Is programmatic advertising your next powerful marketing tool?


Programmatic advertising uses AI to automatically place ads…


But many business owners don’t understand how to get the most out of it…


Mary Ann Pruitt is here to demystify programmatic advertising and help you leverage it to reach the audience you want.


In this episode, Holly shares her content creation wisdom, including:

  • The role of programmatic advertising in a media plan
  • Is programmatic advertising better for prospecting or branding?
  • Should you hire a service provider or go in-house?
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.


Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is programmatic advertising. Here to speak with me is Mary Ann Pruitt, who is the CEO and president at Mosaic Media, a collection of media buying experts and creative strategists who negotiate purchase and monitor advertising space and airtime. 


Mary Ann has helped develop effective marketing strategies for agencies of all sizes, small businesses, service businesses, private educational institutions, legal and professional services, and many others. She’s passionate about passing on the experience that she has gained, to eager professionals looking for actionable marketing tips. Mary Ann, welcome to the show.


Mary Ann: Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to the conversation.


Steffen: Now Mary Ann, before we talk about programmatic advertising, tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself. How did you get started in marketing, and what led you to founding Mosaic Media?


Mary Ann: Well, I fell in love with marketing, at a fairly young age, actually, as a graphic designer. That was my first marketing love, and this was before digital. So you’d actually have to hand draw or do things and scan them in, and then make them digital. So it was, that’s actually how I fell in love with marketing. And that was the creative side of my mind. 


But then I eventually found myself falling in love with data and economics. And ultimately, in college, that’s what I studied was Marketing and Economics together. And that led me down a path of media. And that went into data. And I just fell in love with media and the numbers that data have to tell us. When I started Mosaic was really out of a love for that media, and what services and what things can be provided for clients and agencies, all throughout the country, and throughout the world of what you can do in today’s world. 


When I started my career in media, there’s so many limited things that you can do. And now in today’s world, there’s so many things you can do. There’s so many opportunities that actually it can be overwhelming for brands. It can be overwhelming for agencies of okay, where do I need to go? And where do I not need to go? Because there’s always something new.


Steffen: Now, that might change a little bit in the future, don’t you think? With the restriction of cookies moving forward?


Mary Ann: Yeah. And, you know, that’s when we get into first-party data and third-party data, right? What is available? And what are we able to collect. It’s already changed. If you’re using Facebook as a targeting tool, you’re doing it wrong, it can no longer target like it used to be able to. And you need to be using it as more of a brand awareness campaign tool, as opposed to that very micro-targeted tool that you want to go after. 


So with that, I mean, you have to keep these things in mind, as you’re building any plan that, you know, you’ve got to make sure that you’re customizing it for what the goals are going to be. Is this brand awareness, or is it sales conversion? What am I doing to target it? But yeah, so there’s a few complexities that the tactics aren’t going to change, we’re going to continue to get more tactics. It’s how we use the data with those tactics and how we can really narrow those down and target our target audiences.


Steffen: Now, today, I want to talk about programmatic advertising. Before we dive deeper into that, what is programmatic advertising from your point of view?


Mary Ann: So I like to make it really simple and kind of take it step by step. Programmatic is simply an automated form of ad placement. It’s using AI, it’s using automation to place ads. When I started my career, you know, over 20 years ago, it was an RFP process. You had to talk to a buyer or a rep, get rate cards, put plans together go that route. 


Now in today’s world, because and we we’re only limited to certain things over 20 years ago, right? We didn’t have the digital space to target now that we do. Now, it’s with programmatic, it’s automated. And it started in the digital space first, where you are, literally a website puts out an impression up for auction, you bid on that impression through a DSP, which is a demand-side platform. And the highest bidder wins the ad impression. 


It really is that simple. It takes a lot of investment and setup and tools and team to have what it needs to have a DSP or to have a direct seat on a DSP. And that’s probably why it becomes so complex for people. It’s overwhelming. People, they know that they’ve heard of programmatic and they know that you have they probably need it in their mix, but they’re not sure what it is.


Steffen: Yeah, I mean, that kind of leads me to my next question for companies or even agencies don’t have the expertise to manage programmatic campaigns themselves, they obviously have some solution, they could go to a trade desk or any other DSP and basically get a managed service where they set up everything they manage the campaign. It’s kind of an IO process, right? 


Then they are trading desk like and like an audience X, for example. I think, one, one company, similar, you know, you had an open IO, and they use their seat on whatever platform they have access to, to buy the media. What are the pros and cons, when it comes to actually matching it in-house, or working with kind of a managed service provider, or a trading desk?


