10 Key Considerations for Programmatic Partner Selection

Editor’s Note: While this article directly addresses publishers, the key considerations offered in regard to successfully selecting a programmatic partner are also relevant to marketers.

As publishers seek deeper efficiencies to maximize digital revenue, the concept of in-housing programmatic advertising is alluring. After all, it removes the middle-man and increases the revenue earned on every buy.

But, in-housing programmatic comes with often-times insurmountable obstacles related to tech and staffing. That’s why a partnership approach is typically the most advantageous and offers the quickest route to market.

Teaming with a programmatic partner to help you monetize your audience niche and data, however, can be risky. Every vendor has a fantastic story to tell and appears to offer not just the moon you requested, but the rest of the solar system, as well.

With that in mind, here are the 10 key areas to assess ahead of time to put yourself in the best position for success when selecting a programmatic partner.

1. Data

A strong vendor really has to be able to on-board first-party data with a decent audience match rate (around 30% or higher). You can also create actionable first-party audience segments through a vendor by adding a pixel to your site. Your own data is the best route for targeting, so the vendor should help you extract value from it.

Does the potential partner bring any strong second-party or third-party data sets? This is the data they can bring to you to supplement what you know about your target audience. First-party data is great for reaching your customers, but to stand out in more competitive verticals, you need as much actionable data as you can find.

Finally, can the partner on-board and overlay key data sets to enhance the industry-specific data you and they already use? Data sets around “propensity to buy consumer goods online” or “avid hunter” or “discount shopper” can help you profile (and message) prospects in new and meaningful ways.

2. Products

Once you know you can reach the right audience, you need to be supported in as many digital manners as possible. Most vendors can deliver various sized banner advertisements, but programmatic has grown up quickly. Consider mobile banners, native, video, YouTube, Google Display Network, audio, over-the-top video, and digital out-of-home as ways to reach your audience now and into the future. Many ask which product reaches the most members of their intended audience. The answer you want to hear is the combination. The more options you give your customers, the more you can sell.

3. Transparency

Programmatic inventory is a murky world of liars, cheaters, and crooks. You can deploy all the software in the world to protect yourself once you have launched a campaign, but partnering with those who drag you into the muck leaves you showering with hogs.

Find out ahead of time where the messaging will appear and how the costs break down. Make sure you are hooking in with the major players in the programmatic space for inventory.

Of critical importance is your comfort level with their battle against fraud and zero-value impressions. You need to know if your partners embrace (or, better yet, actively deploy on your behalf) third-party firms like Integral Ad Science, White Ops, and Moat. Discomfort with the industry’s watchdogs would be a pretty bad sign.

4. Inventory Scale

Strong data, using an array of digital methods, and pulling inventory from the major players should result in scalable inventory. However, if the scale is too good to be true, it is. Millions of impressions in a month against a segment that has only a few hundred people in it is not a home run, it’s sketchy.

5. Minimums

There are some wonderful offerings on the market that might change the world, but they are geared for consumers and don’t help in the B2B setting. If the minimums are high, the partner is showing they may not be in the business for your business.

6. Price

The cost paid to the vendors will ultimately determine your own pricing and ROI. If the cost from the partner is substantial, it might price you out of the market. Additionally, you will be paying significantly more for more niche inventory, like audio and out-of-home.
Let the costs make sense for your business, but not guide the decision-making process. Dollar-store prices in the programmatic space could put your business and client relationships in jeopardy quickly.

7. Service

Without campaign performance metrics, much of your determination will come from corporate websites and sell sheets. Anyone can sound good on paper and pixels, but how does the vendor respond? Are they responsive and informed? Interacting with others on the team (outside of the sales professional fronting the eventual deal) can be a good indicator of quality. Confusion often means trouble.

8. Speed

While speed and service often go hand-in-hand, the important speed here is from creative/tag delivery to impression delivery. With a good amount of setup ahead of time, you should be able to launch relatively quickly … within 24 hours or so. Waiting a week or more is bad service or depicts trouble within their internal operation or tech stack. Potential partners should offer some level of guarantee that if you have an emergency deal that needs to launch ASAP, they can move mountains and get it up quickly.

9. Past Performance

It is fair to request past performance metrics, but know that most will not be able to compare apples to apples or show what is often proprietary data. If benchmarks are available, first seek average click-through rates, viewability by position/tactic, and fraud percentage.

10. Other Partners

Get a client list from the potential programmatic partner and check it out. Ask around with a few industry friends. If the vendor is new to your industry, you might just ask others offering programmatic services. They are likely to know about the new vendor in question and will at least tell you their faults.

These items are important because you may not know if you have a good or bad partner until the first few months of campaigns have delivered (or not delivered). In the fast-changing world of programmatic advertising, a few months is an eternity — and your business could be sunk before you know it.