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Too Much To Compute: Which Demand Side Platform Is Right For You?

Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) are the software that allows buyers to automate the purchase of their advertisements. They can be used to drive targeted scale, as well as precision through the use of audience data which enables buyers to reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message. In doing so you begin to reduce the waste of contextual advertising and extend the value of your dollar. Google and Amazon DSPs are some of the most prominent, however, there are more than 40 in total to choose from. With so many choices, how can buyers decide on a flavor while weeding out the decent from the decadent? In partnership with Gartner, in this article, we will address why different DSPs exist and the key differences between some of the more well-known players.

Ad Tech is differentiated into two main groups 1) if they are able to sell their own media at scale (e.g. Google and Amazon) and 2) the ability to offer omnichannel media activation through a single, or a suite, of software (e.g. Adobe). They all offer their own special sauce but what’s right for one may not be right for another. Tech Recipes can help compare multiple Ad Tech platforms by building a custom set of evaluation criteria that will ensure compatibility, functionality, ease of use, and value. For a comprehensive overview of all Ad Tech platforms please reach out to us directly!

Source: Gartner (September 2020)

The Trade Desk

The Trade Desk focuses on self-service platform access (the buyer interfaces with the platform instead of The Trade Desk) for marketers looking to in-house their programmatic buying capabilities. The Trade Desk provides an education curriculum, the Edge Academy, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to help provide professionals with opportunities to upskill programmatic knowledge while it continues to invest in connected TV features.

Strengths

  • Advanced bid optimization capabilities

  • The Trade Desk is a platform for more advanced media buying teams

  • The Trade Desk’s partnerships provide access to unique inventory — such as Amazon Publisher Services, TikTok (in APAC), and Nextdoor — third-party offline measurement providers and marketplace quality providers such as White Ops

Risks

  • The Trade Desk offers extensive features and functionality for advanced media buying, but the platform can be complex or intimidating to use, especially for new users. The platform’s breadth of options and flexibility can intimidate users who lack a strong programmatic ad operations background.

  • Although customers place a high value on The Trade Desk’s capabilities, it has one of the highest price points on the market.

  • The Trade Desk is deeply focused on providing advertisers access to programmatic TV planning, buying, and measurement tools. However, nonprogrammatic TV advertising remains at the core of most brands’ video advertising strategies, and the role of programmatic ad tech in the evolution of this market remains unclear.

Adobe

Adobe offers Advertising Cloud products that are broadly focused on programmatic advertising for video and display with strong connections to Adobe Analytics. Its operations are geographically diversified, and its clients tend to be large enterprises. Adobe has been investing in next-generation video, over the top and connected TV offerings, including a partnership with Roku that allows customers to target first-party audience segments on Roku’s platform. In 2020, Adobe exited the linear TV buying market and sunset its legacy ad network.

Strengths

  • Adobe’s breadth of products and users provides a unique view of the full range of marketing applications and use cases that enhance its understanding of advertising’s role within a broader customer journey. This results in high scores for market understanding and innovation.

  • Advertising Cloud’s integrations with Adobe’s Experience Platform, Analytics, and other applications in Marketing Cloud, as well as, Creative Cloud offerings provide marketers with a consolidated, holistic approach to audience activation and measurement. Its ability to leverage real-time customer profiles across paid and owned channels is a unique differentiator.

  • Adobe is one of the few ad tech platforms that includes paid search as a first-class channel. It boasts a long list of partnerships with premium publishers for video placement and operates in more markets than most ad tech providers.

Risks

  • Adobe’s cost can be a barrier for small and midsize businesses, and some users complain that integration costs tend to run higher than expected based on Adobe’s sales pitches.

  • While Adobe Advertising Cloud provides stand-alone capabilities on par with other ad tech leaders, users will need to connect it with other Adobe Experience Cloud applications to realize its full value.

  • Adobe Advertising Cloud is an advanced platform with a significant learning curve and integration requirements that may require more support than anticipated. Adobe has launched new agency and individual self-service training programs and certifications to validate expertise on Advertising Cloud; however, users still often rely on third-party providers, which drives up costs and generates mixed results.

Amazon

Amazon Advertising DSP supports ad placement on properties across the web (including Amazon), such as display, video, and over the top/connected TV ads. Its operations are geographically diversified, and its clients tend to be agencies, end-user marketing clients, and publishers. Amazon’s ad business has grown remarkably since 2017, and it has joined Google and Facebook as a top-three digital advertising platform outside of China.

Strengths

  • Amazon uses its resources and owned-and-operated inventory offerings (e.g., Fire TV and sponsored placements) to aggressively invest in attribution, video creative, reporting APIs (Application Programming Interface – a way to create real-time data connections), and certified self-serve training. Though Amazon’s advertising products are designed to be simple to use, they support more advanced, customized campaigns.

  • Amazon’s rich, exclusive audience data and end-to-end ad tech stack have an appeal to commerce-focused marketers. Advertisers can leverage Amazon’s Audience Builder to draw on data including product views, purchases, keyword searches, and Prime Video views to target on-site and off-site inventory via the Amazon DSP, which includes publisher direct display, video, over the top and connected TV inventory.

  • Amazon’s DSP ads are sold as a cost per impression, and Amazon provides transparency in terms of media cost and Amazon fees. For brands selling products on Amazon, connecting ads to sales on Amazon makes performance transparent and accountable.

Risks

  • Amazon’s DSP offers programmatic access to inventory on and off Amazon properties, while Amazon’s sponsored ads console is primarily designed for promoting products and services that can be bought directly on Amazon. While the company is taking steps to pull its portfolio together, integration remains a work in progress.

  • Despite the vast amount of data, Amazon collects from its properties, the data is of limited value for ad targeting and optimization in certain categories such as quick-service restaurants and financial services.

