Programmatic vs PPC: What’s the Difference?

  ●   July 12, 2023 | Blog
Written by
July 12, 2023 | Blog

In the world of digital marketing where businesses aim to maximise their online advertising efforts, there are two strategies that stand out from the rest: PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and Programmatic Marketing. Both approaches offer unique advantages and cater to different business objectives.

In this blog post, we will delve into the differences between PPC and Programmatic Marketing, exploring their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision on which strategy best suits your marketing needs.

What is PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Marketing?

PPC advertising is a form of digital marketing in which advertisers pay a fee each time their ad is clicked. This model allows businesses to bid for ad placement within search engine results pages on platforms such as Google and Bing, targeting users searching for specific topics.

Example of a PPC ad by Ooni appearing on Google:

What is Programmatic Marketing?

Programmatic Marketing leverages technology and algorithms to automate the buying and selling of digital ad space. It involves real-time bidding on ad inventory across various websites, mobile apps, and digital platforms, targeting specific audiences based on their behaviour, demographics, or interests.

Example of a programmatic ad by John Lewis appearing on The Telegraph:

The pros of PPC Marketing

1. Immediate results

PPC campaigns can generate instant visibility and drive immediate traffic to your website or landing page, making it an ideal strategy for businesses seeking quick results.

2. Targeted approach

PPC allows for granular targeting options, enabling you to reach specific audiences based on factors like search intent, location, demographics, and interests.

3. Measurable ROI

PPC platforms provide detailed analytics and reporting, allowing you to track conversions, measure return on investment, and optimise your campaigns accordingly.

4. Testing capabilities

PPC campaigns offer the ability to A/B test different ad copies, landing pages, and keywords, enabling data-driven decision-making for optimising ad performance.

The cons of PPC Marketing

1. Costly competitiveness

Popular keywords and high-demand industries can drive up the cost-per-click (CPC), making it expensive for businesses with limited budgets to sustain long-term campaigns.

2. Reliance on keywords

PPC heavily relies on keyword targeting, which means you need to conduct thorough keyword research and constantly update your campaigns to remain relevant.

3. Limited ad apace

PPC ads compete for limited real estate on search engine results pages, especially if you want the ads to appear above organic search results.

The pros of Programmatic Marketing

1. Advanced targeting capabilities

Programmatic Marketing enables precise audience targeting using diverse data sources, such as browsing behaviour, demographic information, and past interactions, allowing for more accurate ad placements.

2. Enhanced efficiency

Automation streamlines the ad buying process, saving time and effort for marketers. Programmatic platforms optimise ad delivery, ensuring that ads reach the right audience at the right time.

3. Expanded reach

Programmatic Marketing provides access to a vast network of ad inventory, reaching a larger audience across multiple channels and devices.

4. Ad fraud prevention

Programmatic technology incorporates measures to detect and mitigate ad fraud, ensuring that ad impressions are served to genuine users.

The cons of Programmatic Marketing

1. Complexity and learning curve

Programmatic Marketing involves working with intricate technologies and algorithms, which may require specialised knowledge or the support of experts.

2. Brand safety concerns

Programmatic advertising carries the risk of ads appearing on inappropriate or low-quality websites if not monitored properly. Maintaining brand safety requires careful attention.

3. Lack of transparency

Programmatic ad buying can sometimes be perceived as lacking transparency, as ads are often placed through automated processes without direct negotiation or control over ad placements.

So, which option is the best for your marketing strategy?

PPC and Programmatic Marketing represent two distinct approaches to digital advertising, each with its strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, a combination of both strategies may be the optimal solution, leveraging the advantages of each approach for a holistic digital advertising campaign.

Our partnership with OnTheMarket is a prime example of this. Semetrical has been working with OnTheMarket, which features hundreds of thousands of UK properties listed by over 12,500 estate agent offices, to improve data visibility and tailor an approach to become more efficient using PPC and Programmatic channels.

We extracted information on estate agents by locality and where people were more likely to convert. In addition, we moved past last click attribution to improve our understanding of user journeys across different paid media channels, which is essential for effective optimisations across multiple channels.


Our achievements with OnTheMarket demonstrate a high level of growth brought about by a sophisticated approach to PPC and Programmatic campaign management. We ended the year generating a +62% YOY increase in additional leads, whilst reducing cost per acquisition by -54% YOY. 

See the full case study for more information.

If you need support building and managing a paid media advertising campaign, reach out to our team to discuss your options.

Our Blog