Mary Ann: It to me, there’s a blend of best of both worlds. One thing that is probably a big myth of programmatic it’s overwhelming, it’s for you to be a direct seat takes a lot of investment and a lot of team. So a lot of times what people do is they go to a trade desk, or they go to a DSP. And they get put on there automate automated programs, where it’s like, okay, here’s a budget as an agency. Here’s a budget, place it, manage it in a reality, it’s more set it and forget it. You’re not going to have a team that’s really optimizing it. That’s, that’s the benefit of having an in house. 


However, in today’s world, you may not have millions of dollars to spend to be that direct seat yourself. And then the money that then takes to have the team on top of it. You have to have that spend level, that investment level, plus having the team. So what I like to say is, it’s really important to find a partner, not a vendor. And when you differentiate that and find it in today’s world of collaboration, find that partner that can work with you, in programmatic space. Find that partner that can be those things, best of both worlds, they’re that direct seat, but they’re helping you manage it. 


They’re optimizing it, there’s no set it and forget it. It really is that partnership, and that leaning into it and working with it. So that’s what we actually strive to do is to be that partner, as opposed to a vendor where I’m just sending in an insertion order, and then that’s it. Now you want to find a partner that’s walking through, okay, what is the strategy of this? What are we trying to accomplish? What’s the research behind it? And then okay, as we’re building this plan, how does that look? How do how do we build that out? And then what am I doing to optimize it based on the goals that we’ve already clearly identified? 


That’s the difference between a partner and a vendor. And when you find a partner, that actually as if you’re an agency, that adds value for you, right, that adds value back to your client. Plus, you’re able to, that’s another revenue source as opposed to having all the overhead to operate the department in-house. So you kind of want to find this balance and the best of both worlds of having that partner, that’s not a set it and forget it vendor.


Steffen: Now there was a there was a period when a lot of especially bigger companies decided, you know, they didn’t want their media agency to necessarily do the programmatic advertising, 


Mary Ann: Correct.


Steffen: Becuase there were a lot of holdouts. A client gives an agency $100,000 a month programmatic fee, but they never really know how much of that 100,000 actually ends up on screen. They were, you know, if you read through things, there were notions on up to 60, 70% of the budget actually disappeared. What is a good way to kind of build this partnership and enable transparency, so that the client actually feels confident that A, there is no, set it and forget it. B, there’s actually proper value that comes out of the relationship.


Mary Ann: So one of the first things that you want to do is finding that partner because when you’re going a vendor route, there are higher fees. It’s all wrapped in it’s all you know, there’s a lot into that, set it and forget it, you’re not getting the management because there’s layers of fees. So going to a vendor to get it done, that’s when you’re running into these, you know, only 20% actually hitting the screen scenarios, because there’s so many different layers of fees that are going to go into it. 


Where in reality, you should be looking at what the CPM is going to cost. What does that cost of the impression? And how does that look? And what then can we quote back to the to the client of what they’re getting out of that? What are what are the impressions that they’re getting? What are the goals that they’re getting out of it? What are they accomplishing out of it, but when you find a partner that is able to help you build that and look at that and make sure that the optimizations and things are happening on that front, it’s you will start to see the difference between a vendor and a partner because a partner comes alongside you, helps you look at the strategy helps you look at what okay, what is the reporting going to look like? 


What is the outcome gonna look like? What are the goals going to look like? As opposed to a vendor that’s just guessing and they’re just getting you impressions to get you impressions. As opposed to quality impressions. Because you want quality impressions. You don’t want just impressions that are just there. Anybody can get you impressions. You have to think of the quality of impression that you’re getting. 


Grill your partners on what their processes are, look and see, okay, are you optimizing daily? Are you going through all of the buys, making sure that everything’s running that we’re on the sites that we want to be on? What sites am I showing up on? What am I getting out of that? What ad sets are showing? What tags are showing me? What are conversions looking like? What are my completion rates? Videos? Things like that, ask the questions. And unfortunately, in today’s world, in digital, there are so many offerings out there, and so many different things that I feel at times people try to make it more confusing than it actually is. 


So that it’s easier to just buy and people just buy. Okay, I know I need to do it. Okay, that’s fine. It’s okay to ask those questions. Ask that of your partner, what are you doing to make sure I’m getting the quality that I absolutely need to reach the audience that I want to need. That I want? And who I want. So finding a partner versus a vendor is your first thing. Like that is just key in it, and asking those questions of what you’re doing is absolutely key.


Steffen: Now, what is the role of programmatic advertising on a media plan? So obviously, different channels, whether we’re talking about paid search, or paid social, they all play a different role when it comes to this media plan? Right? Some are more lower funnel activities, you know, people are ready to to buy, others are mid level or upper funnel activities to either, you know, introduce the service or products. What about programmatic advertising?


