Until May, Virgin Holidays lived up to the name of its parent company in terms of its experience with programmatic.
As its senior digital marketing executive, Alex Adamson, attests, “We’d run some [display] activity in the past, but we never had a programmatic strategy in place. We never had an always-on approach.”
That changed in spring when the tour operator – a subsidiary of Virgin Group – engaged with the UK-based ad services company The Exchange Lab for a prospecting and retargeting campaign designed to drive new customers and holiday bookings.
The end results were prospecting CPAs 29.3% below the initial target, and retargeting CPAs 30% below the initial target. These were based on last-touch attribution.
The Exchange Lab works by running multiple demand-side platforms (DSPs) on behalf of clients.
“The reason we work across multiple DSPs is they all have their own strengths and weaknesses and each can be tailored and better suited to different client campaigns and verticals,” said Tim Webster, the company’s chief strategy officer.
It’s a philosophy that runs counter to that of other marketing services providers, who believe the increased reach one gets from managing multiple DSPs is undermined by the hassle of having to do so.
But managing that hassle is The Exchange Lab’s job. It works with a tool called Proteus, which it made available for clients on Sept. 25. Proteus is basically a Bloomberg Terminal type tool designed to integrate different DSPs and shows inventory across multiple exchanges, and allows users to easily move spend from one DSP to another, as needs change.
For Virgin Holidays’ needs specifically, The Exchange Lab initially worked with four DSPs, but now engages three: MediaMath, The Trade Desk and Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager. Though neither Webster nor Adamson explained why these DSPs specifically were chosen, Webster pointed out that each platform goes about buying activity differently.
Different algorithms, he said, deliver different types of results. There’s variance in the controls as well, which enable traders to tweak buys in different ways. Some DSPs require large amounts of data to power their buys.
There’s also variation in data provider integrations.
“There are a huge number of data providers and no DSP has access to all those providers,” Webster said. “No one has complete coverage of the market, so you might find a DSP platform has access to a particular data set.”
The Exchange Lab, Adamson said, weighed the pros and cons of each DSP it works with for Virgin Holidays, then made recommendations accordingly.
“We saw really strong remarketing CPAs through MediaMath,” he said. “From the last report I looked at, MediaMath was driving some really strong efficiencies from a remarketing perspective and is coming down strongly from a prospecting perspective as well.”
Not every tactic panned out – Adamson recalled trying to run lookalike modeling through the DSPs for a time, which didn’t work for reasons he declined to specify. “But the rest was quite successful,” he said.