Demand side platforms (DSPs) are systems built to allow advertisers to bid for display inventory across multiple exchanges in order to run real-time bidding (RTB) display campaigns. Whether they're setting up an in-house RTB team or working with an agency, advertisers must understand which platform best suits their needs before committing to a contract.
With so many DSPs available it can be challenging to determine which platform best serves a company's needs. What are some common inefficiencies to look out for and questions to ask before committing? Consider the following five major factors when choosing a DSP.
Many demand side platforms will emphasise the reach of their inventory as their key unique selling point. In practice, I've found that of the biggest DSPs the difference in reach is minimal.
The number of websites selling biddable inventory is almost countless, and most DSPs have relationships with the biggest and highest quality exchanges. However, there are a few instances when certain DSPs have access to more desired inventory than others.
Facebook Exchange (FBX), for example, only recently reached an agreement to align with Google's DoubleClick Bid Manager. Prior to this partnership, advertisers using DBM who wished to run RTB on FBX had to do so via another DSP. This meant more work was needed to align reports, frequency cap and de-duplicate conversions.
When choosing a DSP, don't be fooled by the "biggest and best reach" pitch unless you have a specific need for an exchange.
Platform efficiency is absolutely key to running effective RTB campaigns. Some DSPs are investing heavily in their platform and have adapted iterations of their tool to fit the needs of advertisers. This is ideal as even the smallest inefficiencies can cause a lot of wasted time for the team running campaigns.
However as RTB is still relatively new, many tools aren't completely up to scratch. For those inexperienced in biddable media, these DSPs may seem slick and efficient when compared to a more basic tool for ad serving.
For those of us familiar with tools like Google AdWords, whose GDN offering and platform efficiency has been refined for many years, RTB platforms can comparatively be clunky and slow. Hope for efficient platforms is not lost.
As competition between DSPs heats up efficiency will improve and DSPs will tailor to advertisers needs. Advertisers and agencies need to push back on the engineers of the tools and demand that platforms to be easy to use for reporting and optimisation.
You also must consider the level of support provided by the platform. Support can come in many forms.
For new advertisers, support on setup of campaigns may be needed. More experienced teams will likely still find the need for technical assistance at some point.
Advertisers must understand whether there is a cost associated with support, or if a limit to frequency of support is in place.
While the level of support needed may not be obvious from the start, understanding how frequently the DSP is updated and how quickly they're able to respond to advertiser feature requests or technical needs is very important to consider.
Each platform will have costs associated with running RTB campaigns. These are often variable, based on the amount of money being committed to be spent through the system.
Typically the platform fee is included as a percentage of an advertiser's CPM bid. Agencies also often have a chance to add a charge within the platform which can get hidden within the CPM.
Many DSPs also require a minimum monthly or annual spend in order to either sign an agreement or maintain the original platform fee rates.
The key is for advertisers to and understand what percentage of the total CPM cost is actually going to the inventory bid, and how much this can impact return on investment goals.
You've no doubt heard a lot about how important data is to digital marketing, as "data management" and more specifically "big data" have become buzzwords as of late. However, what I'm focussing on today is the ability to use third party data audiences to prospect to relevant audiences within RTB campaigns.
Advertisers understand which third party data providers are already aligned with their short-list of DSPs and identify how likely these providers are to have data partnerships which will suit the campaigns' needs.
Similarly to boasting about reach, many DSPs will highlight the number of audience segments are available for purchase within their platform.
While a big range is usually important for the "test and learn" process of RTB campaign optimisation, the important thing for advertisers is how big the reach is for the audiences which are most likely to convert for them.
The above five points are key when choosing a demand-side platform for your team and business needs. Real-time bidding is built to be an efficient and fully optimizable way of running display campaigns. This can absolutely be achieved with an appropriate team in place, and very importantly with a demand-side platform capable of catering to advertisers' needs.