March 28, 2024

Programmatic Unwrapped: How to Contend with Big Brands During the Festive Season

The holiday season is finally here!

It’s maybe the most exciting and creative time of the year for marketers, and as the global giants expand their reach in multiple directions, festive ad campaigns are getting bigger, better and smarter every year.

US retail eCommerce is predicted to increase by 13.9%, rising to $79bn (9% of total holiday season sales) for the 2015 holiday season (eMarketer). Back in 2014, Macy’s November/December adspend reached an estimated $260m, with Walmart close behind on $248m (Kantar Media).

Across the pond, Tesco spent £22.2m on their advertising, and Sainsbury’s - £20.5m, during November/December in 2014 ( In the same period this year, total online adspend in the UK is expected to reach £2.1bn, surpassing TV (CNN).

If you’re trying to get your voice heard through the blizzard of big brand advertising during the holidays, you might feel just a little bit intimidated. Especially if your budget isn’t the size of Macy’s or Tesco’s.

But you can do it, smartly – programmatically. And this is the case for other key dates across the year, such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.


Big logos, big product images and big discounts matter, but you don’t necessarily need fancy agencies to create engaging banners. In fact, the ads can make themselves.

When trying to stand out, the only things you really need to remember are information and inspiration. A dependable way to inform and inspire is to use dynamic creative. Dynamic creative is a creative that automatically assembles itself in the ad unit according to the audience and situation. In contrast to the traditional one-size-fits-all nature of traditional display ads, this ability to chop and change assets makes your message adaptable, enhancing your SCV (Single Customer View) approach.

Traditional display has been all about the sites, but with programmatic, the right visual is delivered to the right user, regardless of what site they’re on. This union of relevant and stimulating creative and strategic timing levels the playing field between you and those big brands.

You can find more on what makes a killer ad creative here.


The marketing lifecycle is ever-evolving, and programmatic fits into every stage of your marketing strategy. Display is a great complement to Search and social media, and is best served across desktop, mobile and tablet simultaneously.

When planning your online advertising, don’t neglect the potential of your bricks-and-mortar stores. By creating a cross-platform programmatic strategy that includes mobile devices, you can catch shoppers on-the-go, driving footfall and encouraging engagement with your brand at the very time they’re looking to make a purchase.

With a programmatic partner, you also have options to target specific device manufacturers, operating systems and browsers across these platforms, helping you drill down more precisely when needed.


The advantage of programmatic buying lies in the campaign’s ability to learn and grow with each click and impression, and to use those learnings to perform far better than a regular display campaign.

Remember firstly, shoppers are out in force on the internet months before the big day, with many making significant purchases at the very start of Q4. With programmatic’s learning capabilities, this window is an opportunity for your campaign to start learning as early as possible. You can then increase activity around the busiest shopping periods with a more effective and smarter optimization machine behind you. Extending your campaign to exploit this sizeable timeline is a fantastic opportunity to serve ads with more targeted impact.

Events in the annual calendar like the Winter Holidays allow you to target customers who are already hot in ‘purchase mode’. Take advantage of this and invite them into your space. All it takes is the right creative, targeting and time-planning.

Never forget that besides a great deal, an excellent shopping experience goes a long way. Yes, many of your rivals will have the money to make more noise, but they are not unique. With the power of programmatic on your side, you can capably compete with them.

If you want to learn more about how to set up your first programmatic campaign, I’d love to hear from you today.

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