Programmatic Display: How to Choose the Best Media Partner

Display LumascapeProgrammatic display is a growing, thriving performance channel in high demand.  Unlike Search which has two core media partners – Google and Bing – with Programmatic there are many potential partners which seemingly provide the same offerings from sources like MediaMath, Turn, Adroit Digital, Quantcast, Rocketfuel, Ad Roll and more.

Knowing how to screen these partners to match to a particular business’ specific needs can yield success.  Here are some key attributes to help when considering the best partner match.

  1. Transparency:  The biggest advantage of Programmatic is the low prices but with that comes a lack of transparency.  Before signing on with a display partner, one should ask if reporting includes insights only or actual site list performance, and to the latter point, how much.
  2. Minimum Monthly Spend:  Determining the testing budget threshold is a top priority insofar as it may screen out some partners from the onset making the consideration set smaller.  Some media providers have small monthly minimums and others are in the $25k/month range.
  3. Remarketing vs. Prospecting:  If finding new customers is a priority, the choice of media partner must include one who has evolved their prospecting methodology.  Some of the top Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) still only offer remarketing (which mostly attracts prior customers) as their core competency.
  4. Audience Targeting:  Probably the hottest area in Programmatic is audience targeting.  If this is a goal, finding a media partner who can not only work with first party data but also offers sophisticated services to leverage it will be key.  If interest lies in developing a Data Management Platform (DMP) solution, this is all the more important since the DSP, which acts as the plumbing, will need to support CRM efforts.
  5. Creative Capabilities:  There are some Programmatic partners who yield strong performance but lack in their creative offerings.  In the case of a brand-conscious retailer, this particular attribute will be far more important.
  6. Self-Service vs. Fully Managed Platforms:  The key to deciding on which way to go with this attribute lies primarily in who on staff is managing Programmatic.  If they come from the Search world, they will be more comfortable and adept at working with a self-service partner.  If they come from the Display side, they will likely gravitate to fully managed.  There are cost savings with self-service, but the fluency and expertise in execution must be there.
  7. Vertical Expertise:  Possibly the easiest attribute to screen is the level of expertise a media partner has in a given vertical (Retail vs. Education vs. Healthcare vs. CPG, etc).  Chances are good that the DSPs modeling capabilities are more evolved for the categories they primarily service.
  8. Pricing Model: CPC, dCPM, CPA:  Similar to (6) above, preference for pricing model – which may drive the media partner selection – will be a factor of where the display team grew up:  Search or Display.  Search marketers gravitate to the CPC model, and Display marketers to dCPM.  Those who are risk averse often choose CPA despite the totally limiting transparency.  Note that after years of experimenting on both sides of the business, PM Digital frequently finds the dCPM model to drive better ROI for display campaigns.
  9. Attribution Plug In:   For those Programmatic marketers who have invested in an attribution technology provider such as Convertro, Visual IQ or Adometry, whether or not the tool can interface with a particular display media partner will obviously be a critical component in the selection process. The interaction between the two would enable fractionalized revenue from one system (ie: a Kenshoo) to feed into another (ie: a MediaMath).
  10. Cross Device Targeting:  Many providers are striving to develop cross device targeting and others are further along trying to perfect it.  Through matching IP addresses, cross device targeting enables a DSP to serve banners on all devices to a single user who is/has been on the web.  As shopping behavior continues its shift from researching on one device and buying on another, cross device targeting can be very powerful to tie together otherwise fragmented web usage and connect the conversion to a single user.

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