4 Reasons Your Search Team Should Manage DSP Campaigns

blue-pin-gray-pins-crowdIf you’ve been around digital marketing long enough you have probably witnessed the “display versus search” argument multiple times. The display team likes to call out search’s focus on brand terms, while the search team likes to bring up “post-impression” as the savior to all things display.

Moving forward into the 2010’s, we now know these two tactics work best in tandem, and we have done much to make sure the two teams work together on planning, strategy and execution (although there is still work to be done – even a lot of work in some cases).

From a strategic perspective, planning both tactics together works best. However, from an executional stand-point, we tend to have the SEM manager execute the search campaign and the media manager executes the display campaigns. Why?

Each tactic has their own unique steps and processes required to ensure a successful campaign. Also, the two tactics have usually had unique optimization methods which require unique skills, and as such two unique roles were born.

With the recent explosion of demand-side platforms (DSP) and real-time bidding, the display arena is beginning to look very much like the paid search landscape. With this evolution, we need to consider which role is best suited for managing the DSP relationship.

Should DSPs be managed by the search team, or the display team? Every client or agency will answer this differently to fit their needs.

What is evident are the similarities between DSPs and SEM which create an ideal bridge to display marketing for the SEM professional. There are four key similarities which can be leveraged across the tactics in order to successfully manage both SEM and DSP campaigns.

Real-Time Bidding

Real-time bidding is arguably the biggest similarity between the channels. Campaigns are optimized based on the eCPM per impression, and bids are based on what a marketer is willing to pay, based on the expected rate of conversion on the back-end. That sure sounds like a keyword in the PPC landscape.

Having a built-in understanding of how, when and why to manipulate your bids provides the SEM manager baseline of knowledge to use in managing the DSP campaign.

Multi-Campaign Management

Just as a search budget is managed through multiple campaigns (by which to shift and optimize budget allocations) so are DSP campaigns. Normally, within the DSP, multiple campaigns are established based on audience type, such as re-targeting, “active shoppers” or demographic targeting (moms 35 and up).

By understanding the fluid nature of budget optimization inherent to the SEM landscape, the SEM manager can leverage these insights into optimization of the DSP campaign.

Placements as Keywords

As SEM is managed at the keyword level, DSP campaigns are managed at the placement level. While optimizing within a campaign, search managers optimize the keyword placement based on back-end performance. The same is true with DSP management, except instead of keywords, campaigns are optimized to the placement level.

The publisher/ad unit combo works just as a keyword does in SEM and campaigns are optimized according to performance results. The stronger a placement performs, the higher the allowable bid. The higher the bid, the more impressions available.

Self-Service Model

While not all DSPs have a self-service model, many platforms allow for a self-service model that allows the manager to actively manage the account themselves. Just like with AdWords or adCenter, the manager is responsible for bidding and optimization of the account. There is no reliance on the media property to optimize for you.

By having, and utilizing the self-service model, DSP campaigns can be managed in the same manner as search campaigns. Having that tactical experience in moving individual levers for optimal performance is what separates the search manager from the display manger, and leveraging this skill-set in the DSP landscape enhances performance.


It’s often said that DSPs bring the search marketplace to the display media landscape. If DSPs look, feel and act like a search campaign, it just makes sense to leverage your search team’s unique skills to manage your DSP campaigns in order to maximize performance.

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