With new and more complex Demand Side Platform (DSP)s cropping up everywhere, one wonders how agencies, marketers, and advertisers get down to the task of choosing one at all. 

Managing performance-based campaigns on a DSP can be challenging and it is important for marketers to become familiar with the different tools available in a DSP’s arsenal. Most DSPs have similar product offerings – programmatic buying, reach, targeting capabilities and real time reporting so what makes a DSP to be favored by the media buyers?  The following are some key questions to help you identify the right DSP for your campaign needs.

How much control do you have?  

DSP tool kits vary as broadly as the users themselves throughout each phase. Some rely on machine learning mixed with manual work by the media buyer. Others inject new and unique technologies to meet the needs of media buyers such as re-targeting capabilities, recommendations, real time reporting and the most well-known RTB. However, one tool that is underutilised and stands out is a rule engine. DSPs that employ rule engines ensure your campaign is running effectively regardless of who is managing it day-to-day. 

A rule engine allows the media buyer to set pre-defined rules which tell the DSP how to act throughout the lifetime of a campaign – including rules dealing with media sources and other entities such as creatives, carriers, placements, and so on. Rules can also run on different timeframes, be combined, run on top of each other, and importantly – manage your systems when you are not personally available. The most common action used in rule engine is the exclusion of targeting entities. The rule engine is one of the most interesting tools for media buyers, but is not yet broadly offered by all DSPs.  

What kind of data does the DSP offer?

Data analytics and insights are crucial for any successful advertising strategy, so you need to make sure your DSP offers access to the right data for your campaign.  Each advertiser will have their own preference for how best to target users – demographics, geolocation, and physical and virtual behaviour are all primary factors.  Some DSPs offer specific sets of data collected from first and third-parties which may be better suited for your client, while others may offer CRM or mobile data.

The most common offering is for a DSP to integrate with an external Data Management Platform (DMP) which centralizes campaign activity and user data in one place. It is also becoming popular for DSPs to offer clients their own DMP technology with proprietary data, which simplifies and streamlines the process. The best choice is a DSP that offers a combination – a DMP solution along with proprietary, first and third-party data so that your campaign can have fullest data reach for optimal targeting. 

Is the DSP comfortable for you to use?

It’s important to establish the overall level of convenience of your DSP for tasks like general campaign building and optimising, and the amount of time required to set and update campaign elements. When going through a trial-run with a perspective DSP, take note of how often their software is updated and how quickly and accurately they respond to requests for tech support. 

Many DSPs, for example, boast their RTB capabilities. However, for veteran media buyers and advertisers, bidding on whole campaigns is not necessarily the best option. Working with DSPs that allow for micro bidding down to each creative, be it video, banner, native, or interstitial allows for a greater range of customisation, advanced tracking and higher conversion rates as each user behavior is taken under review. 

Ease of use is often overlooked when selecting a DSP. However, this is an ever-important consideration as your organisation on boards new talent, and your technology updates and evolves. Ease of use should both measure and filter out inactive users and create greater space for the highest paying ones. It’s wise to take a close look at what you are being offered and ensure you have the support you need in order to improve your ROI.  

What kind of support does the DSP offer in finding the bid sweet spot?

In the programmatic world where serving fees are hidden and price negotiation is not transparent to the media buyer one can get lost – bid too high and lose profitability or bid too low and not get low win rate. So how do you know? Trial and error, comparing bid wins and rates between different DSPs, predictive models, but the most useful tool is to have an account manager from the DSP guide you with some tips as to what can lift your campaigns – they have an overview of the whole DSP activity and usually your success is their success.    

So how to choose? 

DSPs contain the basic technology you need for programmatic buying, and the sheer quantity of DSPs on the market ensure that they are constantly working to improve, creating a strong competitive edge. This is good news; as healthy competition makes everyone better. Ask yourself the tough questions and identify clear programmatic marketing goals. Remember that DSPs are best optimised when they are customised from the get-go to meet your needs.