According to an Adage article last November, chief marketing officers are starting to work more closely with Demand Side Platforms (DSPs). Since many brands already partner with SEO services and retargeting services, it shouldn’t be surprising that this practice is spreading to programmatic media buying. At the time of the CMO Club survey, 15.4% of CMOs polled were already working with DSPs to buy digital ads.
Some of the trade-offs of purchasing directly or through an agency are obvious. Brands that purchase directly from vendors forego the agency’s expertise in programmatic disciplines and their experience with multiple vendors. On the other hand, they forego the agency fee as well. Whether they buy programmatic through an agency or directly from the vendor is an individual brand decision and shouldn’t get in the way of a programmatic partnership. Brands who build a partnership with their programmatic vendor, regardless of the billing relationship, will reap some not so obvious benefits.
Certainly brands have a strategic partnership with their agencies. That partnership helps them optimize their media mix, unify their messaging, and plan a complete program for building their brand and driving their revenue. Strategic partnerships with programmatic partners also help brands excel. Programmatic platforms have an exceptional ability to track and analyze activity and response at the individual impression level. Coupled with their ability to connect deep and comprehensive content and audience data to each impression, this gives a programmatic partner insight into which creative works with which audiences on which sites. A close working relationship allows the brand and the partner to jointly collect and analyze data, evaluate insights, form and test hypotheses, and ultimately perform better as a team.
When brands work closely with programmatic partners, the efficiency of campaign preparation and execution increases. Firstly, the onboarding of the brand’s first party data, through which CRM data is loaded onto a data management platform (DMP), is streamlined. The relationship is a cooperative one, where the programmatic partner lets the brand know what data to collect and what to define on its DMP for optimization purposes. For instance, if an online shoe shop wants to serve an ad to customers who are more likely to purchase higher-priced items, then its programmatic partner would ask what checkout data can be made available. The brand and the programmatic partner can work together to identify and collect the data that will best support this type of targeting.
DSP partners can advise brands about what pixels to put on their site; these pixels send data directly to the partner when a consumer visits the brand’s website. Pixels may include learning pixels (active before the campaign starts), tracking pixels (on activities related to interest and engagement), and action pixels (notifying the partner of successful conversion). Working with the partner to plan and accomplish this is more efficient and less error prone. Often the conversation between partners also ignites an idea that opens a new opportunity to grow and improve the campaign. This brings us to our next advantage.
More Efficient Communication
Programmatic campaigns can help advertisers understand audiences and therefore narrow targeting. This increases the need for coordination between a brand and the programmatic partner to discuss data, targeting, messaging, and other aspects of the campaign. For example, messaging may need to evolve as targeting narrows, but this can only happen when the partners are communicating closely.
When a brand works closely with a partner, that is, establishes a direct line of communication to a partner while also working through an agency, the communication from the brand to the DSP and from the DSP to the brand improves in terms of time, message clarity, campaign optimization, and post-campaign insights.
Rather than waiting on emails or phone calls to be returned, brands can reach out to their programmatic partner, and the partner to the brand, before the campaign, during, and after. This facilitates the process of finalizing creative, monitoring performance, and reviewing consumer insights. There’s nothing more frustrating that waiting to hear back from a middle-man about a status update for actions taken by an entirely different group of people. It’s not time-efficient. A direct relationship not only allows immediate answers to questions, but enables a two-way conversation that gets to a better answer.
In this way, the brand is more in control of its campaign, and it has the voice to request clear, straightforward action from its partner. Similarly, the DSP partner can better convey the nuances of insights to the brand, rather than playing telephone through an intermediary.
Today, more and more brands are working closely with their DSP partners, whether they buy directly or through an agency. Brands like Zappos, Trip Advisor, Dropcam, TaxAct, Universal Orlando, Lending Tree, and Save-a-lot all have direct communication with their programmatic partners. One brand stated of its relationship with its programmatic partner, “As I sat there [in a meeting with the partner], I thought several times about how nice it is to have Account Reps that not only care about our account, but are smart and invested in what we are doing together.” Given all the benefits, we should expect to see an uptick from the 15.4% who report working directly with DSP partners in the CMO Club survey.