Your Ultimate Guide to Selecting a Programmatic Advertising Agency

Programmatic advertising agencies manage a key component of digital marketing campaigns. But not all marketers know what to look for or how to evaluate agencies that provide programmatic services. Consider these factors when searching for the right partner to handle your programmatic business.

Look for a Full Suite of Strategic Services

The best programmatic advertising agencies can help you do the right thing, not just execute the right way. That’s where strategy and planning expertise come in.

Real research should be performed to understand your organization, its brand, goals, market landscape and broader marketing strategy – not just a ‘brief.’ Then the right strategic and creative plan can be developed, aligning programmatic ads with the buying segments, personas, messaging and creative elements for a great user experience and better results.

For example, good programmatic advertising agencies go beyond titles by adding behavioral targeting. Lookalike audiences can be built from an existing ABM, ICP or actual customer list (or all three) to find audiences that mimic high-quality targets in terms of web pages visited, search queries, and more.


The right programmatic ad agency is by definition an optimization devotee. They watch campaign results carefully and make frequent optimization steps, small and large. They understand the mission clearly – that means, what you’re selling and who should buy.

You’ll know by the strategies and creative proposed whether the agency truly understands your business and your offerings. To maximize results, your programmatic agency should quickly recognize what the results they are seeing mean, and act fast on emerging opportunities around targeting, messaging, behaviors and more. This process builds growth momentum, providing more optimization data to analyze and understand. 

The optimization process is invaluable for in-house marketers who can use the ‘boots on the ground’ data to make beneficial adjustments to other parts of a campaign or marketing mix.

Demand Side Platforms (DSPs)

Agencies use various Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) to place programmatic campaigns, from which ad space is purchased and managed across channels including native, video, mobile, and display, such as DoubleClick, StackAdept, Pinnacle, TubeMogul, or Basis. These services connect with Supply Side Platforms that aggregate available ad space inventory across the internet. Each platform has the basics, along with some unique bells and whistles.

Regardless of the platform your prospective agency uses, look for retargeting, contextual and behavioral targeting, bid management and in some cases, the ability to handle CPC campaigns vs. only CPM-based campaigns.

Specialty Services

Programmatic advertising campaigns perform best when there’s a good fit between the agency’s areas of expertise and the advertiser’s focus. There are programmatic advertising agencies that specialize in B2B or B2C, industry, technology type, geography, or other market segments. What you’re looking for is a good level of expertise in your specific target market segments, as well as overall functional expertise in programmatic advertising.

For example, CyberTheory specializes in cybersecurity media campaigns. This expertise is built into every client’s programmatic ad campaign, which tends to drive better results faster, given our first-hand knowledge of technologies, target buyers, pain points, and terminology.

Leading U.S. Programmatic Advertising Agencies

Several agencies are recognized for their prominence in the sector. Depending on your own organization’s size, budget, and goals, these larger agencies could be a fit. For instance, five of the top programmatic advertising agencies by size include:

  1. The Trade Desk
  2. MediaMath
  3. Xandr (formerly AppNexus)
  4. Oath (Verizon Media)
  5. Adobe Advertising Cloud

Large enterprises are typically the best candidates for these agencies, as costs are typically higher than smaller, boutique agencies or mid-sized consultancies. Specialization also tends to happen at the functional level vs. market segment level. Again, depending on your organization’s situation, a larger firm may offer the right approach.

Speaking of Costs…

Investing in programmatic advertising varies primarily by company size and industry. Here are some examples of budget ranges we see at CyberTheory:

  • Small Companies (100-1K employees): Monthly budgets range from $5,000 – $25,000.
  • Midmarket Companies (1K-5K employees): Monthly costs can be $20,000 – $100,000.
  • Enterprises (5K+ employees): Monthly expenses can go from $100,000 – $500,000, depending on whether the enterprise is placing their full programmatic spend with the agency, or a portion, for example to promote a single portfolio or business unit.  

Regarding budget allocation, approximately 60-80% is generally allocated to media spend, and 20-40% covers management and creative fees. Smaller budgets have higher fixed costs so management fees are higher as a proportion of the total budget. On the other hand, as budgets increase, management fee percentages should go down.

The Capabilities Presentation

Most clients find their preferred programmatic advertising agencies through word of mouth, direct referrals, or through online searches. Once you have a short list of candidate agencies, schedule a capabilities presentation with each agency. In virtually all cases, you’ll know quickly whether these candidates are right or wrong, or whether more agency candidates are needed before finalizing your decision.

Don’t be shy about sharing broad budget ranges. This helps the agency understand the scope and possibilities available. This can also help them better tailor a solution proposal, and establish whether there’s a partnership possible in the first place.

Talk to CyberTheory

If you’re looking for a programmatic advertising agency in the cybersecurity area, talk to CyberTheory today. We can provide a capabilities presentation, answer any questions and build a proposal for budget comparisons. We’re expert cybersecurity marketers ready to help you achieve your programmatic ad goals.

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