Mary Ann: Yeah. And so I, you know, we do more than just programmatic. But programmatic is a very key piece of what we are known for, because we have become that partner that people find the best of both worlds where you feel like you have the in house team. But it’s the direct seat. And so those are the key things that everybody gets really excited about and onboard with. But, and they find the quality there. 


But what’s really important, we deal with media across the board. And what’s really important is that you’re looking at each tactic for its strengths. What are they looking for. For example, in television today, and we saw this with the pandemic, we saw an increase of certain tactics amongst certain age groups, generations really showed us some changes and behaviors of how they’re consuming media. But if you take television, for example, after the pandemic, even before the pandemic, live television was really important. Live events. 


But now, after the pandemic, live events are even more important. We crave, we crave live events. We craved live, baseball games, football games. We crave those things because they went away. And so that’s how you use television to its strengths. Are you looking at if it’s an older audience, are you looking at live news, and then live sports, live events? If it’s any younger audience and looking at the strength by tactic. Programmatic, what’s great with programmatic is you’re targeting behaviors, you’re targeting personas, you’re not targeting just broad demographics. 


You’re bidding on that impression of the audience in what you’re wanting to target. And it’s so important for you to know who your audience is. But you have to get down to that point of okay, I’m bidding on my audience. And I’m bidding on them in multiple tactics, I’m bidding bidding on them in display, or I’m bidding them on improved pre roll or maybe over-the-top television. But I’m, it’s a bidding process for that impression for my target audience.


Steffen: Is it fair to say that programmatic advertising, in most cases is probably more prospecting tool?


Mary Ann: It can very much be that, but it also can be used as a branding tool. Because it really depends on what the goal is of the campaign. And the goal is of the client, right? So digital, more and more, is becoming part of everybody’s life. And we saw that in the pandemic that all generations of what an elevation, an evolution of you know, 10 to 20 years happened overnight, on digital. And so we, that’s where you can target and look at, okay, who’s my target audience, but it can be overall branding. Or it can be sales conversion. Or it can be you know, it depends on what the target of the campaign is. 


And what you’re trying to accomplish with that. Just like any other medium in media, is that you want to look okay, what is the goal? What is the outcome? And how am I building that strategy for there. Today’s world, we really do need to be looking at omni channel approaches. It’s not just programmatic or it’s not just TV or it’s not just radio. It is okay, where’s my audience? What are my goals of my campaign? How am I then building my media plan and strategy around that?


Steffen: Do you have some use cases for which programmatic advertising would be would be a great solution?


Mary Ann: If you’re in a b2b space, and you’re looking at targeting specific job titles, programmatic is going to be one of those that you should look at. Those are what if you have a good partner, and let’s say you’re looking at targeting, you know, CFOs within a tech space or within a healthcare space, those are going to be jobs specific of what you want to target, right. And you can do that programmatically. You can target by type of company, as well as what is that position and employment within that company. 


And you need to think with the great thing about programmatic is you are targeting these individuals where they are not just where they are at work, but where they are as individuals, right? It’s their habits online. And so, in b2b and b2c, the more you get to know your customer, the better it is for you in that targeting, and you’re gonna find that approach of okay, this is where they’re gonna be, I’m gonna be able to see how many more impressions I can find of that individual.


Steffen: Yeah. Now, you just talked about targeting CFOs, for example. So I could do that on LinkedIn, I could do that on LinkedIn too, right. What’s the, what’s the difference between potentially using LinkedIn as a social channel to reach your target audience versus programmatic?


Mary Ann: So in programmatic, I mentioned it just a little bit. But in programmatic, I’m actually trying to find the habits of the individual. When they’re on LinkedIn, they are making business decisions, or they’re thinking work. They’re not thinking actual social, for the most part. Individuals are not on there thinking, okay, yeah, I’m gonna, you know, this is for fun, this is more work-related, right. And that’s what they’re thinking on that side. 


They’re thinking of their professional brand. Programmatic targeting is the behavior of the individual of the target audience that I want to look at. I am bidding on an impression of where the individual is. LinkedIn, I’m bidding on the impression of them on LinkedIn. They’re on LinkedIn, I’m going to target those ads, I have that there. It’s a great tool. It’s something we use all the time. 


But how do I take that to the next level, is okay, let me look at this on the programmatic space. And let me make sure that when they’re reading a Forbes article that I can programmatically bid to get an impression of an ad there, or when they are streaming something on OTT, I can make sure that my ad is showing up there. And it’s the everyday behaviors of the individual, it’s not just the professional behaviors of the individual, when you’re looking b2b.


