Is that Ad buy Gluten-free?

hogWorking for Centro, I’m constantly hearing pitches from Publishers, Networks, DSPs, and DSPs with built in DMPs with everyone pushing their unique way to access display inventory. This leads to confusion from hundreds of media planners and buyers with questions. Media planners want to know what they’re buying, how to judge a proposal, and how to be sure they get what they’re paying for. There’s no magic formula for getting a straight answer, but there are some techniques to get you there.

Previously, ad networks made money by buying tonnage from all sorts of publishers on the cheap. Most of the inventory was sub-premium and below-the-fold, and rest was backfilled with name brand premium inventory — kind of like filling a coffee mug with pennies, then throwing a couple of dollar bills on top to make it look like a cup full of cash. The process was blind, so they could get away with this. But as clients, ad buyers, and transparency technology has gotten better, this scheme is harder to pull off.

Enter the era of technology, SSPs (Supply Side Platform), DSPs (Demand Side Platforms), and DMPs (Data Management Platforms).  Circa 2011, most of the really large agencies decided that they needed capture these margins that where going to tech companies. So the agency trading desk entered the ecosystem. Very few people understood or acknowledged the fraud issues that came with these technologies. As clients demanded more transparency and performance, tools like Adsafe and Doubleverify became the norm.

So, how do you navigate this sea of complication? Here are a few talking points to get you started. It’s impossible for any ad network or trading desk to give you every specific detail — the process just isn’t built that way. But these should get you rolling, and act as a litmus test for whether or not your rep is being a good shepherd of your media budget and willing to give you answers. To know what you’re buying, ask questions:

  • Where does your inventory come from? Even if they can’t give you exact specifics, they should be able to find an answer that satisfies you.
  • Where’s the proof that the ad was served? You should have a third party adserve to guarantee proof of performance. All ads should test!
  • What are the rates? Rates that are too cheap are a sure sign you’re getting ripped off — skip the chance to get a huge discount, because it’ll surely bite you in the long run. But if the rate seems really expensive, rip it apart to see why. It might be worth paying extra, but don’t move into that blindly.
  • Show me the technology. That’s an indicator of how responsive they’ll be to changes or issues in your account, and whether or not they’ll be a good shepherd of your ad dollars.

The point of asking questions during a pitch is, yes, to get answers. But it’s also to feel out how open your rep is being with you. If they’re hesitant to answer questions or unprepared to answer them, that’s a bad sign. If they’re not open with you during the pitch, how much more closed off will they be once they already have your account?