Marketers have a myriad of martech options at their disposal, but few have the time to sift through a sea of collateral and endure hours of demonstrations to uncover the right partners for their goals. As a result, some will turn to all-encompassing solutions at the expense of niche needs. Others will focus on one sticking point, losing sight of vendors that might deliver most of what they want.
As a result, it’s hard to know where to begin, especially if you don’t already have the first piece of a stack in place. To make it even more challenging, there seems to be an industrywide absence of unbiased services or advisors available to help.
So, what do marketers need to know to navigate these crowded landscapes?
How can they advocate for themselves when every tech company in any given area seems undifferentiated?
When everyone is talking about how they’re "data-driven," "AI-powered" or "leveraging proprietary algorithms," what do marketers really need to ask to cut through the clutter and find the just-right partner they need?
The first step is to determine exactly what you need, and for how long you’ll need it. A demand-side platform partner, for one, is a partner you’ll want to keep for well over a year – and hopefully for several years to follow. A partner who can not only grow with you and help you scale but who also shares your organization’s values is one worth considering. After all, you’re going to be building a relationship with the team as well as the technology over time, so it’s essential that you find the right fit. Ensure that you and the stakeholders in your organization are comfortable with every aspect of the decision you make, from the technology and budget, to the people you’ll be interacting with on a daily basis.
From there, you’ll have to start testing the technology itself. Here are a few questions you might consider asking as you build your advertising technology stack:
Who will my ads be able to reach?
This question relates both to inventory and to reach – and it’s obviously an important one. Brands need to partner with tech companies that can help them engage the audience most likely to become their customers, wherever, whenever and on whichever device they choose.
With respect to reach, your DSP partner should be able to access enough volume of unique reach for the average nationally-targeted campaign so that your targeting doesn’t limit the size of your audience too much. In other words, even a very specifically targeted campaign should be able to hit a reasonable critical mass. Regarding inventory, the more access the partner in question can provide, the greater the chance your ad has to reach its target audience. More access also means that brands may be able to run a greater variety of ad formats.
How will your artificial intelligence and/or algorithms make my campaigns better – and reduce my workload?
Nearly every technology company claims to have AI capabilities, but not all of them truly do. Marketers should find out where their potential partner’s technology stands before making a decision.
There are a number of ways AI can be used in programmatic advertising. With millions of queries every second on a multitude of DSPs, AI has enough data to work with to create reasonably accurate predictions, which can be a great benefit to marketers. Applied to media buying to make recommendations on bids, AI can create look-alike models based on first and third-party data and optimize both campaign performance and spend.
It is essential that you determine exactly how the DSP you’re considering is applying AI today, as well as their plans for future improvements and expansion. Ultimately, AI should be making your team’s jobs easier and greatly reducing the amount of hands-on time required to make a campaign successful.
How are you complying with the data privacy legislation?
With General Data Protection Regulation in place and other privacy protection laws soon to be enacted, compliance is an area of increasing concern. Rather than looking for loopholes or easy workarounds for the existing laws, brands need to be vigilant about finding technology partners who respect and adhere to these new laws. Not only is it a matter of protection, but campaigns are likely to perform better when data is provided on a permission-basis.
These questions are only a few of the many important ones to ask of potential tech partners, as brands build out or upgrade their stacks. There are countless more to consider and marketers should begin by examining their goals, then work backward. The relationship marketing teams have with their partners is just as important as any key performance indicator they hope to achieve. Because of this, you need to make sure your tech partners are staffed by people you want to work with.
Your technology partner will ultimately become an extension of your team, so it is of utmost importance to evaluate any technology partnership with the same level of concern and scrutiny with which you would approach a new senior-level hire. After all, the goal is to have a tech partner that can grow with your company for years to come.
Lauren Hutton is the vice president of Technology for AUDIENCEX, joining the company after building out West Coast partnerships and revenue for AcuityAds (ACUIF). Touching upon all facets of Acuity’s tech stack, Hutton worked with agencies, brands and marketers to strategize effective cross-channel investment with a focus on performance-driven advertising. Hutton is Co-Head of mBolden’s (formerly Women in Wireless) LA Chapter, championing women in leadership in the mobile, digital and tech industries.