As someone who has toiled for a decade in the trenches of the exchange-based media-buying arena, I have seen the programmatic media space evolve from nascence to prominence in the minds and wallets of
advertisers. While this space holds great promise, marketers have navigated it with varying degrees of commitment and success.
A main reason many brands have been slow to embrace
programmatic media, or have not found success as yet, is that they are unsure how to properly identify marketplace partners that can steward them through the nuances necessary to fully realize the
benefits of this new paradigm. It is complicated to be sure, but there are steps a marketer can take to simplify the selection process.
First, the brand must determine goals and business
objectives. Typically these include specific key performance indicators (KPIs), but can also include testing/learning scenarios, analytics/attribution modeling, cross-channel effectiveness,
leveraging CRM data across digital channels, as well as other business and marketing exploration enabled by programmatic methods. As usual, goal determines best solution. This is critically important,
given the vast array of possible solution configurations in the marketplace.
There are four fundamental pillars within a successful programmatic solution: the ability to aggregate and manage
data (DMP), a buying platform (DSP), a way to measure effectiveness (analytics/attribution) and a robust reporting interface. Often brands are romanced by point solutions that mostly fit into just one
or two of those buckets, which can lead a marketer to end up stitching together a number of disparate point solutions that create a “Frankenstack” scenario that doesn’t achieve
optimal cohesion and inter-operability. On the opposite end of the spectrum are marketers who choose to build a solution internally, raising a host of challenges, including a sizable investment
in resources and talent. There are also a wide range of solutions that reside between the two poles offering various levels of flexibility, compatibility and relative cost-effectiveness.
There are no “must buys” or “one-size fits alls” in the programmatic space. Each marketer must carefully consider needs, goals, resources and business practices before
deciding on a solution. Only then can they evaluate the myriad of solutions available, best done through a framework consisting of six key dimensions. I suggest using them as a scorecard to evaluate
how well potential partners meet your needs:
- Service: The two ends of the service spectrum are self-serve (software-as-a-service or SAAS model) and full service (a
hands-on-keyboard partner doing all the heavy lifting). In many cases, marketers feel the only way to know what’s going on with their programmatic buys is to do it themselves. This
is largely in response to the opacity that has traditionally existed within the non-direct-to-publisher space. However, there are ways marketers can take more ownership of their programmatic
programs without bringing it in-house. Where is the optimal spot on this spectrum for your particular brand?
- Transparency: This is one of the biggest differentiators in
the space. There are plenty of successful black-box solutions available, but increasingly marketers are demanding full transparency into their campaign metrics. Advertisers want to know how much of
their budget is going to working media as opposed to vendor margins. Beyond this, they want to know site lists, pricing, and tactics, as well as performance metrics. What level of
transparency do you require?
- Compatibility & Inter-Operability: Brands can opt for the “Frankenstack” approach or a more thoughtful configuration
involving a focused, smaller number of partners or a single comprehensive solution. There are certainly benefits to each model, but marketers should understand and question whether each piece of their
solution will integrate seamlessly and deliver against their overall business goals.
- Customization: There are many good SAAS platforms available but they are often rigid
and inflexible. While digital media buying is increasingly automated, programmatic solutions still need to be structured by humans. How important is the ability to execute customized solutions to your
- Data Analytics & Measurement: This facet is increasingly crucial, as savvy marketers are moving away from last-click attribution and looking for
deeper analysis to assess what’s truly driving performance both in upper and lower funnels. An integrated measurement/attribution solution can aid in this understanding, as well as provide
valuable insights for real-time optimizations. How do you want to measure success?
- Data Privacy: This is probably the most sensitive consideration, but receives the
least focus. Data is a core asset. Some vendors protect marketer data, while many others pool data. How important is it that your data is siloed away from other advertisers’ and is
only being applied for your specific campaigns?
In summary, there is no silver bullet solution. These considerations are meant to be an informed set of questions that
marketers can ask of potential partners to determine fit. There are no right or wrong answers. Rather, it is the responses to these questions measured against a marketer’s needs and
goals that will help determine the right solution.