Steffen: Are there any roadblocks or obstacles to programmatic advertising?


Mary Ann: Programmatic is pretty incredible, frankly. You can narrow quite a bit. But sometimes you can get into a situation where you’re cannibalizing your own message, if you’re, if you’re over-bidding with too many messages. So you want to make sure that you’re careful on that front of don’t, if you’re bidding the same audience with different messages, you can over you can cannibalize your own impression bid, right? So you’re fighting against yourself. So be careful of that. 


But at the same time, just know what your goal is. If you have multiple messages, maybe your audience isn’t exactly the same, maybe you switch it up a little bit. But programmatic is a pretty incredible tool. Over 20 years ago, when I started my career, if you ever told me programmatic was what it is now. And we’re seeing traditional platforms, or we’re starting to head into programmatic bidding on traditional platforms as well. And with that, like it’s a, it’s an incredible tool for us to be able as marketers to be able to target more than we’ve ever been able to target.


Steffen: Now with programmatic there, there is obviously the inventory costs, or the cost that someone has to pay for displaying the ad or a ad, on a user screen, wherever they are, right. But then, in addition to that there is data cost, because you need to be able to identify that individual based on certain criteria as you talked about earlier. And then there’s technology costs, which you have to pay for using the platform, right? Is there a specific amount where you say, you know, what you should at least spend X, before you use a DSP or programmatic platform?


Mary Ann: You know, honestly, it’s more based on audience of who your audience is, because your budgets are going to be if you have enough to run a social campaign, you can look at programmatic as an option. So it is more about what is the strength of the tactic today. And like I had mentioned with social, we don’t want to use certain socials, Facebook, specifically on targeting, it’s more of a brand tool now as opposed to a targeting tool like it was. And that’s where you can, okay, if I need to target then I should look at programmatic. If I need to target and go into that realm, then that’s where programmatic strength is going to be. 


As opposed to just keeping on Facebook. Facebook still has its audience and its strength in that branding space. But and they can be paired together. But if you have budgets that are within a social range, you can still do some programmatic placement. And frankly, I mean, I think this is the biggest thing. I think it’s always the mystery of how much do I spend in advertising or how much do I how do I build a client’s budget around, you know what they’re looking for. 


And in reality, it really is, depending on what their industry is, it’s a percentage of what their AGI is going to be. They should be looking at that of what’s your adjusted gross income? And how much I need to have a line item on there of okay, how much am I going to spend on my advertising back to my company and my firm? And it shouldn’t be a second guess. Right? 


And I think that’s probably the hardest part in media spend, it’s people are always looking for, oh, do I have to do that? Can I just grow it other ways? Well, in today’s world, everybody is on a digital space, or on some form of media. Our media consumption is at the highest it’s ever been. And frankly, I don’t see it depleting. And we can go into that in another time of how COVID changed our consumption habits and why it changed our consumption habits. But that’s not going to change. 


And we have to think about, okay, in order to reach our audience, we absolutely positively have to have this built out in our plans. As any type of company, I don’t care what your brand is, you have to think about media spend. And if you’re an agency, find that partner that you can help clients guide that through as opposed to, don’t be afraid to collaborate. Collaboration is today’s best key word to be able to work together, like agencies should be collaborating together where your strengths are.


Steffen: Now, what are your thoughts on using Google from a display perspective as kind of a little form of programmatic advertising? Because obviously, data that the data is for free, right? You don’t have to technology costs on Google, therefore, for lower spends, that could be a solution. What are your thoughts on that?


Mary Ann: Yeah, Google’s a great tool. I like to actually, Google is a form of programmatic. I know from experience myself, when programmatic was brand new, like a really new product. I remember talking to my team early on and saying, okay, we’re gonna get on the programmatic train. And I remember early them saying, well, that’s no different than Google. And in reality, now, the more you’re in it, the more you realize, okay, Google is a data set. Right. And it’s a great data set. There’s huge data available in Google. And what you’re able to do. 


However you the more targeted you can be and what you’re leaving out on if you’re on a certain DSP or on a certain desk, and the fees of what you’re talking about with technology and various things. Again, if you’re looking at a quality impression, and your bidding on that, you need to be looking at that with Google too. What is the quality impression and the return on getting on that impression? Same thing is going to happen on the other front of programmatic. What is that quality of impression that I’m getting? It’s the it’s the cost of the impression. 


