Mainstream DSPs can take six hours or more to report the media buys that were made on your behalf. Digital media vendors boast about the latest and greatest in real-time bidding, yet they are willing to label something that takes almost an entire workday “real time.” That's as if a head football coach prepared a playbook, handed it off to his quarterback, got on a plane to London and then waited until he landed to find out who won.
That is not real time. Let's compare Madison Avenue to Wall Street. You can tell eTrade to buy stocks for you up to a limit and the system will buy for you all day. You can then see what buys were made on your behalf with up-to-the-minute visibility.
So if the technology exists, why is there a delay in real time in the online advertising world? There are dozens of excuses, most commonly that it's either too hard or too expensive. Some companies claim that there is too much data to translate quickly, or that marketers don’t really need true real time. These are lazy rationalizations.
The real reason that it takes six hours to get real-time information is that the DSPs, agencies and exchanges profit from the lack of transparency, and marketers won't hold them accountable.
When cell phones were first introduced, people questioned if they really needed a mobile phone. They were slow to adopt the technology. Sure, you could talk on the phone before mobile phones were invented, but now you are able to do all sorts of things you could never do before. Someone had to invent the cell phone before people realized that they couldn’t live without real-time communication. The same thing will be true when actual real time hits online marketing. What is acceptable today will become anachronistic.
Speed is inevitable. Years ago, on Wall Street, people questioned the need for speed. Those that embraced speed ahead of the curve not only ended up making a lot of money, they enabled the average person to buy stocks for a lot less than before, thanks to increased liquidity and transparency. The large monopolies that tried to hold back ended up losing out against change.
Agencies and their vendors should realize that real time is inevitable, regardless of whether or not they embrace it. If they don’t do it, someone else will. Marketers must insist on true real time, and agencies need to be held accountable.
If your agency can’t explain its bids to you in real time, then maybe you need a new agency.