How to Keep Your DSP Honest

Busy marketers are always looking for ways to boost efficiency and streamline the ad-buying process, but sometimes pressing the “Easy Button” comes with a price.

Using a demand-side platform is a great way to buy ad impressions because DSPs simplify the buying process for marketers and their clients. Unfortunately, many DSPs give you access to supply partners and publishers that are often less than trustworthy.

If you’re not careful, in the worst-case scenario, you could end up with a DSP that makes its money through hidden fees, slow queries per second, high-latency pixel firing, and impression fraud by way of shady SSPs and publishers. There are plenty of ways supply companies and even DSPs can cheat the system — at your expense.

Thankfully, there are ways to protect against unsavory DSPs, SSPs, and publishers. The most obvious, of course, is to only work with platforms that are willing to be completely transparent about all their fees and charges.



Besides that, taking control of your own campaigns is critical to protecting your advertising dollars.

How to Manage the DSP Relationship

One of the best ways to protect yourself against sketchy DSPs and their supply partners is to work closely with them. Don’t just hand them the reins and await regular reports.

Consider implementing these strategies to keep everyone honest:

  1. Employ an ad-serving solution to be on the lookout for impression fraud.
  1. When using remnant inventory, regularly review your site transparency reports, and adjust your white lists and black lists accordingly.
  1. Use private exchange inventory in video, display, and mobile to maximize your campaigns.
  1. Pay attention to managed service margins. In extreme cases, you’ll find the service charging a 92% margin, meaning the client only applies 8% of the budget to actual advertising.

Monitor Your Own ROI

Besides managing the relationship with your DSP, smart marketers will monitor their own progress during a campaign. Watching your own campaign data across many formats will not only hold the DSP accountable, but it will also increase your ROI on every campaign.

Focusing on a few key data points will keep you in control.

  1. Geography: Find the state or DMAs that have the lowest CPA (or other important KPIs). Then double down on spending in high-performing locations.
  1. Demographics: Pay attention to the demographic and psychographic insights you receive. True performance insights in these areas will help you refine your targets and possibly discover new ones.

For example, a company that sold men’s luxury luggage online believed that its main demographic consisted of men within a certain age range. But by closely monitoring its data, the company proved that 47% of its converters were women. Armed with that data, it was able to implement campaigns that targeted both men and women and increase its ROI significantly.

  1. Others: You can improve your campaign performance by taking action on insights around custom data, performance, and supply.

There are plenty of great DSPs out there, and not all of them are out to commit fraud. Ultimately, though, even with a great partner, it’s your campaign. You’re the person responsible for its effectiveness. Managing your relationship with the platform and monitoring your own data will help keep the DSP honest, which ultimately benefits you and your clients.

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