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Why Working Planet Manages Programmatic In-House

Over the last two years we have increasingly moved to in-house management of programmatic platforms and are firmly biased in favor of DSPs (programmatic Demand-Side Platforms) that we can run ourselves.

There has been a lot of debate over outsourced programmatic vs. in-house and I want to be clear on the difference. Yes, we are an agency, so from our client’s perspective this seems like an outsourced solution, but this is different than “managed” programmatic run by the programmatic firms themselves.

Here are the reasons we choose to become experts on the programmatic platforms we manage rather than to rely on the expertise of the DSP/Ad Networks themselves.

1. Financial Control

I am talking about the financial control of the outcomes of marketing, not spending the budget. Ad Networks and DSPs are very good at spending ad dollars, but not very good about prioritizing strong financial outcomes as it might mean not spending the whole budget. We are fine underspending a budget if we feel it doesn’t add value to our clients’ bottom line.

2. We Have a Better Financial Lens

Because we manage to financial KPIs, we have the deep financial and holistic view that allows for better decision-making in all ad networks. The DSPs/ad networks simply don’t have the decision-driving financial information for making informed choices. It is just not possible for them to know how to do what is right and when to do it.

Case in point: One of our clients had Amazon run an Amazon DSP campaign for them.  We then ran the same test managing the choices in the DSP ourselves.  Yes, we spent less than they did, but we made far more money at the end of the day, moving from a total loss at Amazon’s hands to significant profit in ours. You simply can’t make money in digital if you don’t measure against financial KPIs.

3. We can manage risk in testing

With our holistic view we often don’t have to put the same size budget into testing a programmatic audience compared to when that is managed by the DSP/ad network. This is because we can set up tests to look for Out-Of-Channel effects in brand search and direct visits as part of the test protocol. Most of the time we cannot do these lift-based analyses inside the DSPs themselves.

The second part of risk management is in knowing explicitly what choices are being made in audience selection. It is quite common for DSPs being managed internally to not be transparent about audience choices. In addition the managed service staff may have no insight into audience targeting performance in other networks in order to make informed decisions.

4. Data quality

While it should be apples-to-apples on the data side in terms of what you get out of a DSP when managing it in-house vs. through a managed service, it is often quite different. We have seen multiple times that the data availability from a managed service campaign is far, far less than what is available when managed in-house. Things we would consider basic, such as audience breakouts may not be available.

We’re always going to be biased in favor of better data, as that makes for better decisions.

5. Coordination and Timing

Working with any managed service can sometimes feel like a game of Telephone. Even when the correct action items are taken, there is often a delay that is more than that expected. Whether timing is based on correcting for performance or coordinating messaging with other programs, you want as much control as possible for seamless execution.  You also need the accountability be able to know what happened when. While this might seem to be driven by client reporting, it is actually most important for the accurate interpretation of performance data.  Again, we’ll err on the side of data cleanliness, thank you.

6. Results

In the end, we get better results when we can control the decisions in the programmatic exchanges. Since our results are stated in financial terms to our clients, there is no arguing something working or not working. The control, trust, clarity, and transparency we get by operating programmatic in-house is a clear win for us and a clear road map for our future.

Why We Are Focused on Amazon Advertising

Last month, Fortune reported that Amazon is rapidly becoming one of the world’s largest ad networks, with over $2 billion USD in advertising revenues in Q2 2018 alone.  Their rapid appearance on the world advertising stage is only one of the reasons that we’ve been putting our sights on Amazon for some time now.  Here are our three main reasons to be all about Amazon:

1. Amazon Has Something for Everyone.

In the past, Amazon advertising has largely been focused on on-site internal advertising on Amazon.com.  Amazon has long been a go-to source for feed-based promoted product advertising. This type of internal Amazon advertising has been great for retailers and manufacturers looking to build Amazon as a channel partner. It is also highly effective as long as you watch the math as Amazon charges both for the advertising as well as their platform fees for each sale. Recently, however, Amazon has matured their offerings with the rollout of Amazon DSP to a wider audience.  I’ll speak more about Amazon DSP below, but one strength compared to other Amazon offerings is that you don’t have to sell on Amazon to use Amazon DSP.  In fact, all kinds of companies selling products, services and more are using Amazon DSP, Amazon’s programmatic solution, to profitably acquire customers from advertising delivered in programmatic exchanges across the Internet.

2. Amazon is Investing in Their Platforms

There is nothing like a few billion in revenue to attract resources, and Amazon is no exception.  Amazon is in the midst of a significant platform consolidation. Amazon’s previously disparate solutions for products, manufacturer solutions, and programmatic, and that encompass display, product, video, and store advertising have been combined into a single-login platform. This makes it far easier to know about potential offerings, to leverage knowledge across offerings, and to track and report on Amazon Advertising as a whole (well, maybe someday) We’re quickly on the road to agencies and advertisers taking full advantage of Amazon as a professionally executed network alongside Google and Facebook. This is still in the very early stages, but with hints that other Amazon platforms like Twitch advertising might follow, we are bullish.  For example, billing solutions are not yet integrated across offerings but we hope that the recent addition of single sign-on is a sign that further integration is to come.

3. Amazon DSP is Unique (as a DMP)

Programmatic is evolving faster than any other segment of Digital Marketing.  We have largely moved from the main trend being web publisher migration to exchanges. While this is mature in display, migration to programmatic it is still in early stages in traditional media like TV. Some of the newer programmatic trends involve access to data through DMP (Data Management Platform) integration in the advertiser DSP (Demand Side Platform). This and the use of AI are on the cutting edge of developments we are seeing in programmatic.  Amazon DSP (formerly Amazon AAP in a long line of product name changes) utilizes Amazon’s massive warehouse of customer demographic, product interest, and shopping data to inform targeting for ads delivered in other exchanges. Unique data for targeting is the currency of the new world of Digital Marketing. And since the abuse of social media data has curtailed targeting options in Facebook, Amazon has the ability to leverage tremendous personal data without violating the privacy protections of their users. We’re bullish on the data Amazon can bring to the table for advertising far outside of products sold on Amazon.com.

 

Amazon is changing the Digital Marketing landscape. Because of this we actively sought partnership as a firm capable of in-house programmatic management of all the Amazon platforms including Amazon DSP. We’ve invested in external and internal tools to bridge gaps in Amazon’s still-evolving reporting and to bring our deep financial optimization to Amazon’s advertising products. We’re excited about these opportunities and fully expect that Amazon advertising will be our biggest single growth network in 2019.