How to choose the best DSP for you

Before investing in a new demand-side platform [DSP], here are the 10 questions you need to ask.

Choosing the best DNP

Getting your ads seen in the right place for the right price will have a direct impact on your ability to drive sustainable growth but not all platforms are born equal explains, William Melzer, VP Sales for EMEA at Moloco…

The DSP you use directly impacts your company's ability to drive growth. Choosing the right automated DSP for your app can improve campaign performance by streamlining campaign management and enhancing bid optimisation.

Here are 10 questions to ask any DSP vendor to help determine whether you should include them in your marketing-mix.

1 Does your DSP leverage machine learning? 

The primary goal of a DSP is to allow a developer to purchase inventory efficiently. Therefore, integrating machine learning [ML] technology is crucial for efficiently delivering an increased return on advertising spend [ROAS], in an extremely dynamic and competitive environment. Every ad impression a DSP evaluates and buys for you should help you progress toward identifying the best targeting criteria for your campaign.

2 Was the machine learning developed in-house or is it outsourced?

Outsourced ML indicates a white-label bidder, which isn’t ideal as it is generically designed to work with all brands that use it. As such, it will take considerable effort to train it to your unique business needs. It will also take time for it to learn who your target audience is and where to find them; time you pay for in terms of media spend and ROAS. 

Additionally, the digital advertising ecosystem has seen radical changes from recent privacy regulations and changing consumer attitudes. Therefore, a DSP that can maintain an in-house ML team will be more equipped to respond effectively to dynamic market conditions.

3 Does your machine learning leverage deep neural networks? 

Deep neural networks [DNNs] enhance ML technology in a DSP by automating the process of capturing signals, calculating decisions, predicting solutions, and drawing conclusions based on its previous experience – much like a human brain. However, DNNs can receive and process more signals than a human brain, which enables them to quickly identify and exploit important nuances that lead to a more profitable ROAS.

DNNs can drive better campaign performance because they are designed to learn from training datasets of all sizes; a distinct advantage in an age where privacy regulations are restricting the use of third-party data. Therefore, learning based on smaller training datasets will enable faster optimisation. This means you’ll be able to see the respective ROAS within three to six weeks, rather than the three to six months most DSPs need to train a model.

In addition, DNNs can fire multiple inference modelsat every bid request, which are used collectively to predict the value of the impression with regards to delivering actual business outcomes. Inference models assess multiple data points, including every aspect of an impression, the operating system of the mobile device, IP data and the data collection time. As a result, the DNN understands the weight and importance of each answer to your campaign.

4 How many impressions do you see per day? 

As a rule of thumb, the more impressions, the better. A higher number of impressions equals increased scale, which means you won’t exhaust your audience pool and won’t suffer as much from a low return rate.

5 How fast will your machine learning learn? 

Asking your vendor how quickly its ML learns (the ‘output rate’) can indicate the DSP’s efficacy. A year-long campaign shouldn’t have to wait three months to see ROAS, despite it being the industry norm. 

A DNN that uses your first-party data means that it won’t need to winnow out irrelevant learnings from other brands. Your first-party data contains the attributes and conditions that may suggest whether a user tends to dismiss or view lots of ads (also known as an ‘ad whale’). While most DSPs won’t share results of specific campaigns, they should have CPA, ROAS and CPI metrics available by industry vertical.

6 Do you have a bid optimiser? 

A bid optimiser is crucial in enabling a brand to purchase inventory more efficiently. Other factors – such as market competition and win probability – are essential to secure the impressions and users brands need to grow their customer base.

7 How do you optimise my budget? 

Many DSPs will optimise the advertiser’s budget daily, but it’s equally important to be able to optimise it within a longer time frame. Rather than meeting only daily spending requirements, the DSP should identify throughout the week – both in terms of days and times – when users are most active and inclined to convert.

8 Which certifications has your DSP achieved? 

At the most basic level, DSPs should strive to achieve the IAB Gold Standard 2.0 certification, which is earned when companies demonstrate their commitment to brand safety.

Brand safety and suitability should be front of mind for all marketers. You don’t want your ad to appear next to inappropriate content or content that doesn’t accurately reflect your brand values. Nor do you want to purchase fraudulent impressions, which is entirely counterproductive as only real people will convert. Consequently, the more real people who see your ads, the more your customer base will grow.

9 Is your DSP transparent with its results? 

As an advertiser, you want to see where every impression lands. Ask your DSP vendor if they share log-level data, and in which formats it can be downloaded. Log-level data will help marketers develop strategies based on analysis of their creatives, unique impressions and quality of traffic.

10 Can you provide creative support? 

It’s important to ask whether the DSP has a creative selection model and A/B testing capabilities. Many app publishers prefer to do their ad creation in-house to drive cost efficiencies as well as iterate on ads quickly. A DSP that offers creative support and expertise can ultimately help you to achieve those ROAS goals.

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