What You Need to Know About Automated vs Managed Ad Placement

By Ashlee Dixon, August 17, 2017

Let’s face the facts: when it comes to digital advertising, automated ad placement is 10X more convenient than managed ad placement, if not more. It saves time, allowing you to focus more energy on other parts of your business.

But sometimes automated ad placement doesn’t have your best interests at heart. And if you like being in control, then managed ad placement might be the better way to go.   

To help you figure out which method is right for you, we’ve put together a few pros and cons for each.

Automated (Programmatic) Ad Placement

Technology is a huge part of our lives. We look for ways to utilize or enhance it, and how to profit from it. Oftentimes, it provides a shortcut to an otherwise time consuming endeavor. Programmatic ad placement is one such shortcut.

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Source: Giphy

But with automation comes pros and cons.


  • Target Demographics. You ‘set and forget’ the demographics you wish to target. For example, let’s say you choose single females, ages 18 to 24, with an annual income of $30,000. Once you select those categories you’re good-to-go.
  • Global. Automated has the potential to reach globally (if you choose). It can place your ads on a ton of sites you might not have known about, where consumers who meet your specific demographics spend time.
  • Budget Friendly and Convenient. Since placement is automated, it automatically finds the least expensive ad space for your target audience. No need to worry about negotiating the lowest price. And automated means you’re not the one stuck finding ad space for your advertisements, too.  

But is automated ad placement worth it in the long run?


  • Bad Placement. Automated ad placement can be a risk to your brand. Your advertisements could be placed on (in Trump’s squawk-like voice) ‘fake news’ sites. Or your brand could be seen on sites deemed inappropriate for your audience. Think Disney brand placed next to pornography. Not a good look.

Related Post: 3 Surprising Ways Advertising Can Devastate Your Brand

  • Increased Fraud. A huge problem with automated placement is you don’t necessarily know what you’re purchasing. Your ads could fall victim to ad stacking and never be seen. You’ll see your impressions going up, but no conversions. Sadly, this is all too common in the programmatic world.

Related Post: How to Knock Ad Fraud out of the Programmatic Funnel

  • Low Engagement. Cheap, low quality ads translate to low engagement rates. Is it worth the cost-savings if your CTRs are low?  

Automated ad placement can save you time and money, but it also has the ability to waste ad spend and harm your brand. If these aren’t flaws you can consciously live with, try looking into managed ad placement.

Managed Ad Placement

When you want it done right, do it yourself. Remember Katherine Johnson from Hidden Figures? The woman was literally a human calculator. Who needs machines when you have a mind like that.

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Source: Giphy

Here, managed ad placement offers benefits that a ‘machine” can’t.


  • Controlled Placements. You place your advertisements where you know your audience will be. This keeps your brand safe and clean. Honestly, who wants to deal with a PR disaster? You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where rebranding is your only option.

Related Post: Programmatic Advertising: Why We’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

  • Being the Top Player. Although bidding can be stressful, you have the ability to control the placement and position of your ads. If you bid high enough, you’ll be the ad shown on a specific site, time-and-time again.
  • Higher Conversion Rates. If you’re bidding high enough, your results can usually be expected to be better than with programmatic. Now that you’re placing your ads on specific sites where your ideal consumer spends their time, you should receive higher traction.

But with managed ad placements, a lot of your pros can also be your cons.


  • Restricted Targeting. Placing your ads where you know your target audience is great, but you could be restricting yourself from relevant sites you don’t know about. Remember automated placement searches the internet for sites relevant to your target demographics, keywords, and topic, giving you a larger opportunity to be seen by consumers.
  • Competitive Competition. With automated placement, you’re able to have your advertisement shown next to many others. But with managed, you’re now competing with advertisers for your ad to show in the number one position. More competition results in less exposure and a bigger hit to your budget.
  • Time Consuming. Considering we’ve already seen how automation can save time, managed placement does the opposite. It consumes more of your energy and stops you from focusing on other marketing techniques.  

Depending on the allotted time you’ve set aside for digital advertising and your budget, managed placement could either be beneficial or detrimental to your business.


At the end of Hidden Figures, human and machine worked together. Perhaps a combination of automated and managed ad placement is the best solution for your brand. Carefully weigh the pros and cons for both, then choose the strategy that works for you.

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Source: Giphy

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Ashlee Dixon

Ashlee Dixon

Ashlee is the former Content Writer and Digital Specialist for eZanga and its ad fraud management platform, Anura. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. On weekends, you can usually find her curled up next to her cat and watching Netflix with a glass of wine in hand. More Articles by Ashlee Dixon