For most publishers, it is difficult to easily articulate the anticipated business benefits of implementing a DMP, let alone the core functions it should provide. Because of this, choosing a partner is even more difficult. To help flesh-out your evaluation in choosing a DMP, here are some key considerations that should be included in your decision making process.
Data Management Isn't Tag Management
Data management, and specifically audience data management, is a relatively complex activity that goes beyond simply trafficking pixels on a publisher site. Although tag rotation is an important component of any data management toolset, it is just the starting point. Audience segmentation, data protection, audience insight and secure data delivery are key facets of a well-rounded data management practice. It is crucial to partner with a technology provider that enables these behaviors. For sophisticated publishers, the opportunities that abound in leveraging the key asset of audience data will only be unlocked in a solution that delivers a breadth of features.
The M in DMP Means More Than "Management"
The key reason publishers are scrambling to understand DMPs is because of the other key "M" - money. DMPs have to provide a clear path to positive ROI, generally through the ability to either: 1) make the value of your onsite inventory greater through data 2) enable you to extend the reach of your audience by audience distribution on complementary media sources or 3) provide you with a direct conduit to new revenue for your audience data through a controlled distribution channel. All these monetization channels are not mutually exclusive; they have a system that gives you the ability to flexibly move from one revenue option to another is a key.
Monetizing Data is a Different Animal
The ability to transfer audience data outside of your site -- whether it is for your ad team's use in an audience extension play, as a direct sale to an advertiser/exchange, or as part of a value-add package to an agency, is a feature which fully leverages the power of a solid DMP. Once data leaves the mother ship, you need to be able to ensure that both the means of the transfer are secure and that the privacy considerations you maintain are carried on outside of your site. In addition, make sure your partner "plugs" are robust, control and flexibility are essential. Every partnership is different and may entail specific pricing, transparency, access or rights that should be readily controllable by you. A DMP should help you monetize your data -- if you work with a platform that has been constructed with dynamic partner access/monetization and strong publisher control.
DMPs (and Data Management Strategies) Are Not Built Overnight
"It's so easy" may apply to Guns N' Roses songs -- falling in love and remembering how to ride a bike -- but not to mastering audience data management. If you think about it, DMPs are similar to CRM tools. Building a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use system on the supplier side and operating it efficiently on the publisher side takes time and resources. Audiences don't segment themselves, so you need to make sure your team is prepared for the ongoing effort it will take to manage data. Like inventory management, audience management is an iterative process, not an auto-pilot solution.
Ask if your DMP partner is going to provide support for your team as well as how they plan to help you manage the ever-changing advertising and regulatory landscape. Make sure they have the backing to be with you for the long haul. Through product upgrades and strategic support, your DMP partner should be able to keep you at the forefront of data monetization, management and monitoring trends. This takes platform depth, team stability and a solid investment backbone for all involved. As audience data value begins to approach media value, consider whom you trust with this asset.
Your Data is Valuable - Protect It
The greatest data management toolset in the world is worthless unless you protect the value of what it is managing. Makeing sure that your "plugs" to buyers are secure is one thing, but protecting access from surreptitious applications is quite another. Third-party ad units, widgets, embedded content, text links, sharing tools and more are all "open doors" which can provide easy and unauthorized access to your data. Some of my industry colleagues like to call this "data leakage," I prefer "data theft."
"Leakage" connotes that the data seeps out and is lost, whereas what is actually happening is that someone is actively harvesting it and using that data -- with no recompense to you. So a third definition of the "M" in DMP needs to be "monitor," and any tool that is worth using for the first two "M's" (managing and monetizing) should also include this feature. Understanding who may be accessing your audience data and having the ability to white/blacklist certain activity is critical to ensuring that your overall audience strategy is sound. No one will be interested in monetizing your audience if they are getting it for free.
With a growing number of new providers, an increasing array of monetization opportunities and rapidly changing privacy standards, deciphering the DMP world for publishers is challenging. But by focusing on the fundamentals -- management, monetization and monitoring -- publishers can cut through the "acronym noise" and spell out the solution that is best for them.