Through the years, the evolution of the ad buying process toward programmatic has given rise to many new digital vendors. According to the 2017 MarTech5000, the marketing technology landscape has grown by about 40 percent—that’s a total of 5,381 solutions this year alone.
With so many different options in the programmatic landscape, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here is Red Door’s approach to evaluating vendors for our clients’ digital advertising campaigns.
1. Past Media Performance
This one is a given. If the hard part of vetting—testing a vendor against a competitor, and finding that they outperformed—has already been done, chances are we will want to work with them again in the future.
2. Budget Minimums & Length of Commitment
Budgets are often the largest factor when selecting a platform. While some don’t have any budget minimums, others require minimums of $50,000+/month. Although it is rare to come across a vendor with a length of contract commitment, it does happen. The digital landscape changes fast. What worked for the last few quarters might not be the best solution later on when goals change and new companies emerge. Therefore, we opt to choose partners that allow us to dip a toe in first, before diving into a large budget or time commitment.
Transparency is one of the biggest issues that affects the entire digital industry, and one that is central to Red Door’s core values. When talking to potential vendors, it’s important to understand where the ads will be shown, the inventory sources, and a breakdown of the costs. It’s crucial to discuss the true cost of media and learn how the vendor makes money. While some charge a percent markup based on media spend, others charge a flat CPM for the cost of media, and what they make is margin based.
4. Targeting Options & Inventory Access
When it comes to third-party data targeting and inventory access, we often come across a “sea of sameness.” Most programmatic vendors partner with multiple third-party data providers and can tap into the same exchanges/inventory sources, allowing the campaign to scale.
However, not all vendors have partnerships in place for viewability or brand safety. With bot traffic on the rise, do they have safeguards in place to ensure that the ads aren’t inadvertently positioned alongside potentially offensive content?
In terms of audience targeting, another important feature is the ability to onboard CRM data for targeting or, if acquisition, for excluding. There may be extra fees in accessing premium inventory or third-party data partners, but we often find it’s worth the investment when it comes to campaign performance and peace of mind.
5. Reporting & Optimization Capabilities
While third-party tracking and serving ads give insight into all the basics and more, there are some partners that don’t accept third-party tags. In those cases, we need to know if there is a user interface that will allow us to pull reports on our own.
Many vendors also offer mid- and post-campaign audience insights reports that provide vital and granular data on the audience engaging with the ads. For example, one vendor we’ve come across has such vast audience reporting capabilities that they can tell us the average credit score of the campaign converters.
For clients with an offline presence, it’s important to connect online targeting to offline performance. We select partners that can provide data on and optimize toward people that are seeing ads online and taking action offline. It’s imperative to ensure that all of the reporting capabilities are utilized to the fullest extent in order to gather insights for future campaigns.
6. Customer Service & Support
This is an important aspect, especially when working with a new platform for the first time. Many vendors offer fully managed services, but self-serve offerings are preferred so that we are in control. If doing a managed buy, will there be a dedicated account manager to reach out to for questions? What is the turnaround time for support issues? If we get a response that is evasive or dismissive, the vendor is not a good fit for us.
Digital advertising, while an incredibly effective marketing tool, is anything but a one-size-fits-all. Choosing the right digital vendor should incorporate all the latest strategic offerings, allowing us to build a targeted, effective campaign that reaches the defined goals.