Adtech has managed to talk an increasingly complicated game over recent years. For those that are ultimately interested in what it can do for them – in the main, growing their business – it is vital to select the right partners to help you reap the rewards and benefit from what programmatic has to offer. Traditional networks and programmatic partners operate with varying degrees of opacity and that has led many marketers to question whether they were getting the most bang for their buck as well as control over their own destiny. This has led to a ‘go it alone’ approach.
First of all, let’s take a look at the four main fundaments of any successful programmatic solution:
- Data aggregation and management (DMP)
- Media buying (DSP)
- Analytics and attribution
Typically, build or buy is the key question advertisers ask themselves at this point. At one end of the spectrum, brands look to bring together various point solutions that achieve one or at most two of the above. This leaves them having to stitch them together, in the process creating a ‘Frankenstack’, which in itself is inefficient through its lack of interoperability and cohesion. At the other end, many choose to go it alone in creating their in-house solutions. While some have been successful, others find that the ‘solution’ just creates more problems. At worst, the investment in resource is often too high and unlikely to ever justify the outlay.
Fortunately, over the past few years, options have arisen that sit between the two poles, offering flexible, compatible and cost-effective alternatives. Even here, the same rules apply – there’s no ‘magic bullet’ solution and each marketer must consider goals and objectives, business practices and resources before coming to a decision. This is best achieved through considering a framework of six key areas and ranking them on a scorecard to assess suitability as partners for your specific needs.
Should programmatic be fully managed externally or handled in-house using software-as-a-service (SaaS)? Traditionally, many brands have shied away from fully serviced offerings as they haven’t been able to gain sufficient insight from partners who operate with ‘smoke and mirrors’ and leave marketers wondering what’s going on. Doing it yourself using SaaS solutions used to be the only way of gaining the insight required. However, other ways provide the opportunity to exercise more control over programmatic without committing to the resources needed to achieve that. Look to assess where you are on the spectrum to decide on the optimal servicing option.
Compatibility and interoperability
There are various options out there, from the ‘Frankenstack’ mentioned earlier to a select group of partners or indeed a comprehensive single solution. Each one has benefits. The key consideration is to ensure that the solution integrates effectively with other solutions and that it delivers against the goals you set out for it to achieve.
There are lots of ‘black-box’ solutions that offer a focus on generating results, but these can fail to provide the data and insight marketers crave, as well as prompting questions about how much of their budget is being committed to the actual media cost compared to the vendors’ margin. Decide whether your partner offers you the right level of transparency in terms of what and how much advertising you’re running, where you’re running it, at what cost and to what benefit.
How much customisation will you require? Great SaaS platforms can be infinitely configurable – however, they predominantly respond to specific needs, rather than offering adaptability and flexibility to individual requirements. You may have very exacting requirements of specific features you need when you start out, but inevitably these change. Ensure that your chosen partner or technology can execute based on the specific needs for your business as well as accommodate change.
Analytics and measurement
Marketers are becoming increasingly advanced in the way they measure performance and, crucially, the impact of a single tactic as well as its relationship to other channels. This has brought a move away from last-click attribution to an understanding of what drives performance in both upper and lower funnels. The ability to access and act upon its outputs is predicated on the availability of integrated measurement and attribution. What do you need to ensure that success is defined and measured effectively?
Ambiguity on ‘whose’ data it is and how it is being used is arguably one of the most important but least considered elements. With some suppliers, marketer data is protected and with others it is pooled. The key consideration is to understand whether your data is being used uniquely for the execution of your campaigns or whether it is being used to others’ benefit. If the latter, then how comfortable are you with the vendor’s integrity in handling your data with sensitivity?
While not exhaustive, the six key areas above should provide a solid foundation to assess the different options available and arrive at an informed decision on whether a vendor or group of vendors is a good fit. There is by no means a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
Compile a ranking against each of these points to ensure that the requirements and objectives for your brand are being met.