The 4Es of Programmatic

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By Mark McEachran, Vice President, Product Management at Nexstar Digital

For centuries, no quantifiable criteria existed to help determine the quality of diamonds. Buyers and sellers simply had to agree – until the mid-20th Century when the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) offered the 4Cs of diamond quality: cut, clarity, color, and carat. This universal guide standardized the assessment of diamond quality.

Sadly, we have yet to see a universal, agreed-upon standard for programmatic advertising, making it difficult to ensure that brands can run the highest quality media within the most efficient budget. The pandemic has accelerated audience migration to digital, with budgets moving to programmatic in response. In turn, a new standard has become imminent. While we wait for it, consider the following framework when measuring the execution of programmatic campaigns: the 4Es of programmatic advertising.


“Data, data, data. In order to make bricks, I must have clay.”

Sherlock Holmes understood the importance of leveraging information to build his case and catch the villain. In the same vein, bringing data to bear remains critical to any programmatic advertising endeavor. You cannot reach your audience without data.

Data enablement is a necessary infrastructure in programmatic advertising. First-party, third-party, and environmental data must be easily integrated and utilized to find the audience that converts. OTT media adds a layer of complication bringing in a variety of platforms, capabilities, and audience signals. In many cases, these identifiers, by themselves, have limited segment information tied to them. Cross-device targeting is a must to enrich data against some of these barren identifiers.


In the execution phase of a campaign, the goal is to reach the right audience while mitigating fraud. With a breadth of inventory available in a good platform, it’s no surprise that some bad actors work their way in, attempting to siphon some of that budget from the buyer.

Blindly buying, or buying without some good filters, might seem reasonable when hitting campaign goals. However, it has some significant side-effects, not the least of which is wasting the campaign budget. It encourages those fraudsters. These nefarious creatures take advantage of loose campaign monies and build out even more clever systems to cash in on lazy behaviors.

You can avoid fraud during the execution phase by using these two methods:

  1. Curate the inventory with a private marketplace or another selective targeting like a whitelist and/or using differentiated data. This first-party, third-party, and environmental data that, when leveraged with data science, helps you reach your exact target. And, it will often cut out even a hint of sell-side fraud.
  2. Leverage a filtering system that maintains and distributes blocks for several vectors of fraud including cloud service IP lists, botnets, and even hijacked computers that masquerade as legitimate user-owned machines.

You can grade execution by looking at campaign goals, including whether you’re hitting or exceeding KPIs, and invalid traffic (IVT) filtering. In terms of IVT filtering, pre-bid, you can examine how often they catch invalid traffic before it hits the market and, post-bid, the protocol for dealing with detected invalid traffic after the ad has been served.


If Apple taught us anything, it’s that making what’s complicated under the hood easy for someone to use will pay dividends to all parties involved. Making technology easy to use is hard. So many options on the market promise – and often deliver – great results, but with hidden operational costs that can quietly eat into your margin. How much is your time worth?

Do a little math. Assign a dollar value to each hour of your workday. Figure out how much money in the form of time you’re spending on pulling reports, configuring a campaign, hunting down a dashboard, or just trying to do your job. It can be enlightening. When you realize how much a piece of tech actually costs to use, you might make different decisions upfront.

The right platform can make a huge difference in removing unnecessary layers of complexity, saving you time and money. You can grade efficiency by looking at hours spent on a campaign, asking the following questions:

  • Was the campaign set-up easy and comprehensive?
  • Was it seamless to add a variety of channels?
  • Did campaign reporting arrive on time?


Cost is not always the driving force. Sometimes, several goals must get met, making the efficacy key. Mixing technology, audience, inventory, and optimization in the right way enhance your chances of achieving that desired campaign performance. Falling short on any one of these can ruin the entire run.

You can grade efficacy as it relates to performance and ROI by asking the following questions:

  • By channel: Is it consistent with your expectations?
  • Pacing: Did the campaign deliver on an optimal schedule?
  • Meet ROI goals: Did the results line up with the plan?
  • Exceed ROI goals: Did the optimizations blow you away?

Whether trading in diamonds or impressions, a set of standards to gauge the quality of the transaction remains critical. In programmatic advertising, stay mindful of the 4Es: enablement, execution, efficiency, and efficacy. This guidance will better equip you to measure campaign performance, creating a more transparent ecosystem.

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