Real-time bidding uncovered


Paul Gill


Real-time bidding (RTB) for advertisers is still, for the most part, online display advertising. This is placing banners, rich media or video ads online. The fundamental difference in RTB is that we’re trying to place the right ad in front of the right person at the right time. In RTB display campaigns we consider who is viewing those ads – not just which sites to place our ad on.

The ‘real-time’ element describes the time taken for our campaigns to assess users relevancy (i.e. should we bid to show them an ad). This is executed in milliseconds, in the time between a user choosing to visit a site and the page actually loading. If the user is relevant and we win the auction with our bid, then by the time the page loads they will see our ad.

Each individual user is valued in their worth to your brand. This should give you an idea of the power of this technology, millions of statistically qualified decisions taking place every day, each impression accessed in real time and bid on in an auction model.

How does it help a company?

Real-Time Bidding helps a company by allowing them to connect directly with their target audience. This then allows more conversions, sales, engagements or whatever the metric of success to be achieved. Subsequently CPAs and ROIs are possible that were never before achievable through traditional online display advertising. It allows us to appear across multiple premium publisher sites, with the option to only appear when engaging, relevant people are online.

Why do we need it compared to PPC?

It’s important to remember that RTB isn’t here to take over from PPC; its a complimentary form of advertising. PPC is essential in driving conversions when people are engaging with a search engine. RTB has a new level of complexity associated to it as it has taken a great leap in technology, optimization techniques and targeting options to bridge the gap in performance that used to exist between display and PPC.

Therefore we need to use both channels to work together and cover all stages of the buying or research cycle and to introduce a customer to a brand for the first time.

Industry research suggests that introducing a brand through RTB can have a positive influence on generic (non-brand) keywords click-through rates in PPC, so these channels can be mutually beneficial.

What people don’t realize about RTB

I would say the most common thing is that they can get access to inventory across multiple premium publisher sites as opposed to committing to just one or a small number of sites. So instead of just appearing on, for example, Cosmopolitan online, they can appear across a large selection of leading fashion sites when their target audience is online.

For years the industry was stuck with direct deals, purchasing inventory in bulk for a large investment. Education on programmatic buying is still very important for the industry as advertisers now have multiple options available for their online media spend and the opportunity to get some real, definable success.

Any tips for people just starting out/considering RTB?

  • As with any paid advertising venture, you need to clearly establish your goals and whether those goals are for direct response or branding. Clarity on this will help you or your campaign manager create a fully defined strategy.
  • It’s important that you and whoever is responsible for managing your RTB consider how the brand is reflected online. This covers the creative strategy as well as the targeting options and campaign setup. Tailor your approach for each type of person potentially viewing your ad!
  • It’s also always important to ensure that every opportunity is taken to reflect what is happening internally in your long term RTB strategy.
  • It seems simple advice given the complexity of RTB, but establishing a shared understanding with your RTB campaign manager is the best first step you can take.