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February 5, 2024
5 min read

Self-Serve Advertising Platforms: Are they Worth the Money?

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape change is the only constant! Self-serve advertising has taken the world of business by storm handing SMB advertisers the keys to drive their own ad campaigns. The whole concept revolves around simplifying the ad placement process, offering advertisers a platform that is easy to use. They get to create, manage and track their ads, customize their marketing messages and monitor performance in real-time. It sounds even better when you take into account the lack of advertising intermediaries like sales reps and agencies. In this article we will take a look at the pros and cons of self-serve ad platforms and try to answer the question: Is this what local advertisers and regional publishers actually need?

Christian Scherbel
LInkedIn Logo

How is Self-serve Advertising Different from Traditional Advertising?

Traditional advertising often involves dealing with agencies, media buyers, and complex negotiation processes, which can be time-consuming and costly, especially for smaller businesses. In contrast, self-serve platforms provide a direct and streamlined approach. Users can bypass these intermediaries, gaining immediate access to ad spaces across various digital platforms, including social media, search engines, and websites. This method not only accelerates the ad placement process but also offers a degree of flexibility. Advertisers can swiftly modify their campaigns, adjust their budgets, and respond to market trends in real-time, a level of agility that is typically unattainable in traditional advertising.

Benefits of Self-Serve Ad Platforms

Lower Costs

One of the most compelling benefits of self-serve advertising is the significant reduction in costs it offers. As we mentioned above, traditional advertising channels often involve various middlemen, such as advertising agencies and media planners. They can substantially inflate the overall cost of the ad campaigns due to various management fees. In contrast, self-serve platforms eliminate the need for these intermediaries, allowing businesses to directly manage their advertising campaigns.

The decrease in cost of digital advertising is one of the key factors why SMBs opt for online advertising.

This straightforward approach not only reduces administrative and agency fees but also empowers businesses to set, control and modify their own budgets. Self-serve ad platforms market themselves as a way for small businesses with limited marketing budgets to participate in the advertising arena, selecting options that best fit their financial capabilities. In theory, the pay-per-click (PPC) and Cost Per Mille (CPM) charging methods commonly used in such platforms ensure that businesses pay only for the actual engagement they get.

Additional Control

A distinct advantage of self-serve advertising is the enhanced level of control it gives SMB advertisers. Platforms like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn introduce a level of customization and precision that is often unattainable in traditional advertising setups. Advertisers can micro-manage every aspect of their campaigns – setting target audiences based on demographics, interests, behaviors, locations, etc. They can specify the time of day the ads can appear and also retarget visitors who have previously landed on their websites or made a purchase in the past.

In addition, this level of granular control lets them allocate funds to best performing campaigns and improve their results thanks to real-time performance data. Furthermore, self-serve platforms often provide the flexibility to pause, modify, or scale campaigns instantly, responding swiftly to market feedback or changing business objectives.

Advanced Analytics

One of the most transformative features of self-serve advertising platforms is their advanced analytics capabilities, which provide businesses with deep insights into the performance of their campaigns. Traditional advertising relies on more general and obscure metrics, which do not always correlate with marketing, such as focus groups, voucher tracking, customer surveys and so on. Contemporary platforms track a wide range of metrics, including impressions, clicks, conversions, conversion rates, and engagement rates, which paint a better picture of marketing performance.

Such detailed analytics allow businesses to understand their audience better, identify which messages resonate with them the most, and discover some effective channels and strategies. This level of insight is crucial for optimizing campaigns, as it enables advertisers to make informed decisions and adjustments to improve their ROI. By continually analyzing and responding to this data, businesses can refine their advertising strategies, ensuring that they are always aligned with their target audience's needs, preferences and behaviors.

24X7 Availability

Self-serve local ad platforms stand out for offering round-the-clock access, a feature especially beneficial for global and national businesses operating in different time zones or those needing to respond swiftly to market changes. This 24/7 accessibility means advertisers are no longer constrained by traditional office hours waiting for an approval by a campaign manager before making any adjustments. In a landscape where timing can be everything, the ability to access and manage ad campaigns any time, anywhere, is not just a convenience — it's a strategic advantage.

Different Ad formats

PPC and social media platforms support a wide array of formats – from crisp, concise text ads that capture immediate attention in search results, to eye-catching image and banner ads that visually engage users on websites and social media. For those looking to make a more impactful statement, video ads offer dynamic storytelling capabilities, ideal for platforms where motion and sound can make a strong impression.

Additionally, the option to create customized landing pages allows for a seamless user experience, guiding potential customers from the ad to a tailored page that matches their interests and needs. This diversity in ad formats means businesses can not only choose the type that best aligns with their message and target audience but also experiment with a mix of formats to see which yields the best results.

Disadvantages of Self-Serve Ad Platforms

Global Competition

Self-serve ad platforms are essentially global marketplaces, where internationally recognized brands compete for the attention of consumers worldwide. However, local publishers typically rely on content centered on the regional and community-specific needs of its readers. As a result, publishers compete against diverse content, having higher production costs and appealing to a broader audience. This means that the cost of advertising will continuously go up, while the more niche and specific interests of the local audience will remain neglected.

Algorithmic Preferences

The algorithms of Google and Facebook are designed to maximize user engagement, measured by metrics such as click-through rate or views. They often give the edge to content possessing international appeal, which is relevant to a much broader audience. This means that local content targeted to its audience will probably not get the same visibility.

On top of that, it is difficult to maintain a descent ROI on self-serve ad platforms in the long-term. The constant changes of the ranking factors in Google or the user retargeting restrictions on Facebook make it challenging for the advertisers to always stay ahead of the curve.


Google and Facebook ad platforms are loaded with a ton of features and technical terms that a local advertiser needs to master before even launching their first ad. Bidding strategies, keyword match types, targeting options, campaign objectives, A/B testing, custom audiences are just the tip of the iceberg – the list gets bigger every year. SMB advertisers find themselves overwhelmed by the complexity and nuances of setting a single campaign let alone optimizing the ad spend, understanding the analytics or creating a marketing funnel. In reality, they have to invest a significant amount of time to master these platforms or to hire a freelancer or an agency to set up and run the ads for them.

SMBs often find it difficult to connect the dots between the complex digital marketing terms and tech jargon.

What’s the Solution?

Is there a solution where publishers can offer their advertisers the benefits of self-serve platforms, but eliminating the complexity and the irrelevant KPIs?

Yes, absolutely!

Our Smart Ads product transforms various inputs, such as URLs, print ads or social media posts into impactful ads targeting local audiences. Publishers control the digital assets like banners and landing pages, reporting to the advertiser meaningful metrics, such as “time spent on the landing page” as opposed to just clicks or views.

By leveraging Smartico's services, local publishers and small advertisers can scale their ad creation and delivery, ensuring high-quality, attention-grabbing ads that are optimized for both visibility and conversion. By leveraging Smartico's services, local publishers and small advertisers can scale their ad creation and delivery, ensuring high-quality, attention-grabbing ads that are optimized for local audiences.

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