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A Beginner’s Guide to Programmatic Advertising for Law Firms

by Vondrae McCoy • April 30th, 2021 • Digital Marketing | Blog

programmatic advertising for law firmsProgrammatic advertising is a specialized type of data-driven advertising that uses computers and algorithms to assist legal marketers in reaching their target audiences in real-time. Programmatic is not the future of advertising; it’s already here. In fact, by the end of 2021, 88% of digital display marketing in the US is projected to be done via programmatic advertising. Benefits of programmatic advertising for law firms include better targeting, streamlined campaign management and ad spend efficiencies. In this guide, we’ll arm you with the core programmatic advertising concepts you need to know in order to wrap your head around this complex space.

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic advertising is defined as the use of machine learning to buy advertising in real-time. Essentially, it’s the same thing as buying ad space as advertisers would normally, except the bidding process is done in milliseconds instead of the hours or days that human negotiation would take. It’s a common misconception that programmatic ad inventory is limited to display ads but in fact, marketers can also purchase native and video placements with programmatic advertising. There are different types of programmatic auctions that make this all work (see below).

With programmatic advertising, targeting tactics are used to segment audiences using data so that advertisers only pay for ads delivered to the right people. With programmatic, law firm marketers are empowered to serve ads to relevant audiences based on data including (but not limited to) demographics, geography, online search behaviors and device usage. This data that allows for incredibly accurate targeting of desired audiences is sorted and managed in Data-Management Platforms (DMPs)

The area where law firms would place their bids is called an Ad Exchange, which manages the complicated processes between Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) and Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs). DSPs and SSPS determine when and where ads are placed, as well as how much is spent. DSP’s are solely used by the advertisers to purchase ad inventory, while SSP’s are used by the publishers to manage inventory.

What are the different types of programmatic advertising?

There are different types of programmatic auctions that make this all work.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB)

RTB, is the automated buying and selling of media in real-time, meaning that the process of selecting the highest bidder will be over before the webpage has any time to load. In these types of auctions, law firms bid for the ad space they want and throw their bid into the ring to compete with other advertisers. Like a regular auction, the highest bidder wins, and their ad is displayed on the website the second a consumer visits it. One type of RTB (that’s often used synonymously) is Open Exchange, where just about any buyer or seller of ad inventory can participate.

Private Marketplace (PMP)

PMP advertising is a type of premium real-time-bidding that is more exclusive. A programmatic private marketplace typically includes a higher caliber of publishers and ad positioning. CPMs may be higher to purchase this exclusive inventory, but the protection against ad fraud and brand safety is much better than the Open Exchange RTB environment.

Programmatic Direct 

This type of programmatic exchange is similar to the old way of ad buying. It’s a direct deal between the publisher and the advertiser. The biggest difference between PMP and programmatic direct is that in a direct buy, both parties agree to a fixed CPM, whereas in a PMP, the CPM can fluctuate because it is a type of RTB.


Programmatic advertising allows law firm marketers to explore an array of opportunities which were not possible when ad placements were purchased manually. Programmatic ad buying technology is highly targeted, less expensive, and more transparent than traditional advertising. The layer of transparency that one receives is specifically higher when inventory is purchased on a PMP or direct exchange. When added to your marketing mix, programmatic advertising, along with predictive advertising has the potential to drive more quality leads to your law firm’s website and can lead to better ROI.

If your firm would like to pull the lever and make the switch to programmatic ad buying, contact us for help today.

Updated and repurposed from March 9, 2020.



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