The True Cost Of Programmatic

Advertising Age recently published an article about the “Hidden Costs of Programmatic,” addressing an issue that has become common in the industry. The advent of programmatic advertising was revolutionary for marketers. The data-driven, automated approach enabled them to accurately target audiences at scale and serve ads across screens and formats in mere milliseconds. Programmatic inventory was also cheaper than going directly to publishers. Intelligent automation at a lower price – in theory it was a marketer’s dream come true.

However, though programmatic has made cross-screen audience engagement more sophisticated and easier to scale, it has also fragmented campaign execution, leaving workflow disjointed and more complicated. Marketers must now employ an army of ad tech vendors – DSPs, ad servers, data management platforms, verification partners, etc. – to help them achieve their goals. In fact, according to a November 2013 study by iAB/Winterbury Group, it’s not uncommon for a marketer to use over 12 (!) tools to successfully run a campaign.

And as Advertising Age states, these tools aren’t cheap. Behind them are teams of highly paid engineers and campaign experts that drive costs to a premium. What’s more, with so many cooks in the kitchen, marketers rarely have insight into what works and what doesn’t, and are frequently the victims of duplicative pricing. Arbitrage CPM business models have ensured marketers aren’t exposed to what they actually pay for.

Collective believes that as the digital ad landscape continues to crowd, marketers will desperately need a simplified and fully transparent platform with the flexibility to integrate with all campaign tools and the ability to seamlessly orchestrate workflow among them. It should manage all data, embrace both programmatic and publisher direct inventory, and provide full disclosure into the costs and performance of their campaigns. Only then will marketers be equipped with the knowledge needed to make smart business decisions moving forward.

Are Vendors Driving Your Campaigns? How To Keep Control

Today’s digital marketers must invest in the best tools available to manage their campaigns and drive measureable results. However, marketing technology tools require significant investment, not just in dollars, but also in data and labor. Marketers spend hours and thousands of dollars setting up campaigns in technology stacks that they’ve either purchased whole or cobbled together. They “strategically invest” in point solutions that don’t always turn out to be advantageous.

Marketers get stuck using these platforms because they’ve simply invested too much time, money, and data. They become entrenched in the solution they’ve implemented, effectively trapped by the technology partners. Post implementation, it’s not cheap or easy to switch, even when it’s clear that better options are available – or when campaign goals and workflow requirements change dramatically and unexpectedly.

What happens, then, if the provider of the technology stack suddenly decides to change policies about inventory access, data ownership or privacy, or suddenly raises prices or fail to disclose the hidden costs? Marketers are in too deep to just switch solutions. In effect, they’ve lost control of their campaigns.

This scenario has probably happened to most marketers. For instance, Google’s decision to remove YouTube inventory from outside ad exchanges impacted thousands of marketers – many of whom may have chosen a specific network because it offered YouTube pre-roll.  The elimination of DMP tags from Google was also an unexpected blow. Changes in algorithms, tagging regulations, or ad specs may seem minor to a platform provider, but to marketers the impact is stressful, time-consuming and often expensive. Yet as our industry matures and consolidates, experiences like this seem to be a common occurrence for marketers.

How are marketers meant to handle these challenges? What do they do next when they’ve suddenly lost access to ad inventory, but are still beholden to the partner they’ve chosen? For marketers with their budgets invested in one type of video solution and thousands of iterations of data-driven advertising creatives, simply “moving” the ads to another platform isn’t as easy as it sounds. More often than not, marketers won’t even have the technical expertise to make such a move.

What marketers need is an unbiased, knowledgeable partner who can help guide the way. The ideal partner understands the ecosystem, has experience with the technology, and is unbiased in their choice of point solutions. This partner isn’t a person on the marketing team or an agency, and it’s not some technological ninja or matchmaker.

It’s a marketing system integrator.

That’s what marketing technology needs: system integrators with complete platforms. They need solutions that bridge the walled gardens with a focus on building successful campaigns. These integrators aren’t typical agencies that solve problems through services and expertise. They build systems that are more flexible and that integrate with multiple technology partners, making it easier for marketers to adapt. Typical agencies may also work directly with these marketing system integrators to expand their own options.

If a system integrator isn’t a person or an agency, what is it? The best system integrators build platforms that are open to diverse, quality partnerships. Salesforce is a good example. They don’t prevent marketers from working with Marketo or Hubspot, despite the fact that they own Pardot. Salesforce will integrate neatly with Constant Contact or MailChimp, and allow you to bring in any solution you like. There are other CRMs, MAPs and CMSs that are good system integrators as well. Marketers aren’t forced to change partners to work with the solutions these integrators build. They are unbiased, foundational platforms, open to integration with any quality partner.

The walled gardens are the fly in the ointment, since they tend not to play nicely with systems they don’t own. That’s indicative of the problem the whole industry faces, though. Those big platform players, the keepers of the gardens, are so focused on their own interests that they have driven the industry to become platform-centric. The advertising/marketing technology industry is looking out for itself, not focused on marketers and target customers.

As a result, marketers are forced to make sacrifices every single day. They have to choose a specific partner because that’s the partner that integrates better. They lose visibility into campaign results because dominant players change the rules, or they have to set up a second (or third) reporting interface because some partners won’t play nicely with the marketer’s existing solution. This cuts into a marketing team’s time and productivity, and ultimately impacts their results and the end-user experience. If we’re here to serve marketers, this needs to be fixed.

It’s time for marketers to take center stage. When we start to focus on building successful campaign systems for marketers, the industry will thrive, grow, and evolve in a way that’s good for everyone in the ecosystem. Until then, marketers will continue to struggle as they fight to keep control.