AOL, DataXu, Turn, The Trade Desk, AppNexus Named 'Leaders' In Forrester DSP Report

AOL, DataXu, Turn, The Trade Desk and AppNexus offer the most comprehensive demand-side platforms (DSPs) available to programmatic buyers today, according to Forrester’s latest Wave report, released Wednesday. These five platforms were tabbed as “Leaders” in the space.

Despite naming five Leaders, Forrester still split them into two groups. DataXu has the strongest current offering, concludes Forrester, slightly trailed by AOL’s “One” platform. The Trade Desk, Turn and AppNexus make up the second tier of Leaders, led by The Trade Desk, according to Forrester.

In fact, all nine DSPs studied come out of the report looking strong. Rocket Fuel, MediaMath, AudienceScience and Google are all labeled as “Strong Performers” as well.  Forrester has four levels of rankings — Risky Bets, Contenders, Strong Performers and Leaders — and all nine DSPs studied, out of the 22 that were considered, were considered either Strong Performers or Leaders.

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In order to qualify for the study, the DSPs must support at least 10 programmatic channels and devices, must be able to support at least 1 million queries per second and must have had over 300 active clients as of Q3 2014. Forrester assessed each vendor’s strengths and weaknesses via vendor surveys, product demos, customer reference calls and online client surveys. 

Forrester reached its conclusions by looking at each company’s current offering and strategy. In the current offering category, the platforms' buying options, data offerings and analytics offerings are all analyzed and given equal weight. In the strategy department, corporate strategy is given 30% of the weight and service strategy the remaining 70%.

DataXu offers the best buying, analytics and data offerings,  per Forrester, while Google’s data offering is the weakest of the bunch, checking in with a grade of 1.31 out of 5. (For comparison, DataXu’s grade was 4.7.)

Each DSP has strengths highlighted by Forrester. For example, the research firm suggests that buyers consider DataXu if they are looking for a total advertising solution, The Trade Desk if they plan to heavily leverage their agency, and AOL if they are focused on cross-channel marketing and attribution.

Additionally, Rocket Fuel lets marketers go hands off and rely on machine-learning, MediaMath taps into addressable media, AppNexus gives buyers a strong tech foundation, and Turn offers a well-rounded set of features, notes Forrester. The report also acknowledges the obvious synergies that exist with Google's offering and other DoubleClick products and indicates that AudienceScience is built to service marketers directly.

While each of the nine DSPs studied were given high grades by Forrester, the research firm does still highlight some of the improvements that need to be made. As a result of its research into DSPs, Forrester concludes that “change is in the cards” because “the digital advertising ecosystem is still plagued by opacity.”

For one, Forrester believes agencies and trading desks are going to have to realign with marketers’ interests. This belief is supported by the recent data from Index Exchange that notes that the number of marketers (i.e. in-house buyers) with seats in the programmatic marketplace has surpassed the number of agencies. Trading desks still have more seats than marketers direct, but their numbers have been dropping.

Forrester pointed out where improvements could be made on the individual company level as well.

Per Forrester, The Trade Desk and MediaMath could make better use of “user-centric data.” Forrester knocks AOL for its disparate technology (though notes that this have improved with the launch of its “one” platform); Turn for its reliance on external tech integrations; and AppNexus for the barrier that exists between them and “less tech-savvy” crowds. Forrester also highlights Rocket Fuel’s self-service offering and Google’s current lack of a DMP as areas for improvement, while AudienceScience and DataXu could both offer more channels and devices, namely in addressable media.

The full report can be found here.

The article has been updated to reflect that DataXu, not MediaMath as initially stated, received the highest "data offering" score in the report. 

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