LinkedIn Launches Programmatic for Display Ads

LinkedIn extended its offerings to digital advertisers by allowing them to purchase display ads that will reach desktop users. Programmatic Buying will allow ad buyers to use their own data or LinkedIn’s data to reach prospects within LinkedIn.

“This really augments the capabilities we have,” said Russ Glass, Head of Products at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. “We now allow marketers accessing digital ad programs the platform of their choice.” LinkedIn already has ad programs allowing advertisers to reach its database of professionals with sponsored content or ads delivered via InMail. “The only way to access the ad on the site was by targeting (using) the targeting data we had available,” Glass said.

Advertisers now have two audience targeting options. The first is intent-based, where advertisers can use their own or third-party data to target ads at prospects. The second is Professional Identity Targeting, where advertisers can use LinkedIn’s data to reach segments defined by company size, seniority, or career type.

Digital advertisers are highly data driven. Letting those advertisers use their own data to pitch to LinkedIn’s list allows them to make best use of their data strategies when crafting campaigns for B2C, B2B or pitching premium goods, Glass explained. “Advertisers know the customer better than anybody,” Glass noted. They can apply their insights rather than relying on LinkedIn’s data to find those same prospects.

Programmatic Buying is targeted at display ads only and will only appear on LinkedIn’s desktop version. “This is not a great format in mobile,” Glass noted. “It’s intrusive from the user experience point of view.” Advertisers can also resort to open auction or private auction to purchase targeted digital ad space. “Open auction is the easiest way to set up and run,” Glass said. “You can bring any data to the table.” Advertisers would go through their demand-side platforms to get their ads served through the LinkedIn pipeline.

Digital advertisers could use private auction to gain more options reaching LinkedIn’s home base, Glass said. This technique is more complex to set up, and the ads run only on LinkedIn. If the advertiser is less picky about where his ad runs so long as he reaches his target audience, he is more likely to resort to open auction, Glass said.

LinkedIn’s Programmatic Buying solution does not conflict with any effort that Microsoft may be working on, given Microsoft’s recent announcement that it was buying LinkIn. Glass declined to go into details. “It’s just business as usual for us.”

Programmatic Buying follows LinkedIn’s Account Targeting program, launched last March. Account Targeting allows marketers to automate outreach to potential decision makers inside LinkedIn, whereas before information could only be served to no more than 100 companies at a time.

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