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by Kevin Reilly

3.30.17

These are some of the things you need to consider

For the past several years, agency teams have been shifting toward self-service for programmatic media spends. The trend started with the introduction of trading desks by the major media agency holding companies. These teams were looking to build internal expertise in programmatic buying as an alternative to shipping IOs to networks that delivered media as a managed service rather than a technology toolset.

As the media buying landscape has continued to evolve, trading desks have gone through well-documented permutations. It remains clear that in order to fully capitalize on the benefits of the programmatic marketplace, getting closer to actual buying and developing in-house expertise has become imperative. This line of thinking is not exclusive to the large holding companies, as more independent media agencies are also bringing programmatic media buying in-house. Agencies are motivated by both a need to control the economics of the media buying process and a desire to avoid disintermediation. But to achieve those goals, they need to develop a competency in programmatic buying.

Given the the changing programmatic landscape, agency media teams and independent agencies should ask themselves three key questions as they investigate self-service.

How will my staff manage this? 

The dirty little secret of programmatic buying is that it still requires a bunch of people to pull knobs and flip switches. Audiences must be onboarded, ad tags created, targeting parameters established, and optimizations performed daily. Managers looking at building programmatic teams should look at automation tools as a key selection criterion in any vendor evaluation. If the DSP tool expects you to manually change every setting  yourself, you are going to need a lot of staff to manage campaigns. That gives you little operating leverage. If your DSP offers automation tools that remove significant daily workflow steps, you will have higher operating leverage, and you will be able to manage more of your clients’ spend per unit of agency headcount.

In addition, you need to make sure you have the proper support to navigate unfamiliar terrain. Having a backup from a vendor or partner with a strong services group is a must.  The technical understanding necessary to achieve optimal results can rarely be attained at launch.

How will I manage my risk? 

Some in the ad tech ecosystem take a laissez-faire or buyer-beware approach to inventory management. It is fully up to the client/agency to configure brand safety and fraud protection features. This can present risks or challenges to teams new to self-service. The one question a manager needs to ask is: Do I want a bunch of options that I need to configure myself or do I want to use sensible defaults designed to protect me and my customers from risk?

Do I need more than one partner? 

Choosing which partners to work with starts to answer this question. The ad tech landscape is complex, because clients have a wide variety of advertising needs. Few DSPs do everything, and no one DSP is best in everything. Most programmatic teams use more than one tool, but generally want to limit their number of partners. The conundrum is that choosing a single technology partner could limit the agency to generic utility tactics. Choosing multiple partners will increase operational complexity but may not necessarily contribute to an agency’s ability to offer solutions for unique business needs. In most cases, the rational choice is using a single robust utility DSP, and then choosing to add new partners who provide differentiated media sources, audience data, or tactics. In most cases, you don’t need multiple DSPs to simply access inventory scale.

Ultimately, agencies considering the move to self-service have many decisions to make: how to recruit, how to engage with clients, how to differentiate, and how to balance the agency’s needs versus the needs of disparate clients. These decisions are key to developing the necessary competence in programmatic buying that will enable an agency to develop a core strategy for the future.

See what’s on tap with Dstillery’s self-service platform, Bartender, and request a demo today.

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