The Human Side of Programmatic

Post by Emily Knight

While many people are under the impression that “programmatic” and “real-time bidding (RTB)” are the same thing as “fully automated”, that’s not really the case.

The reality is that there are two sides of the coin when it comes to programmatic buying, and RTB specifically: the human and the machine.

Without a human to foster relationships with advertisers and technology partners and educate them on the benefits and limitation of their platform, it is highly unlikely that an RTB campaign will be successful.

And that’s my job: I’m the human half of the coin for LiveIntent. Since joining LiveIntent six months ago as Programmatic Business Development Director, much of my focus has been cultivating relationships with our 3rd party DSPs like MediaMath and Double-Click Bid Manager (DBM), onboarding new partners like the Trade Desk (TTD), Turn, and Appnexus, and developing best practices that help them understand how to access our inventory and set up strategies that will perform strongly against their goal.

But no matter whom I’m talking to, the first step in developing a successful relationship is making sure they understand two fundamental principles:

            What makes your inventory unique? 

            What are the pros and cons of buying this inventory?

In this post, I’ll outline why these questions are so important to answer and provide examples as to how I address these questions on behalf of LiveIntent.

What makes your inventory unique?

When working with agency trading desk teams today, it’s important to understand that programmatic teams are bombarded with new partners and technical capabilities each day. It is key to understand how they vet partners and evaluate opportunities to test.

My experience that buyers are willing to go the extra mile if a partner fits the following criteria:

  • Offers a proprietary solution (i.e. inventory or data)
  • Is integrated with current tech stack and supports existing operational workflow (i.e. DSP partners, supports 3rd party tracking tags)
  • Has access to resources to help their campaigns perform well and make them look good (i.e. Responsive and knowledgeable Business Development and Account Management Team)

For instance, when introducing LiveIntent to a potential buyer, I make sure to highlight valuable offering that check all these boxes and resonate with brands and their respective trading desk teams:

  • LiveIntent is the world’s largest real-time display platform for email, with exclusive access to the email inventory of 1100+ of the world’s most trusted publishers and brands, like Wal-Mart, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.
  • LiveIntent is integrated with many of the major DSPs and Trading Desks available, including MediaMath, DBM, DataXu and ONE by AOL.

What are the pros and cons of buying this inventory?

Knowing first hand what makes your inventory appealing to buyers and what might cause hesitation and communicating that early and often not only establishes your platform as valuable, but honest.

For example, here are some advantages and challenges to incorporating LiveIntent’s platform as part of a programmatic campaign:


  • Leverage Existing Campaign Assets:

Display units across our inventory include all IAB standard sizes including: 160×600, 300×250, 728×90, 300×600.

  • Unique Reach:

Exclusive publisher and brand relationships mean access to a unique audience of 130+MM people in inventory that is inherently cross device.

  • Viewable, Fraud Fee, High Performing Inventory:

Ads only load once a human being has opened the email and clicked download images, and with an average 2 ad units per newsletter template, every ad has a chance to be seen by a real human being – which is why our advertisers see results 2X standard media and 3X rich media on the web.


  • Separate line item is needed:  

Due to newsletter display inventory having a much lower frequency than standard web display, a separate line item needs to be set up and have LiveIntent Exchange selected as the only inventory source in order to scale.

  • JavaScript doesn’t work in the inbox: 

It is still possible to run JavaScript tags, as long as a static back up is associated, as it is the no script section of the tag that will be used. It is also critical to have third party tags (i.e. Integral Ad Science brand safety tags) set to monitoring; otherwise the ad will not load.

  • Cookie targeting may cause scale issues:

Cookies are supported roughly 1/3 of the time in the inbox and therefore, only targeting cookie based data segments can cause scaling issues. As a best practice, it is recommended to set up a few different line items to supplement scale and performance, i.e. implementing a custom whitelist of newsletter properties or a line item for Run of Exchange (ROE).

Making sure you can communicate these principles clearly and concisely to your potential partners and buyers is the first step in developing any successful relationship.

If you have any questions regarding working with buying programmatic inventory through LiveIntent or one of our partners, feel free to email me at: