GDN: A Drop in the Programmatic Bucket

Google GDN

What is the difference between Google Display Network and Programmatic Advertising?

As advertisers, our main goal is to maximize the effectiveness and value of our advertising budget. It was our goal yesterday, it is our goal today, and it will be our goal tomorrow. But how do we successfully accomplish this feat when it comes to online display advertising, where even a million dollar spend can be a drop in the bucket if not spent correctly?

Because the internet is so vast and the fear of wasted spend is so real, many online advertisers automatically retreat into the familiar arms of a buying platform they trust like Google. I’m speaking specifically of the Google Display Network (GDN), Google’s online display advertising solution. While GDN may come with the added value of the Google brand, it doesn’t necessarily come with any real added value past that. A more comprehensive approach would be to take that budget and invest it programmatically using a Demand Side Platform (DSP).

Let’s take a quick look at three reasons why investing in programmatic display is the better option:

Programmatic has a wide reach

The first reason that comes to mind is its overall reach. While GDN can certainly be a useful tool, it’s only one walled-off section of a much more vast and varied display advertising world. A good example of this can be found with something like video traffic. GDN will grant you access to its YouTube content, but may exclude video traffic outside of that. Using a DSP will help create campaigns that are truly scalable and can expand quickly into new and unique audiences.

Programmatic offers wider functionality

The second reason programmatic is its superior functionality. GDN isn’t limited only in scope of inventory but also in features. A DSP offers substantially more targeting and testing capabilities, as well as the ability to host a variety of rich ad formats not found in GDN. With all this added functionality, you can test and tweak your campaigns until you’ve hit on the combination that resonates best with your brand and with your customers.

Programmatic offers rich data access

The third, and frankly the most important aspect of programmatic media, is the increasingly rich data that we’re able to collect from the DSPs. As advertisers, everything past is prologue in regards to how we advance our marketing strategy. All of these added features and infinite testing scenarios provided by the DSP allows us to leverage this ultra-rich data and start laying the foundation for real and meaningful growth. In fact, smarter brands will take their CRM data and inject it into the DSP to help bring customers back into the funnel.


So don’t back your advertising campaigns into a corner before they start! Sifting through stale inventory with limited functionality is a sure-fire way to limit brand awareness. Remember that no two brands are the same, and that without the sufficient reach and functionality of a DSP, the engine that powers the bulk of your growth will stall.

What’s Next?

If you’re interested in learning more about programmatic, you might enjoy our micro-lesson on the myths and realities of programmatic advertising.

Al Lepow About the author
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