Probably one of the most frequently searched digital acronyms among financial marketers is “What is RTB” or “What is real time bidding?”

Interestingly, the concept of real time bidding will sound familiar to most investment professionals because it so closely mimics the mechanics of the stock market.

Before programmatic advertising, few advertisers had the tools or the insights necessary to reach their most desired potential customer at scale. Unless you were buying ad impressions for Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, most of the popular websites’ audiences were far too broad and inefficient for niche financial services.

Fortunately for today’s financial marketers, the possible methods for reaching investors, either through a third-party data provider audience, users of certain investment apps, or behaviors like trading volume or advisor office visits, are as rich and varied with programmatic RTB as the possibilities for investing a client’s assets. Not only is RTB a winning strategy for digital marketers, but it also helps publishers maximize efficiency for selling available inventory.

“So, what is real time bidding”, you might ask? Great question. In this article, we will not only explain RTB but we will get into important programmatic advertising topics like:

Table of Contents

What is Real Time Bidding?

As the name implies, real time bidding (RTB) offers a way to place an order for ad space at a competitive rate that is based on the relative demand for a specific online user. By automating the buying process, advertisers can set up campaigns that accomplishes multiple goals at a predictable price and set the pace at which impressions are delivered.

The best way to think of RTB is to picture an ongoing live auction that is going on in the background on your browser, one that happens so quickly that the whole transaction is completed in the 200 milliseconds it takes for the web page to load. This real-time bidding process is usually facilitated by an ad exchange, using special software that interacts with multiple trading desks that are often bidding on the same inventory.

What are the mechanics of RTB?

Every time an available ad impression, or “ad placeholder” loads onto a user’s browser, certain information about the content of the page and the demographics of the user are communicated to ad exchanges, which, in turn, auction off that specific webpage instantaneously, to the advertiser with the highest bid.

When the campaign was set up on behalf of the advertiser, someone would have already provided certain information about the desired audience, including their location, browsing habits, household income, occupation, and other demographic descriptors. Essentially, the ad exchange is using RTB to play “matchmaker” between the advertiser and the available ad inventory.

Once the match is made, the winning bidder’s ad is immediately loaded onto the page. Amazingly, this whole process takes just a few hundred milliseconds to complete – basically half the time it takes to blink.

Typically, a demand-side platform, or DSP, will be used to help financial marketers determine which impressions to buy and how to select an audience based on users’ prior online behavior. Depending on the level of targeting data needed to reach the ideal customer through RTB, bid prices may need to be higher.

The actual price of an available impression is based on two things: what buyers are willing to pay for it, and the publishers’ acceptance of this price.

Keep in mind that bidding too low may mean the campaign never delivers the desired number of impressions. In order to win the auction, financial marketers are better off bidding higher when they know their message will reach a highly qualified potential investor.

How is RTB Like the Stock Market?

Good news for financial marketers! You already have a leg up on understanding the RTB concept.

Just like the level of demand determines stock prices, publishers set the minimum price for an ad impression, but the final price is controlled by demand. Also like the stock market, the whole process of bidding on inventory up to the ad appearing on the page is almost instantaneous.

By taking the middleman out of the process, RTB could be compared to fee-free online brokerages that allow consumers to buy and sell stock on an app.

However, as they say in the financial world, “Just because you can buy something without advice from a professional, that does not mean you should.” 

Financial marketers understand better than anyone the need for guidance from a trained advisor. A qualified RTB campaign manager consults with ad tech tools and ad exchanges to identify the best available ad inventory to meet the campaign objectives. Not only does this make the campaign more successful; it also cuts down on wasted impressions and improves the overall ROI.

Just like the level of demand determines stock prices, publishers set the minimum price for an ad impression, but the final price is controlled by demand.

How is RTB Different from Programmatic Advertising?

Very few financial marketers are aware of the nuances between RTB and programmatic advertising, so let me help clear up some confusion.

RTB is one way to execute a programmatic buy, but it is not the only way. Another popular technique is to buy guaranteed inventory that is not reliant upon an auction process. Guaranteed inventory is more expensive, but it makes sense for some advertisers who want their ads to appear on very specific websites.

Bottom line – the terms RTB and programmatic should not be used interchangeably. Programmatic refers to the technology used to streamline the purchase of digital ads by automating the process. That said, programmatic is not totally automated all of the time.

The manual, or “human elements” of programmatic include the setting of campaign parameters, such as geographic and demographic targeting, or specific ad formats. Another non-RTB element is the purchase of guaranteed inventory directly from a publisher on the ad exchange, such as a homepage takeover or a non-traditional ad unit. Financial marketers might also want to manually tweak the income range, geography, or other parameters if they find the campaign is not delivering enough impressions.

To sum it up, RTB is always happening within a programmatic advertising platform, but programmatic advertising does not always include RTB.

What is the Benefit of RTB for Financial Marketers?

Efficiency. RTB is a measurable way to encourage action within a highly targeted segment. Financial marketers have a very specific niche of investor audiences from high-net-worth self directed investors, to accredited individuals to different types of advisers like RIA or private wealth manager types to even users with certain apps on their devices, and want to reach them efficiently without wasting ad dollars on unqualified prospects.

Of course, any financial professional knows that efficiency = cost savings. It is no wonder that RTB is particularly appealing to anyone looking to grow wealth for themselves and others.

Scalability is another benefit of RTB that is often overlooked. Because the software allows financial marketers to find out which tactics perform best over time, an optimized campaign will adjust to spend more money on those tactics. Scaling up the campaign would then be a simple matter of applying more budget to the most successful strategies.

Key RTB Programmatic Takeaways

As a dynamic method for managing digital campaigns for optimal performance, RTB is an important tool within a financial marketer’s toolbox. Because of its innate efficiency, real-time bidding has breathed new life into traditional display advertising.

Although part of the programmatic ads space, RTB is only one method of buying advertising within this sphere. That being said, it is hard to imagine digital marketing without RTB technology.

Just as an investor would seek guidance from a financial professional, a financial marketer interested in RTB would find faster results with the help of a digital marketing agency.

If you need help executing any of the programmatic advertising campaign elements discussed here, get in touch today (before a competitor does)! Our team of financial marketing programmatic advertising experts would love to help you market your firm’s funds, services or investment approach to drive AUM growth. It’s easy. Get in touch here.