Prospecting and Remarketing in programmatic: How to make use of them [Part 1]

Programmatic campaigns are often divided into two main types of tactics:

  1. Prospecting: Line items that do not use 1st party data.
  2. Remarketing: Line items that use 1st party site visitor audience data

Those 2 bits combined are also known as “the funnel”. Prospecting has the broader audience with tactics that vary from geo targeting to 3rd party data, and as you go down the funnel, the audience should get smaller but more qualified and relevant. Each of those tactics aims to fulfill a goal in a programmatic campaign though. Even though the bottom part of the funnel tends to perform better, a parts of the funnel equally important. Prospecting helps you bring new customers into the funnel, prospecting helps you find relevant audiences and remarketing helps you reach users that have already engaged with your products/services.

Each part of the funnel can (and should) contain multiple line items in your DSP.

This series will cover these tactics, going down the interest funnel.

A word on bidding: Typically, the CPM you will be bidding increases as you go down the funnel – top of the funnel users should cost you less than users you know are qualified and ready to convert – that’s the gist of bidding, but I will consider making a post about bidding strategy later on if there is interest.


Prospecting is a term used to encapsulate your top of the funnel tactics. This part of the funnel will help sift through online users to find those that are interested in your product. That’s where the name Prospecting comes from. You are basically dragging a wide net across a sway of internet users to make your brand known and kindle that initial interest in your product. However, it’s always good to start with some basic targeting in place and not just target the entire internet. For example, you probably already know which countries your product in available in, so it makes sense to target only those countries.

Since each DSP can have different targeting settings available, I’m going to go over the targeting settings that are most widely available in my opinion. If any of those target settings are not available on your DSP, you might want to contact your DSP rep and ask why they are not!

Geo-Targeting: This one is as basic as it gets. You want to make sure your campaign is targeting a geographic area that makes sense for your product. Even though we are trying to look at as broad a user pool as possible in prospecting, users outside the geo that your product is available to are of no interest to you. Geo-targeting can be as broad as country, going down to more specific geos such as states, regions, DMAs, zip codes and beacons. You can select the geo-targeting that makes most sense for you products/services.

Whitelist/Blacklist: The quality of inventory that you will be targeting is quite important. Again here, although you want to cast a wide net, you do not want to jeopardize your brand’s image by appearing near questionable content. Start by creating a blacklist. Most DSPs can provide you with a basic blacklist which you can exclude from your campaign. Blacklists will contain URLs that either have non-brand safe content (porn, violence, pirated content…) or sites which are fraudulent. A whitelist is a list of sites that strictly allows you to bid on certain URLs. Your DSP would not bid on any URL not on the whitelist. Whitelists are good for strict brand safety but you can miss out on a lot of traffic by using them.

One challenge with whitelists is that you risk missing out on a lot of inventory by strictly targeting a set of URLs. Although this ensures brand safety, a whitelist need to be maintained by adding new sites to it. Whitelists are the nuclear weapon of brand safety but they come with a trade off in scale.

Contextual targeting: Using semantic and context analysis, companies like Google, Grapeshot and Sizmek owned Peer39 can analyse a site’s content and categorize webpage based on the IAB categories and specific keywords. In some cases, this contextual targeting is paid on a CPM basis.

Contextual targeting is a solid way to target sites that fit the products and services you are advertising for at scale. If you are advertising for a car, you can add the keywords “buy a car”, “car” etc and appear only near content related to cars. You can also combine this with exclusion of certain keywords such as “car accidents” to appear near relevant content and exclude non-brand safe contexts.

Contextual targeting is quite powerful but you do not want to be too specific with your keywords if you’re after scale. The more restrictive and specific your keywords, the smaller the pool of inventory available to you.

Device targeting, OS targeting, browser targeting, carrier: These targeting settings allows you break out your tactics by device type – Smartphone, Tablet, Desktop, Connected TV, by OS (android, iOS..), device name (samsung s7, iphone5) and by browser (chrome, ie, safari, opera..). There are multiple reasons why you would want to do this – each device has different creative requirements, some devices and browsershave limitations in terms of tracking, your landing page might not have a mobile or a desktop version, or your landing page might be an app install page. The considerations here are vast and the combinations of targeting settings vary based on your products/services.


-For a telco company targeting competitors with a new phone offer, you could target all users on carriers excluding your own, using older phones.

-For an app install promotion, you could target compatible OSes on compatible phones.

Outro for part 1

I have tried to cover off some use cases for prospecting in this post. Look out for the next post where I will cover off remaining prospecting targeting settings (viewability, content labels, media types, 3rd party data…) and later parts of the series where I will cover off remarketing.

Edit: Part 2 is up here

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2 thoughts on “Prospecting and Remarketing in programmatic: How to make use of them [Part 1]

  1. Another excellent article! Keep up the good writing. The more detailed the AdOps info the better! Your writings have the potential to become a great resource. Keep it up. 🙂

    1. Cheers for the comment, Tony! Part 2 of this series is up today. I’m aiming for a bi-weekly schedule on my articles but let’s see how Q4 feels about that 🙂

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