To Really Compete, Use a Direct Seat

Mary Ann


July 17, 2023

I write a lot about programmatic media buying: the use of AI-powered software to purchase and place advertising across a wide variety of platforms and placements. Placing a Facebook ad is an example of programmatic buying – you upload an ad, specify your budget and the kind of audience you’re looking for, and the system takes care of putting your ad in front of the right set of eyes. 

But programmatic media providers can place your campaign across the entire internet, onto dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of websites, across many different tactics such as display, video pre-roll, CTV/OTT, and more. Programmatic has even expanded beyond the internet with digital out-of-home (DOOH) as well as broadcast TV and radio. Programmatic is the leading edge of digital marketing and its continually expanding capabilities mean it’s only getting more useful. However, all programmatic providers are not created equal, and your campaign performance can vary significantly depending on who you use.

So, how do you choose the right programmatic provider to get the best results for your media campaign?

Direct Seat

Advertisers purchase programmatic advertising on ad exchanges through Demand-Side Platforms (DSP). But, only a few agencies and advertisers have a direct seat on a DSP that gives them ‘self-serve’ access to ad inventory as well as enabling them to bid on placements in real time. Most programmatic providers are acting as additional middlemen between you and the DSP, which just adds multiple layers of markups to your campaign costs. This means higher CPMs, decreased audience targeting, and lower quality impressions.

Other factors of a programmatic media campaign that benefit from having a direct seat on a DSP include:

Turnaround Time

Having real time access to ad inventory means campaigns can be set up and launched much quicker through a direct seat on a DSP. These campaigns will also be more flexible – in the event of an error, crisis, or a needed update, campaign stops, starts, and changes can be made in as little as a few hours, as opposed to middlemen vendors where these kinds of programmatic campaign edits may take weeks to implement.

Attentive Management

Using an agency without a direct seat on a DSP can lead to long communication chains, language barriers, time differences, and an overall lack of transparency on your campaign management. You will not be working with programmatic experts, but with salespeople. The middleman running your campaign will likely be just following a checklist, instead of crafting a campaign based on an understanding of your business needs. One of the main benefits of programmatic buying is the ability to adjust and optimize campaigns as they run. But if your buyer doesn’t know and understand your business, how can they make optimizations in your best interest? This lack of understanding can also lead to issues with…

Brand Safety

Using one of the “self-serve” programmatic platforms on the market, or a middlemen vendor that lacks a direct seat on a DSP, not only lowers your placement capabilities and the quality of ad inventory available, but increases the risk of having your ads shown on pages and alongside content that does not align with your company values and image. The Association of National Advertisers claims in a new study that at least $13 billion a year is wasted by programmatic media buyers lazily placing ads on click-bait websites full of junk content, looking to get the most impressions for every dollar without consideration of placement quality. This can also degrade the quality of your performance reporting by allowing bot traffic to inflate your impressions and clicks and decrease your conversion rates.

Lackluster Reporting

Without a partner with a direct seat on a DSP, you can expect to only receive reports on the basic ‘vanity metrics’ of impressions and clicks, and often only upon request. You will be unlikely to receive statistics on conversions, creative performance, geo tracking, or enjoy a connection to analytics through GA4 and GTM. 

Very few agencies have a direct seat on a premium DSP, and instead subcontract their programmatic buying to those that do, like Mosaic Media. Even the large name brand media companies only offer programmatic placement to fill in their own ad inventory gaps, rather than placing what’s best for each client. For personal attention and best results, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can assist with your next programmatic media campaign.

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