROI if it means successfully blocking out competitors.


Far from freeing us from having to ‘worry about the details’, implementing Programmatic forces us to pay more attention to the details since now we have to confirm the algorithm is doing what we are expecting it to do.

We actually need to ask better questions of the results, or we could have be prematurely celebrating, assuming the algorithm is ‘winning’ when in fact, it may be stealing from the long term to make the short term look good.

In Summary

For all of its advantages, the full dream of Programmatic isn’t quite here yet and we aren’t all out of jobs.

In fact, its highlighted that a valuable skill we needed before Programmatic has all of a sudden become even more valuable – and that’s the ability to ask a better question of ourselves and our data.

Until Programmatic can do that, marketers who have this skill won’t have any fear of losing their job to an algorithm.

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