Self-service advertisement is dominating the digital advertising market at the moment. Such a self-serve ad platform as Google has already connected 7 million advertisers in 2019 and it continues to grow.

Self-service allows advertisers to display ads where, when, and how they want, without having to deal with a long process of negotiations, the pressure of having only one try, and the stress of changing the littlest details of the campaign.

If you want to discover this exciting type of advertisement, continue reading and learn what self-service advertising is, what benefits it offers, and how to create advertising campaigns with self-service ad platforms.

What is self-service advertisement?

Self-service advertising is a type of programmatic advertising that refers to publishing ads without human interference with sales reps or ad ops. Currently, it accounts for a great part of programmatic advertising services.

programmatic spending stats

You just choose a self-service advertising tool, create a campaign, choose targeting, and wait for the approval. That is it, now you are ready to show your ads in real-time to the right audience. No sales representative, long discussions, and negotiations involved. The requirements for ad creatives are usually also less strict in the self-serve advertising platform.

Benefits of self-service advertisement

The self-service advertisement changed the face of online advertising forever, creating a better environment for all parties involved in the process. This change was very welcomed considering all the benefits offered by this type of ad, for example:

Reduced money and time investment

You do not have to negotiate responsibilities, terms, ad formats, ad placement, and display time with an ad sales rep when it comes to self-serve advertising. Instead, you can choose whatever you want in a couple of clicks and create the campaign even in the middle of the night. You can also easily change the terms, creative, or target audience, without waiting for a reaction from the publisher. It saves you a lot of time and allows you to explore more self-serve advertising platforms in the meantime rather than spending a lot of effort and time on a single publisher.

The cost of the ad display on a self-service platform is also cheaper. You can avoid showing ads to uninterested users and easily configure the ad for better results with fewer resources.

No entry barriers

Publishers usually want to work with big advertisers who are ready to pay big money. Therefore, they set medium-sized and small companies as their last priority and it can take a lot of time to get an ad spot. Programmatic media buying is more welcoming for businesses with different backgrounds. It gives an opportunity to advertise even to the newly-appeared businesses no matter what is the company size overall. On certain platforms, there is no minimum advertising budget and you can launch your first ad campaign as small as you can.

Full control over the campaigns

If you have a profound understanding of what is ad tech industry, you probably want to fully leverage all its benefits to your advantage. When you are creating ad campaigns with a self-serve platform, you are in full charge of the process. You can decide what people to show ads to, when and on what websites, as well as change the setting as soon as you see the need to do so.

Constant development

Self-service advertising technologies never slow down their development. They offer more and more custom features and tools to track your performance. The options for further development of such platforms are endless. This is why the self-service advertisement is here to stay.

Increased campaign reach

Single publishers usually give you access to one or more websites with a limited number of users and no opportunities to exclude non-target audiences. With self-serve advertising platform, you can reach only the right audiences by using targeting options. You can also follow the user from one website to the other with retargeting.

More room for experimenting

Self-serve tech with its quick changes of parameters, easy swap of creatives, and in-depth analytics, allows businesses to experiment and test what works better. The famous A/B testing that allows marketers to polish their campaigns to perfection became widely accessible just because of self-serve advertising. Certain ad platforms have this in-built A/B testing functionality. So it is easy to experiment with different creatives and messages and discover new audiences and channels through this type of advertisement.

Creating an ad campaign for self-service advertisement platforms: what you need to know

Self-serve platforms are beneficial as long as you know how to use them. Otherwise, it might turn into a huge budget waste and ineffective communication. Let’s learn how to maximize your ROI with these easy-to-follow steps.

Know your target audience

Self-service advertisement platforms allow you to target specific types of users so that you do not have to pay for impressions of those who are not interested in the slightest. Therefore, make sure to use this opportunity to the fullest. Learn about location, age, gender, income, interests, career, pain points, behavior patterns, preferred channels, etc. Some self-service ads allow you to go as far as targeting users with specific search histories.

You can get the data about your target audience by analyzing your current users through Google Analytics or customer surveys, analyzing the audience of your competitors, and defining who your target audience is not.

