Marketing | 05 MIN READ

5 great programmatic campaigns that you need to embrace


Programmatic campaigns never seem to get the praise they deserve – it’s time that changed. The truth is programmatic offers marketers diverse and creative opportunities to produce outstanding advertising campaigns. Campaigns that both convert and maximise the unique qualities that programmatic brings to display advertising. Here are five brilliant campaigns that all programmatic advertisers can all learn from.

Refining, and refining the best creative: Lacoste

Lacoste summer sales campaign of 2016 resulted in an award winning programmatic campaign. It focused on using programmatic to target a range of audiences to increase both impact and reach. Throughout the campaign, it also repeatedly refined its creative – a key asset of programmatic.

Audience analysis, and profile building were key components of the campaign strategy. Allowing the Lacoste team to sort customers, then target and retarget using different programmatic channels. This approach allowed for a push of personalised content and optimised display ads.

An example of one of the best Lacoste programmatic campaigns from 2016

In particular, there was a focus on A/B testing with the aim of achieving the best ad performance possible. According to the DMA, the campaign ran A/B tests on all creative in order to find which message was performing the best. They also tested different formats of banners, as well as alternative channels, adapting the budget spend each day, depending on results.

What makes this campaign great is that it did the basics well. It’s an example of how – what should be – everyday processes and practices, like A/B testing, can enhance a programmatic campaign. Ultimately, the campaign was a hit for Lacoste, generating 19,749,380 impressions and 2,290 sales across three key markets.

Capturing the programmatic moment: CMC Markets

Programmatic advertising offers marketers the ability to maximise the moment. Take a story or event and surf the crest of it. That’s exactly what CMC Markets did in the UK with their display ad campaign hours after the British General Election of 2017. The context: the governing party, the Conservatives, rather than winning, lost its majority. A result known in the UK as a “hung parliament” (when no one party can form a government alone). As a firm that allows individuals to make instantaneous trades online, CMC Markets did the same with its ads – it reacted. It used the unexpected election result to maximise the effectiveness of its programmatic advertising. Using humour, and wordplay, they sought to engage and profit. Here’s an example of the display advertising:

The ads were also published in traditional print media but were live online way before the presses had even started rolling. The result: the first ad viewers saw referencing the election was CMC Market’s.

The truth is anyone can do what CMC Markets did if they have a platform like Bannerflow. But the reality is not all production platforms allow the editing and updating of ads in real-time across multiple ad networks.

Maximising a small budget: Missing People

British charity Missing People is a great example of how to maximise a small programmatic budget. Ross Miller, director of fundraising and communication at Missing People, needed to find missing kids across the UK. He found salvation in programmatic and the charity’s Child Rescue Alert campaign. With a focus on out-of-home (OOH) advertising, it used 10 million pounds of donated digital display to extend its reach and impact.

An example of the good Missing People programmatic campaign

The use of programmatic OOH means that the charity can now better target those who might otherwise miss or disregard a print appeal. It realised that most people are more likely to respond to a message relevant to the area in which they live. So it used digital technology and data to make location specific appeals.

This change in campaign strategy allowed for ads to be nimble, with creative changing once people were found. For Miller, “switching to programmatic OOH led to response rates rising from 50% to 70%”.

The charity credited its shift from print to programmatic campaigns with helping it to “save lives”. Not a mean feat for a programmatic campaign! Missing People continues to push its programmatic campaigns. For example, location-based alerts now appear in people’s social media news feeds when a child goes missing in their area.

Using programmatic campaigns to enhance TV: O2

Telecom firm O2 crossed channels with its programmatic campaign to promote a TV commercial. For its O2 Refresh campaign the brand repurposed the same TV ads for mobile but made them more relevant. Using data about the user (data such as device, and location) messaging was added around the display ad. Enforcing the TV message in a targeted way.

O2 marketers created more than 1,000 versions of the video ad over the course of the campaign. The mobile ads referencing the user’s model of phone, its recycling value, info on upgrades, as well as the nearest O2 store.

According to Jack Simpson of Econsultancy “O2 naturally has a huge number of data collection points: from behaviour in-store, to profiling people based on their My O2 account activity. This enables O2 to carry out very precise personalised targeting. This has led to the brand spending 70% of its total display budget on programmatic. The result: a 128% increase in click-through rate compared to a “normal” generic video ad.

Programmatic creative is the future – now: The Economist

Programmatic creative takes programmatic campaigns to the next level. It allows advertisers to produce advertising that is dynamic, with creative and copy variations decided by data. The Economist embraced programmatic creative in the pursuit of new subscribers. The aim of its display ad campaign was to grab the attention of readers reluctant to try The Economist. Using digital display, the goal was to reach 650,000 previously unseen prospects and to stimulate a change in perceptions (not just a click).

The campaign used Economist content and headlines that contained humour and wit; headlines that sparked curiosity.  To do this they analysed their subscriber usage to identify the best Economist content. Context was key to where The Economist banner ads were placed too. The idea was to link Economist content to the stories its “reluctant readers” were currently reading.

The advertising creative was built in real time, matching page context and viewer profile to the Economist feed, before serving an appropriate ad. The goal was to hit the right people in the right context. More than 60 executions were created. For example, here’s a banner that linked an Economist story on US cops use of fire arms to a story about a police shooting featured in the Guardian:

A great example of programmatic campaigns from The Economist

The results of this programmatic creative push were 650,000 new prospects, 3.6m people taking action, and a campaign ROI of 10:1, on a £1.2m media budget. It’s worth noting that The Economist followed up this display campaign with another, this time focused on millennials. It again used programmatic creative but focused on social networks. It won gold at the 2016 DMAs for the best use of programmatic and gained thousands more subscribers.


Brilliant and effective programmatic campaigns are easier to create than you realise. Making campaigns that are both remarkable and effective is something that all of us strive to produce. Slowly but surely programmatic is stepping out the shadows and showing the world just how creative and dynamic it can be.

And one more thing, you might have a great team behind the campaign but it’s worth investing in the right tools too. Use a platform like Bannerflow and you’ll have the tech to produce display ads that’s change and react even when published.

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