How to structure a programmatic display campaign
(in Adform)



Let’s start with a disclaimer: there’s probably no single “correct” way of structuring a programmatic campaign in Adform or any demand-side platform, for that matter.

After building, managing, optimizing, auditing, and seeing hundreds or even thousands of programmatic campaigns, however, we felt that we’re in a position to share the best practices we’ve accumulated throughout the years.


Our number one advice is to categorize activities on the insertion order and the line item-level to create clarity and improve workflow. You must always consider the alignment with overall marketing strategy and objectives; delivering tangible results is vital. Make sure your setup reflects that!

One of the many benefits of Adform’s DSP is the logical and clear hierarchy within campaigns. By effectively utilizing insertion orders, you can manage extensive entities within a single campaign. This method enhances and simplifies your workflow and reporting tremendously, as activities are not scattered all over the place.

General programmatic campaign logic

  1. In general, it’s beneficial to look at the broader picture. Consider campaign types, whether they’re running simultaneously or as individual campaign entities, and attempt to structure the entire account to support business and marketing objectives and ensure efficient workflows.
  2. Already when planning the campaign, it’s recommended to map out the structure within the DSP to save time during the campaign’s setup.
  3. If there are simultaneously running campaigns, make sure to align the activities to support each other rather than cannibalizing the existing ones (overlapping audiences, increased frequency, differing creatives)
  4. If most activities are always-on, splitting campaigns based on the promoted product, targeted geography, or another differing factor (prospecting and remarketing, for example) improves control, clarity, and further eases management.
  5. As brand safety is major a concern, using it is highly recommended when you’re either unaware of the available inventory’s quality or being careful is a priority. However, brand safety has a caveat of diminishing the volume of available impressions; thus, it can limit spending budgets.
  6. Using lists to block (blacklist) or allow (whitelist) domains are usually set on an account-level. Using blacklists is an effective method of making sure that advertising isn’t visible in unwanted contexts.
    • There is also a possibility to create black/whitelist templates in Adform to speed up the brand safety setup.
  7. Taxonomy and naming conventions require planning and coordination. Ensure your campaign’s naming and subsequent IOs and line items are clear and communicated across all relevant stakeholders!

Instructions for programmatic Line Items

  1. To improve clarity, workflows, and ultimately reporting, splitting line items on f.ex. format, targeting, or inventory-basis is recommended.
  2. Budget control can be inherited from either the campaign or IO-level using parent-level budgeting. However, this means that the system will split the budget across the related line items based on their ability to spend the budget, diminishing the control level. For more control and increased ability to optimize campaigns, using dedicated line item-level budgeting is highly recommended.
  3. To avoid any limitations set by the DSP, it’s advisable to leave line item budgets unlocked. This approach will ensure that Adform will not intervene or distribute budgets according to IO or campaign budget.
    1. However, if there are specific inventories, contexts, or audiences crucial for the campaign’s success, and there are significant limitations to availability, locking budgets may be advisable.
  4. For an additional fee, cross-device targeting can be enabled. In general, this improves performance as well as helps maintain frequencies within the set limit.
  5. Always use a bidding algorithm that aligns with the campaign’s objective and primary KPI. For example, one should use eCPMV for branding, eCPC for driving traffic, CPA for maximizing conversions (note: the conversion does not have to be a sign-up or a sale, but a “secondary” conversion), and ROAS for maintaining cost efficiency.
    1. Note that the bidding algorithm does not affect the “currency,” and the buyer is always charged on a CPM-basis.
  6. To avoid overlap, at least retargeting audiences should be excluded from prospecting line items to limit frequency. Further exclusion of audiences (such as 2nd or 3rd party) can also avoid overlaps.
  7. A single line item can contain all available creative sizes. If specific creatives are more critical than others, bid multipliers can be used to optimize bidding on an even more granular level.


By following these instructions you’ll be able to construct a high-performing programmatic campaign with a high level of flexibility and minimized burden in terms of workflow. The campaign structure outlined above prepares you to leverage Ambine and opens an opportunity to leverage an additional layer of algorithm-driven optimization and automation to further improve performance and save time!

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