After you have gathered enough data, we recommend splitting your target audience into 3+ buyer personas. It is obvious that not all your users are the same and it is better to create a personalized approach by creating different groups.

self serve advertising targeting

Define your advertising objectives

The advertisement may have different goals: you may want to let people know about your business, promote specific products or sales, maintain relationships, build your brand image, etc. The message will be different for different advertising objectives and you will be tracking different metrics to understand the success of your campaign. We also do not recommend combining too many different objectives at once - you may not reach not a single objective with such positioning.

objectives of self serveadvertising

Choose the suitable advertising platform

There are numerous self-service advertisement platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc. The platform you choose depends mainly on your target audience and their preferred channel of communication.

If you want to reach people outside of Google or large social media, we recommend going for demand-side platforms. Before diving deeper into the benefits of such services, let’s learn what is a demand-side platform. Basically, it is the software utilized for programmatic ad buying via bidding in Real-Time bidding auctions. Through DSPs, advertisers can set up highly efficient marketing campaigns and ensure that their ads are displayed only on the relevant websites to the target users at the lowest possible price.

For example, SmartyAds DSP pulls together numerous websites, offers omnichannel marketing, drives only human traffic, and has more than 30 targeting options. This DSP allows advertisers to create different formats of ads, including banner, video, native, rich media, push notifications, and Connected TV. SmartyAds also offers mobile DSP functionality for those who want to go beyond desktop advertising.

Choose your pricing model

In the self-serve advertisement, you can pay either for clicks or for impressions.

When you pay for clicks, you do not have to pay for uninterested users looking at your ads. It is suitable for businesses that want to generate leads and sales above all and they do not care for exposure that much. However, be careful because, in practice, the PPC budget runs out very fast.

Pay per impression option is for businesses who want to become known. It works especially well for new companies. You are paying per every 1,000 views and it is easier to estimate the budget of this type of campaign.

advertising pricing models

Set your budget

The ad budget is important for businesses of all types but small businesses should probably care about it the most.

If you have never launched an advertisement campaign before, you can consider spending 5-12% of annual revenue on the advertisement. If you are a new company, you will probably need to go closer to 12% rather than 5% to let as many people as possible learn about your brand.

how much companies spend on advertising

If you have launched an ad campaign before, you should already know what a lead costs. Try to adjust your numbers based on your previous experience. It is the best way to set a budget since every business is unique and has different marketing needs.

Keep track of your success

If you keep an eye out on KPIs, you can notice early signs of an ad campaign flop and redesign your advertisement before your advertising budget runs out without viable results. It can also help you understand what things to work on. You should be definitely tracking these metrics:

  • Return on ad spend: if it is too low, the ad is harming your business rather than helping
  • Cost per conversion: if it takes too much to convert a single customer, you may want to play around with the target audience or experiment with a stronger CTA
  • Impressions and reach: if it is too low, you may want to redefine your bidding
  • Clicks: if users are seeing but rarely click, it is a sign to redesign your creatives
  • Conversion rate: if the number of those who clicked is high and the number of users who actually bought something is too low, you may want to work on the landing page.

If you need to optimize campaigns towards brand-awareness KPI on the CPM advertising platform, your main metrics will be the number of served impressions and CTR.

advertising campaign measurement KPIs

Most of the tools that you need to measure these metrics will be available at the dashboard of your demand-side platform. Additional ones such as the number of unique users on your website you can measure with Google Analytics.

tools for measuring KPIs

Test and optimize

In the self-service advertisement, it is not scary to make a mistake, it is scary to not fix it. You are given great analytics tools for a reason. If your reports wish to be better, you can analyze which metric is flopping and, consequently, what exactly needs to be fixed. Afterward, perform A/B testing where you change one thing at a time and use analytics again to define which copy worked better. Save the better copy and change something else about it again. Repeat the process until your metrics satisfy you.

Do not be afraid to change your initial plans. Unfortunately, what we predict with powerful data and what we have in real life is different. Your key to successful self-service advertisement is to look at what real-life offers and build your campaigns around that. Don’t be afraid to cut off unnecessary channels and keywords, change your target audience, visuals, time, frequency, CTAs, landing pages if they don’t perform well.

stages of ab testing


Self-service advertisement has become so popular because of its numerous benefits like fast and cost-effective workflow automation, easy access to publishers for businesses of all sizes, more room for testing and optimization, etc. However, you need to know how to work with the platform to get the most out of the digital advertising experience.If you are looking for a great place to start your self-service advertisement journey, take a look at SmartyAds.

Enjoy wide reach, precise targeting, deep analytics, and total brand safety on SmartyAds DSP

Written by
Irina Kovalenko, CMO of SmartyAds
September 2021