I also have to do that on Google. So Google is a great, great format. We, you know, we’re a Google partner, we do a lot with Google, as well. And we’re very big in that space. But that’s your paid search. And some of those things that you can primarily need to do in Google, you should absolutely be doing that. What I would challenge you is if you’re doing a lot of display, or a lot of video with Google, keep that budget there. But look at adding in programmatic to complement it because you’re you’re just expanding that net even more on an audience that you’re targeting.


Steffen: Interesting. Now, a little bit like paid search. You know, there are a lot of platforms there that can help you to more efficiently by paid search. Can’t you, I think, now, it’s called Sky. Marin, Optimizer, you name it. 


Mary Ann: There’s tons.


Steffen: From a DSP or platform perspective to buy programmatic, is there a big difference between those platforms? So for example, you know, Trade Desk, who else is there?


Mary Ann: There’s Centra, there’s Basis. Yeah, there’s Trade Desk, there’s all the above, right.


Steffen: Exactly. Is there a big difference between those platforms? Or is it just table stakes?


Mary Ann: Well, it really is also what data is available on those platforms. So like we have, we are direct seats on multiple, but that takes a lot of investment to be on that. And, again, you’re looking at the strengths and it boils down to who you’re trying to target and what you’re going to get out of it. It not to be a broken record on it. 


But this is where it is important for you to really find that partner. If you’re an in-house marketing team for a brand or if you’re an agency, finding that partner that has those multiple seats, and multiple areas to be able to bid on multiple DSPs is going to be key. Because you’re not only getting optimization, but you are also getting what is best for your goals. Who is getting me the most quality impression on there, because each one has its strengths. Its weaknesses, all the above just like anything else. 


But when you have the right partner, they have multiple tools and access to multiple tools that we’ll be able to help you within that spend. They all serve a great quality of what they’re looking for. But you have to, it when it comes to the difference of it, you really are looking for where are the audience is that you’re targeting and how am I getting the most quality impression I possibly can be? And I would argue that optimization is probably your best way to do that more than anything.


Steffen: I’m sure you talk to a lot of people like clients, maybe other agencies, about their media plans. And when you talk about programmatic, are there specific pushbacks you get? Are there any myths that people have? Why they say, either, no, I don’t want to do that. Or they think about programmatic in a specific way?


Mary Ann: You know, I think the biggest thing that we get, there’s so many myths about programmatic. And I think the biggest pushback is actually because they don’t understand it. And it’s trying to share it, because a lot of people like to fake that they understand it. And they think that they understand it. So they’re like, well, why so much digital, that doesn’t make any sense. But they’re coming at it from our perspective of Google or, you know, of Facebook. That’s what they think of when they think of digital. As opposed to programmatic where it’s like, well, do you stream TV? Well, yeah, stream TV. 


Well, you can programmatically bid that. Oh, I can. I thought I had to go through a TV vendor, I had to go through this. No. And, you know, for us, like we got on the Amazon train really early. And those are different things of how different tactics and what you can do. But I think the biggest thing that people get caught up into is they don’t understand it. So they’re scared of it. They don’t understand how do you bid it? How do you how do you do it? 


Like it’s a skill set, right? I don’t ask anybody how do I how do I build that graphic? Oh, I don’t know. I see it and it looks beautiful. And that’s great. You didn’t ask me, you know, what softwares am I using? How did I do that? What did I, how did I get to that point? No, you just saw a beautiful graphic, and it looks great. And you like it. When it comes to the media side, because they can’t grasp it, and they can’t touch it. I think that’s it’s so mysterious. And it’s so hard to understand, especially for digital. 


Because, you know, back in the day, I remember on TV, if a client saw their TV ad, they were so excited. They were ecstatic. I saw my TV ad even if they weren’t the target audience. Even if that wasn’t the target audience’s place, people would place their TV ad there so the client can see it. And in today’s world with digital, it’s like why I’ve never seen it. Well, are you the target audience that we’re trying to reach? Are you not? Like what, you know, what are we looking at? And I think overall, it’s because it can’t grasp it, and they can understand it. That programmatic is scary. So there’s so many myths with programmatic.


Steffen: Well, Mary Ann, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your knowledge on programmatic advertising. Now, if people want to find out more about you and Mosiac Media, how can they get in touch?


Mary Ann: Yeah, for sure. You can follow me on Twitter at Media Maps. And then if you want to get ahold of me, I love to just talk media all day long. If you have any questions, or if there’s anything that you’d want us to look at, in your media plans, small or large, we deal with the smallest of small budgets to the largest of large budgets. And we have the team to help in any way. If you want us to just review them, audit them, research them. We have lots of research tools, you can reach me directly on That comes straight to my email, and I’m happy always to chat.


Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.


Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at