With the explosion of the programmatic space in recent years, choice is one thing you won’t be lacking when it comes to picking a new DSP (Demand Side Platform).
For some media buyers, off-the-shelf solutions will fit the bill perfectly; for others, bespoke features are needed to realise their true programmatic vision and business goals on a global scale.
So, if you’re in the market for a new demand platform, but you’re suffering from a bit of “analysis paralysis”, the BidCore team is here to help.
To simplify your decision-making, we’ve compiled 9 essential questions you should ask to help whittle down your choices and make a better DSP decision for you and your business.
Table of contents
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- Can the DSP handle the basics?
- What’s the plan for identity solutions?
- Can you optimise performance to your specific KPIs?
- How much flexibility can the DSP offer?
- Will the DSP help you activate your unique data assets?
- How in-depth are the reporting and analytics options?
- How much support does the DSP offer?
- Can the DSP give you access to the supply you need?
- How flexible are the DSP’s pricing models?
#1: First things first: can the DSP handle the basics?
While any good DSP should be able to bring something unique to the table, there’s a core set of functionality the platform will need to even get off the starting blocks.
If a DSP can’t get the basics right, chances are it’s not going to deliver the performance you need. So, before anything else, you need to confirm that the DSP you’re considering has those bases covered.
- Having a user-friendly interface
- Managing creative assets
- Setting start and end dates
- Accessing quality inventory from various suppliers (SSPs)
- Setting audience targeting options
- Activating first-party data or integrating with DMPs
- Reporting on campaign metrics
- And a logical workflow that saves time and effort
Whether your objective is brand awareness, user acquisition, retargeting, or even all three, your DSP should be flexible enough to support your buying or campaign goals. Moreover, it should also be able to do this across multiple media channels and inventory types, including Display, Video, Mobile, CTV, and Native; the last thing you want to do is switch between DSP platforms depending on the campaign format.
The lower the friction, the more work you get done, the better your return on investment.
#2: What’s the plan for identity solutions?
The ad tech industry is facing an identity crisis, but perhaps not in the way you might think.
In early 2022, Google will finally remove support for third-party cookies from its Chrome browser, closing the loop on a process which has been a long time coming.
But what does it mean for programmatic advertisers? Don’t worry – this isn’t the end.
To maintain programmatic efficiency in 2022, you’ll likely need to leverage various technologies: privacy-compliant deterministic and probabilistic IDs,1st-party data, machine learning and browser-based solutions, contextual targeting, and more.
Between now and when third-party cookies go away, you can expect identity solutions to grow in complexity. We’ve already seen over 50 different types of identifiers enter the marketplace – many of which may be left by the wayside as time goes on. It is your DSP’s responsibility to help you navigate the opportunities and support your choices.
As a starting point, your DSP partner should have a plan for working within Google’s “Privacy Sandbox”, which will require supporting a good number of the so-called ‘avian’ solutions, including Turtledove, FLoC, FLEDGE and others. With Google’s inventory making up a large proportion of supply, it’s essential that your DSP has a plan for Privacy Sandbox if you want to maintain access to this supply.
Beyond a plan for Google, your DSP partner should allow you to activate audiences using the third-party ID solution(s) or partner of your choice – and help you understand which to use (and when) based on campaign goals for performance, reach, and so on.
Finally, your DSP should be able to assist you when it comes to non ID-based targeting methods, too: contextual signals, data clean rooms, and more.
#3: Can you optimise performance to your specific KPIs?
We’ve talked a lot so far about how DSPs work and how to choose one, but, when all’s said and done, it really boils down to one thing: performance.
All reputable DSPs will offer some standard out-of-the-box optimisation capabilities targeting the most common digital KPIs, such as maximising clicks or CTR, minimising CPM, maximising viewability, spending budget evenly, etc. For some media buyers, these may be sufficient to meet their goals.
But do these one-size-fits-all metrics actually mean success for your business?
Every company is unique, so KPIs are often equally one-of-a-kind: maximise time-on-site, return visitors, session depth, and many more. You know your business better than anyone, and you know the metrics which matter most to your success – so why would you spend time optimising to clicks when you really care about session depth?
To drive real performance, you need to optimise to goals that are meaningful to your business and need to partner with a DSP that is able to provide that level of flexibility. To achieve this, it would be wise to check to see if your DSP partner offers:
- Custom machine learning models and/or buying strategies
- Optimisation to and reporting of unique events
- The ability to optimise to multiple goals at the same time, in one line item
By leveraging optimisation features like these, you can successfully drive the very best performance for KPIs that are meaningful to your business.
#4: How much flexibility can the DSP offer?
One of the great things about programmatic media buying is the superior level of flexibility and control it brings to the table.
If you’re just starting out, those basic DSP features we mentioned earlier will be exactly what you need to begin realising the potential of programmatic.
But, over time, you might start to ask some different questions:
- What happens if you need a feature your DSP doesn’t support as you expand your programmatic campaigns?
- What if you want to leverage your own data intelligence or bring your own machine learning tools into play?
- Is it possible to update the user interface to better suit your specific workflow or solve problems specific to your business?
- Are you able to create bespoke models to target unique attributes of your particular audience?
All of these questions really speak to one thing: flexibility.
The bigger players in the DSP space simply won’t have the bandwidth, or even the technical infrastructure, to help you expand your programmatic processes in this way. And, because their platforms are tailored to a mass audience, it’s unlikely they’ll have the motivation to make these changes just for you.
So, when looking for a new DSP partner, it’s important to consider one that’s flexible enough to help you achieve your unique goals as your programmatic buying evolves over time.
#5: Will the DSP help you activate your unique data assets?
In today’s competitive marketplace, data is king.
