T: @DuaneBrown

5 Questions To Ask Your Next Programmatic Vendor


Programmatic… the act of planning and buying media without talking to a human being…is still misunderstood by the advertising world. Many people mix up programmatic with real-time bidding, which is in fact a subset of programmatic. There are three main areas of programmatic you’ll come across:

Real-Time Bidding is buying advertising (display/banner ads) in real time. Most advertising platforms (Quantcast, AreaOne & Adgorithms) will go into an auction and bid to compete & win  inventory to serve your customers with an advertisement. If you win the auction, your ad is served which hopefully means your customers will convert and buy something on your site. The auction process is very similar to Google AdWords.

Programmatic Direct is not done in real time but advertising is often bought months in advance. You could make it programmatic by showing advertisers what’s available in your inventory, cost and what creative they need to upload to launch a campaign. The advertiser picks what they want, uploads creative and charges their credit card for the purchase. I could also see TV, digital out of home and digital screens in malls or bars as a direct buy. These would all be done in advance too.

Programmatic Premium could be done in real-time. However, it usually seems to related to a private advertising exchange connecting a premium publisher(s) and a premium advertiser(s) to make a sale happen. You’d be working at a FMCG brand to get access to this advertising exchange is my impression.

Now if you work in-house like I do and you don’t plan to hire an outside agency to run your programmatic. Than you need to do some research on all the different platforms and ask the right questions. Most platforms offer the following:

  • Standard reports to show your campaign’s performance. If you do a special report at your company, find out how customizable their system is. Better safe than sorry
  • Connect to major exchanges that server your ads like Google’s DoubleClick, TubeMogul, AppNexus, Twitter and Facebook Exchange
  • Charge a 20-25% fee on top of your CPM buy. All will back out to your CPA, which you should be very up front about in your conversations

What you’re buying beyond the platform is the people you’ll be working with and the knowledge they have of your industry or vertical. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, you want to find out what their knowledge is. Don’t be afraid to ask to ask the tough questions. There are 5 major questions you should ask of each vendor.

How will your data be protected? What safeguards are in place? This is especially true if you plan to upload first party data from Google Analytics or a Data Management Platform like BlueKai into their system. Data Management Platform help you combine all your data sources, offline and online, into one system and keep it all in the cloud.

Beyond the vendor you’re working with, does their system go through any other third-party vendors. How do they get paid? In many ways, programmatic should help put you in close proximity to the end source of advertising inventory as possible. You don’t want to find out that a vendor has white labels someone else’s system and you’ve to pay two vendors instead of one.

You can’t escape it and it’s only going to get worse for our industry. Find out and understand how each platform detects and eliminates fraud from their system. This is about protecting your brand from being on sites that aren’t brand safe. As much as it’s about about protecting your wallet. You don’t want to waste time and money on websites that send you traffic but are just click-farms in another country.

Who You Going To Call?
If you’ve not worked with a vendor before and you’re unsure. Ask to speak with one of their current customers. Find out what their experience was like and how the onboarding process was. Were there challenges or anything that they don’t like.

System Failed
When has their system not delivered? When did work for a brand on a campaign not work out? It happens to everyone and every company has flaws. Find out what theirs is. This question should be save for the end and it’ll tell you more than any other one. If they say, they are achieve 100% success with customers. WALK AWAY!

I find most of the platforms are pretty similar, however, Adgorithms does offer alerts. This is helpful when a positive or negative spike happens in your account, you get notified by email about it. Marin has a similar feature but it’s not something widespread. Being a team of one at my company, I’m a big fan of alerts on any platforms.

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