Managed vs Self-Service Programmatic Advertising

So, you’ve found yourself at the crossroads of advertising.

First of all, congratulations! Your digital strategy has become more intricate as your business grows, and you’re ready for the next step in scaling your advertising. If your brand runs ad campaigns across various platforms, you must be juggling between dashboards, budgets, and data reporting systems. That’s why consolidating it all and utilizing a programmatic platform is the solution to scale. Check out our blog for the 14 best programmatic advertising platforms! Okay, the dilemma you’re facing is: do I need a self-service or managed programmatic advertising platform? Do you agree with the following statements:
  • I want more control over my digital advertising.
  • I want to be able to make quick changes to my ad campaigns.
  • I have different promotions throughout the year and need the flexibility to launch and pause ads whenever I please.
  • I want to have transparency in my digital ads and have an overview of my budget and ad spend progress etc.
  • I want to get more insights on which of my keywords and ad creatives are performing the best and which ones are underperforming.
  • I want to understand my consumers better and evaluate how effective my strategy is.
Sounds about right? That’s great – this is the blog for you! We’ll do a quick overview of the benefits of both and what types of businesses each is most suitable for. Be sure to read on, evaluate and make an informed decision!


Self-service programmatic advertising platforms are exactly what they sound like—you sign up to access the platform and have 100% control over your ad buys. These programmatic advertising platforms tend to be Demand Side Platforms and grant you access to ad channels, publishers etc. Examples are Taboola and AdRoll. With direct access, you can keep track of your campaign (beginning to end) in real-time and make any adjustments you see fit, like a keyword or creative change, etc. You control the ad setup, strategy, bidding, scheduling of the ads across all the channels, optimizing them, and evaluating your ad’s performance. What you need to do in-house is strategy, execution, and analysis. You’ll be doing everything on your own and have total control, which can be a cost-effective option!



You should consider self-service programmatic advertising if:

Your team has at least a minimum of one person who is familiar with Demand Side Platforms, setting up advanced audience targeting and conversion tracking, data layering, and budget configuration. That person or another individual should be able to dedicate full-time to managing the campaign, interpreting data, and making optimizations.

If your team is capable of this, a self-serve platform would be a great tool!

Managed Service

Managed programmatic ad services mean a third party, like an agency, will manage and operate your programmatic campaigns. They act as an extension of your team. You choose this option because you want their deep knowledge and expertise of programmatic and peace of mind.

You’re still in charge of your branding, creatives, and strategy, but you’ll work with the agency to plan a campaign. You tell them your objectives, target audience, budget, and channels you want to run programmatically. Then, the agency will build a plan for you to approve (eg. an Insertion Order: a certain amount of clicks or impressions at a set budget and price), and they take over the day-to-day operations of your digital ads.

They will set up tracking, so your data speaks across channels; execute on launching your campaigns and reporting on the ad performance. You don’t have to worry about making bidding adjustments, engagement monitoring, optimizations, and data analysis in-house. They are the experts and will keep you informed of the entire process.

They work in programmatic 24/7 and are industry experts. They’re on top of all the trends and have solutions for upcoming algorithm changes etc. Their role is to supercharge your digital ad efforts.

We’ll use ourselves here at War Room as an example. We are a programmatic ad agency, and we handle all the tasks of the Demand Side Platform (in our case, we built our own from scratch, and it’s called, Kedet). We assign a dedicated team to each of our clients, consisting of:

  • An Account Manager who is your friendly Point of Contact and manages the entire campaign from start to finish
  • A Project Manager which oversees the entire project and ensures all parties are on pace
  • Campaign Manager who works on the campaign on the programmatic platform
  • A Digital Analyst who reports and deciphers the data collected throughout the ad campaign

Our clients have control over budget and creative changes. They let us know, and we make it happen while providing expert recommendations. If a change is not optimal for your campaign, we will advise you before proceeding. Communication is key, and we implement everything with a documented paper trail throughout the process, so you’ll know the optimizations we’ve made. 

For transparency, our Digital Analyst builds customized dashboards for your ad performance. You can see exactly which ads and keywords are performing, a detailed breakdown of your audience, and more.

Agencies like us who provide managed programmatic advertising services are invested in your success. As your strategic partner, it is our responsibility to navigate the programmatic landscape on your brand’s behalf and provide valuable, expert suggestions to improve your overall marketing strategy in the short and long run.



Service providers’ management fees may vary, so do your homework and compare!

Here’s a handy resource (free to download) to figure out if an agency is right for you:

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You should consider managed programmatic advertising if:

You are looking for complete campaign configuration: setup, execution, and analytics. Now with programmatic experts by your side, you’ll have effective campaigns and robust data insights to make informed decisions. With them taking care of your digital campaigns, your in-house marketing team will be empowered to dedicate time and energy to what they do best: strategizing and continuing to grow your amazing brand.

Quick Comparison of Services Covered

Here’s a quick overview of service items covered in managed programmatic advertising services versus self-service. We picked out the most common offerings people look for. The list is definitely more expansive than this.

Note: the items left unchecked on the “Self-Service” side will be done by your in-house team.

Why We Recommend Managed Programmatic Services

People frequently reach out to us inquiring if they could use our proprietary programmatic ad platform, Kedet, as self-service.

With over ten years of experience in programmatic, our answer has always been: no.

The reason why is because we understand the intricacy of omnichannel digital advertising. Our campaign performances almost always exceed what clients have been doing independently.

In 2021, the average Return on Ad Spend for our managed clients was 1,203%.

Our agency specializes in only programmatic advertising. There’s nothing we do better. We offer over 30 different advertising channels and access to 95,000+ premium publishers. Our teams are specialized in these channels, and their goal is to help you drive results. There’s no more “fear of the unknown” or “figuring it out as you go”. You can confidently expand your ad channels with our strategic guidance and execution.

Our clients find that they get results that exceed their goals, complete peace of mind, and gain time back in their day to work on growing their business, all while gathering important insights for their marketing strategy. 

It’s important to note that digital advertising is a constant ebb and flow. As an agency, we are a mighty cruise that sails through rough waters seamlessly; it’s the only reason we exist.

Whether you’re looking to steer your own ship or look for a trustworthy agency to lead you out to the digital advertising sea, you’ll benefit by learning more about programmatic. Check out programmatic 101 here.

Or better yet, fill out the form below to learn more about our managed programmatic advertising services!

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