Properly leveraging your proprietary data assets is one of the most powerful tools in any programmatic media buyer’s toolkit. Doing so instantly unlocks granular audience targeting which will drive greater campaign performance and a bigger bottom line for you.
Some DSPs offer limited data integration capability, but others – like BidCore – were built from the ground up with your data in mind.
When it comes down to it, successful data activation is about visibility into the bidstream. More specifically, it’s about using your data to locate your target audience with laser precision and in a secure manner. A preferred DSP partner will help you to securely integrate your first-party data and activate your data assets in a variety of ways to maximize your performance.
But targeting based on your first-party data is really just the beginning.
A good DSP will deliver features that help you take your data-driven activity to the next level. This might mean helping you create custom prediction models, lookalike audiences, building bespoke buying and optimization strategies, and much more – all leveraging your 1st-party data. Also, if your data is incredibly sensitive, it’s important to work with a DSP partner that offers flexible options for how to activate your data in ways that ensure it never leaves your preferred environment.
Only by working with a DSP which allows you to tap into the true potential of your data will you unlock truly differentiated performance in programmatic.
#6: How in-depth are the reporting and analytics options?
Campaign management, inventory supply, and data activation are really just one side of the DSP. Still, they are not truly valuable until you know how well everything is working.
It’s here that your DSP’s reporting and analytics tools come into play.
At the most basic level, you’ll need visibility of metrics like ad impressions, clicks, and cost, all of which will give you a good sense of how your campaign is performing. But why stop there? Whether you’re working with partners against specific KPIs, as discussed above, or you simply want to eke out as much performance as possible from each line item, advanced reporting can help.
A good DSP partner should provide additional reporting functionality, such as conversion and custom event tracking, as well as robust reporting APIs that can be used to integrate with your native reporting dashboards and workflows. An even better DSP will offer in-depth reporting on even more granular data points, giving you greater control of your performance. For example, with BidCore and its u-Slicer tool, you can build custom reports in real-time, and even drill down into the log-level data to glean insights other DSPs could only dream of.
It’s advanced reporting tools like this that can make the difference between a standard DSP and a world-class one… so choose wisely.
#7: How much support does the DSP offer?
It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the programmatic world is complex.
Sometimes you just need a reliable third-party to help you know your ORTB from your PMP – especially when you’re new to the ad tech world. That’s why it’s important to look into the levels of support the DSP you’re considering has to offer.
Depending on the level of spend you’re bringing to the table, most DSPs will provide a dedicated account manager in combination with a support team for incidental issues. You’ll probably also be well-supported during the onboarding phase, but what happens further down the line?
If you’re new to programmatic buying, you’ll probably need more support during the early days, but ad tech moves fast, so how will you keep up? Huge DSPs often don’t have the time (or inclination) to keep their customers informed of industry changes, let alone how to make the most of new features.
For these reasons, it’s always a good idea to choose a DSP partner which can:
- Understand your position in the marketplace
- Offer comprehensive support either in real-time or via self-serve documentation
- Listen to your feedback and incorporate requests into the future product roadmap
- Genuinely care about you getting the most out of your partnership
#8: Can the DSP give you access to the supply you need?
One of the biggest deciding factors for any DSP is the inventory it offers.
Put simply, if you can’t access the inventory, and therefore the audiences, you need, the DSP won’t do much good at all. The same goes for inventory types and media channels.
Consequently, one of the first things to do when approaching a new DSP is to ask the following of their supply:
- Does available inventory include all that you’ll need for your campaigns: Display, Video, Native, CTV, DOOH, etc.?
- Does the DSP charge a premium for certain types of inventory?
- Which SSPs and/or publishers are they integrated with?
If your DSP offers multiple SSPs and publishers right out of the box, you can hit the ground running when it comes to launching campaigns and generating real results.
It’s worth noting here that almost all DSPs will claim to have access to the very best inventory, and in many cases it’s true. But so does everybody else.
The real trick is to find a DSP which can carve you a path to high-quality supply, even in more niche markets. A good DSP will be able to make this happen either with direct publisher access or via Supply Path Optimisation (SPO) strategies to deliver peace of mind to even the most risk-averse of advertisers.
#9: How flexible are the DSP’s pricing models?
It’s a delicate topic, but it’s often a deciding factor: pricing and cost.
Traditionally, DSPs have charged using a share-of-media model, meaning a certain percentage of overall spend would go to the DSP as a fee. The only problem? As the marketplace has become more competitive, agencies and advertisers are having their budgets squeezed, making it a lot harder to justify a 15-25% cut just to have their hat in the ring.
Thankfully, the industry has evolved – and pricing with it.
Here are two ways BidCore differentiates its pricing models:
- The QPS (Queries Per Second) model. Pricing by QPS is about the volume of bid requests a buyer can listen to and process in a second, but it’s also about delivering more control of your costs. This model works well for buyers looking to analyse traffic patterns as well as activate data, machine learning, and data intelligence – all while managing costs.
- The Filled Impressions model. This pricing structure means you only pay for the impressions where your ad was successfully served. It’s a better way to control your spend and know exactly where every dollar is going, but it may not have as much coverage of the bidstream. However, if you are looking to purchase high-value supply, like CTV, and don’t want to pay 15% on a $30 CPM, a filled impression model would be a smart choice.
These are just a couple of examples, but there’s a lot more to programmatic pricing than meets the eye. The bottom line for now is that you should always ask your DSP about the pricing models they offer and ask which is best for your business.
Ready to unleash your programmatic potential?
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices when it comes to picking a new DSP, the BidCore team is here to help.
With our nimble, flexible, and scalable DSP, you can discover a programmatic solution that grows with your business – making it precisely as complex as you need it to be.