Programmatic Advertising vs. Google Display Network

Programmatic Advertising vs. Google Display Network

Sissy Scheible
Sissy Scheible
published on April 26, 2023   

Programmatic Advertising vs. Google Display Network - The essentials in brief:

  • Programmatic Advertising refers to the automated, data-based placement of display ads and native ads using specialized software.  

  • The Google Display Network is made up of a variety of different websites where ads can be placed through Google Ads or Google AdSense.

  • There are significant differences in price, handling, targeting, reach, and the selection of advertising formats.

  • With LocalUp, display ads can be customized locally and targeted to specific audiences.

The days when you could reach your customers through advertising flyers or even catalogs dropped in the mailbox are long gone. If you want to attract younger generations to your company or product, you have to advertise online. Companies planning a display advertising campaign usually first think of the Google Display Network. However, in many cases, Programmatic Advertising is a worthwhile alternative.

What is Programmatic Advertising?


Programmatic Advertising refers to the automated, data-based placement of display ads and native ads using special software. Companies bid on the best advertising space in an auction to display their ads exactly when a potential customer is on the page. Real-time bidding plays an important role, but it is not the same as Programmatic Advertising; it is merely a part of it. The aim of Programmatic Advertising is to provide relevant and individually tailored ads for users and to use media budgets only when truly relevant users are reached. Advertising inventory is thus purchased individually and user-focused for individual impression, fully automated and in real-time.

How does Programmatic Advertising work?

On a so-called demand-side platform (DSP), agencies can set the conditions for ad placement. Parameters such as frequency, maximum CPM, geographic and demographic targeting are set.

The counterpart to the DSP is the supply-side platform (SSP), which is used by publishers to offer free advertising space. Advertising is published on the corresponding websites through this platform. User profiles of website visitors are also created on the SSP using cookies.

The auction itself takes place on the Ad Exchange Server. The SSP transmits user profiles of website visitors there within a few fractions of a second and in return, accepts bids from advertisers. When there is a match between the offer and the desired user profile, the ad is displayed.

Programmatic Advertising vs. Google Display Network

Simplified illustration of Programmatic Advertising.

What is the Google Display Network?


The Google Display Network  is one of the largest advertising networks in the world. It is made up of a variety of different websites where ads can be placed through Google Ads or Google AdSense. The network includes over one million advertising partners as well as additional partner sites and apps.

How does the Google Display Network work?

Like other auction-based bidding platforms, the Google Display Network uses display advertising to reach specific target audiences. There are targeting options available based on demographics, behaviors, interests, and more. Advertisers can manage their ads in the Google Display Network either manually or programmatically. In manual management, advertisers choose which websites their ads should be placed on, while programmatic management automatically places ads on relevant websites and mobile apps for the target audience through the Google Ads system.

Programmatic Advertising vs. Google Display Network
Learn how to place your website prominently in search results and the Google advertising network with Google Ads.

How does Programmatic Advertising differ from the Google Display Network?


The Google Display Network is one ad exchange, while Programmatic Advertising consists of over 20 ad exchanges. The Google Display Network has a relatively wide reach, covering millions of websites and apps and reaching 90% of all internet users.

The reach of Programmatic Advertising is even higher, as it includes numerous other international networks and publishers in addition to Google. 95% of all websites can be covered by Programmatic Advertising. At the same time, the large number of different ad exchange platforms increases the chance of reaching the desired target group at the right time in the right environment.


The Google Display Network offers category-based targeting using keywords, locations, and demographic data such as age, gender, and interests. Programmatic Advertising offers more granular targeting by purchasing 2nd and 3rd party cookies. While the Google Display Network can only use data from Google, Programmatic Advertising can use data from other providers or other websites.


The Google Display Network is popular because it is easy to use, enabling smaller businesses to easily advertise online. Programmatic Advertising, on the other hand, requires a certain level of technical understanding due to its complex structure and involvement of numerous parties such as DSPs, Ad Exchanges, and SSPs, making it more suitable for agencies and experts.


Programmatic advertising can be cheaper than the Google Display Network due to more precise targeting, but is usually more expensive, including when the higher reach and better targeting options are fully utilized. Also, some DSPs require a minimum placement budget. If this is not used, fees may be charged.


Using the Google Display Network, it’s better to stick with image ads. Video ads can only be placed on YouTube. Audio or TV-based ads can only be served via YouTube apps. Programmatic Advertising, on the other hand, also offers marketing formats such as audio ads, connected TV and native video.

Which advertising tool is better suited for your business?

Although Programmatic Advertising clearly offers more benefits, there is no definitive answer to the question of which advertising tool is better suited for your business. The best option for your company depends on your specific marketing goals, budget, and target audience.

If you need a wide reach and a higher level of targeting options, Programmatic Advertising is the better choice. It also offers a greater variety of advertising spaces. However, Programmatic Advertising can be more complex to manage and may require collaboration with an agency or internal expert, which can result in higher costs and more effort.

If you are looking for a simpler way to advertise through display ads and have a lower budget, Google Display Network is the better option. It offers easy handling and direct management through the Google Ads dashboard, making it easy to handle even for companies with less expertise. The Google Display Network also allows you to place ads on Google platforms such as YouTube and Gmail, reaching a quite large audience. Google Display Network is also the right choice if your target group spends most of its time on Google platforms or websites that are integrated into the Google Display Network anyway.

Our tip: Locally individualized display ads with LocalUp

What good are the best targeting options if your display ads can’t pick up customers directly on site? If you want to reach target audiences at different locations, such as recruiting personnel for multiple branches, you should create customized ads for each of them. With LocalUp’s marketing automation, your marketing campaigns become hyper-local and individually targeted to your desired audience. Marketing automation can be used for both image and video ads, reducing the manual effort required for your campaigns to a minimum.

Want to learn more about our technology? Get in touch with us. We look forward to your inquiry!