Programmatic Advertising vs. AdWords

In the digital marketing era, all tools are extensively scrutinized before being put to work. Since getting ahead of the competition is vital to business survival, marketers are taking advantage of all the weapons that could possibly help them become winners.

With the emergence of digital marketing tools, the world has slightly changed. The appearance of programmatic advertising seems to have divided the marketing specialists into two camps.

Those who are actively using it and those who are highly skeptical about it.

The second camp is relying heavily on other tools, such as Google AdWords, claiming that they bring better results. Is it possible to compare the two to find out which one is better? Are they too different to be compared? Can they be used together? We asked specialists from a programmatic advertising agency War Room to shed some light on the matter.


Important Definitions

What do these two tools do?

  • Google AdWords – the tool primarily works around searches and keywords.
  • Programmatic advertising – designed to build display ad campaigns

It seems as if they are completely different. But are they?


Focusing On Google

Google AdWords are focused on (surprise!) Google. Programmatic advertising allows advertisers to access numerous platforms and gain access to real-time bidding ecosystem. These ads can cover almost 100% of the internet, including Google.

However, is Google really insufficient? The majority of the potential audience for many industries use Google. The rest of the internet is important, but not that vital to marketing success these days.

Both approaches are great for advertising across different devices, including desktop, smartphones, tablets, etc.


Reporting Properties

When you are working with Google AdWords, you can check the stats every two to three hours or so. The rest of the metrics are available for update checking once every 24 hours.
With programmatic advertising, you get real-time monitoring options with regular statistics checking. The monitoring of the campaign’s effectiveness is highly important for its success. That’s why the ability to see what’s happening in real time is valuable.

Such close monitoring is vital for pay-per-click ads and other similar tools in advertising. But for SEO efforts, such real-time monitoring is unnecessary. Two or three hours are more than enough.


Using Cookies

When it comes to cookies, programmatic advertising wins since it’s taking full advantage of them to find the target audience by following its preferences. Programmatic ads get access to smartphone manufacturer, OS, and mobile carrier data.

Google AdWords has a big variety of targeting and retargeting features, which are useful for keyword and search strategies. However, it doesn’t have an option of cookie checking since it seems unnecessary.  

Cutting Costs

Which one is more expensive? It depends on which options you use with both tools. Google AdWords provides smart pricing options, making the campaign efficient. Programmatic ad platform pricing is far from being low; however, the ROI is often impressive.

In order to cut costs, many marketers take advantage of Google AdWords options and then move to programmatic advertising.


Contextual Targeting

Both tools allow contextual targeting (targeting a specific URL based on page name). However, Google AdWords provides targeting by keywords and categories while Programmatic Ads can only deal with categories.



Google AdWords requires special attention of the marketing specialists throughout the campaign managing process. Programmatic advertising automatizes a substantial part of the process allowing the marketers to focus on other tasks.  

The downside of such time saving can be mistakes a program makes when distributing the ads, thus causing confusion and failing to find the target audience.


Final Thoughts

Both tools are imperative for setting up a proper advertising campaign. They offer benefits for different stages of advertising. Choosing one over the other may seem reasonable. But, in the long run, it can put you behind the competition.


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