  • For programmatic buys, advertisers can only reach Amazon audiences and use Amazon measurement via Amazon DSP campaigns. This limits advertisers’ ability to coordinate campaigns across other platforms.

Google

Google owns the Display & Video 360 DSP, a product broadly focused on digital channels and providing exclusive programmatic access to certain Google-owned-and-operated properties (e.g., YouTube). Display & Video 360 is part of the Google Marketing Platform. Google has continued to aggressively invest in enhancing Display & Video 360 and address privacy concerns related to cookie-based ad targeting and measurement via its Privacy Sandbox initiative.

Strengths

  • Google offers a unique combination of extensible, advanced analytics tools, and automation features to meet advertiser needs that range in sophistication from basic to fully customized. Its insight tools automatically surface recommendations and provide instant reports that are immediately actionable, and its APIs is extensive and well-documented.

  • Display & Video 360 supplies exclusive access to aggregate data in Google’s massive dataset for audience profile analysis and targeting. Google’s ability to provide audience-based frequency capping across all impressions managed by Display & Video 360 is a unique advantage.

  • Google’s leadership position gives it considerable influence over the adoption of standards and practices in the ad tech ecosystem, ensuring that its products remain at the leading edge of evolving capabilities. Google’s ad network gives it access to inventory and data from about 2 million websites, far more than any other ad tech provider or aggregator.

Risks

  • Google’s advertising business is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over antitrust concerns. The EU’s Competition Commission also continues to scrutinize Google’s practices and has hit the company with numerous fines, which raises concerns that Google’s ad platform may experience disruption if a breakup or other significant change in its business practices is mandated.

  • Privacy considerations and profit motives have combined to reinforce Google’s barrier around its data and media, resulting in strict limitations on marketer access to user-level data and media placement transparency. This limits marketers’ abilities to apply analytics and insights outside of Google’s environment and builds dependencies on Google’s own reporting and measurement of the media it sells.

  • Marketers and agencies of all sizes use Google. However, to work directly with Google, users must qualify based on overall media volume, ability to self-serve and maturity level. Qualifications vary by country. Marketers that don’t qualify may work through Google-certified resellers, with mixed results.

Xandr

Xandr is considered a Niche Player. Its operations are mostly focused in North America, and its clients are enterprises and agencies spending more than $100 million on media annually. Xandr rebranded its DSP Xandr Invest in 2019. Xandr Invest is broadly focused across programmatic channels with a suite of functions for media planners and buyers. As a subsidiary of AT&T and a part of WarnerMedia, Xandr’s primary focus is on video where its parents’ content and distribution businesses give it access to premium content and data.

Strengths

  • Xandr Invest provides access to AT&T’s proprietary first-party and partner datasets, which feature 2,500 audience segments with cross-device identity resolution. AT&T collects explicit consent from its consumers for advanced, personalized advertising and attribution on CTV and mobile devices it supports. Xandr’s identity graph provides a unified view of households and associated devices across 170 million customers.

  • Xandr Invest DSP provides preferred and, in some cases, exclusive access to some of AT&T’s owned-and-operated inventory across both distribution and WarnerMedia’s TV networks. It also has key content partnerships with Disney and AMC, and its complementary Monetize SSP (Supply Side Platform) product represents a large share of premium digital publishers around the globe.

  • In March 2020, Xandr launched Invest TV, allowing TV buyers to plan and execute optimized data-driven linear TV buys across 25 networks via one self-serve User Interface. This enables more efficient audience deduplication and insights. Although this product was not part of our formal evaluation, it exemplifies Xandr’s commitment to the vision of converged media planning and buying across TV and digital channels, which resulted in high scores for innovation.

Risks

  • Xandr Invest is designed for sophisticated users with detailed control over substantial multichannel media budgets. It offers advanced features such as splits — a programmable way to allocate budget portions to varying goals in a single line item — that can save time and improve efficiency in complex campaigns but are beyond the needs of marketers with more basic aspirations.

  • Xandr experienced significant organizational changes over the past year. Several executives departed, including former CEO Brian Lesser. In 2020, Xandr was moved into WarnerMedia’s Technology Organization. Subsequently, interim CEO Kirk McDonald departed. Although financial reporting shows Xandr has seen healthy growth, these changes concern marketers seeking organizational stability, leadership, and platform independence.

  • Now part of WarnerMedia, Xandr serves both buy-side advertisers and sell-side publishers with complementary products, which can raise concerns about whether buyers are getting an undistorted view of the marketplace. This condition is not unique to Xandr; however, some high-end advertisers prefer organizations that serve buyers exclusively to eliminate incentives to bias inventory presentation.

Choosing, or transition, a DSP requires careful consideration and custom evaluation. One size does not fit all and without expert knowledge of the Ad Tech space, there is the potential to leave value on the table and overcomplicate your go-to-market approach. Before choosing a DSP here are five pillars that should be considered:

  1. Evaluation: A custom criteria should be developed to account for the needs of the buyer

  2. Contracts: Brands should contract directly with the Ad Tech partner to maximize transparency and value

  3. Investment: Multiple DSPs should be considered to ensure flexibility and negotiation control

  4. Resource: You should audit internal resource knowledge to confirm if the talent is capable of managing the technology effectively – do you have enough, or the right, headcount?

  5. Negotiation: If knowledge gaps exist, negotiate training programs into the contract

When all else fails, reach out to the experts! Tech Recipes has seventeen years of experience and is able to offer the most strategic design while minimizing implementation time. We offer the most competitive price on the market due to the lack of overhead, passing the savings on to the buyer. You deserve the best ingredients as we customize a recipe specific to your needs. Let Tech Recipes customize your roadmap, optimize your infrastructure, and maximize your ROI today!

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