Home Data-Driven Thinking One Vendor Or Many? A Checklist For Marketers Weighing The ‘Stack’ Option

One Vendor Or Many? A Checklist For Marketers Weighing The ‘Stack’ Option


hilarykolman“Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Hilary Kolman, director of analytics and insight at MEC North America.

There has been a clear shift in digital ad technology during the past several years, with firms that once excelled in specialized areas like ad serving transforming into tech stacks and vying for marketers’ dollars with end-to-end solutions.

More recently, the clear lines between back-end and front-end have blurred as content providers continue expanding the capabilities of service companies they already own or acquire outright.

At a time of consolidation, should you work with a single vendor with a breadth of tech offerings or take an a la carte approach that taps a range of providers?

Well, it depends.

Once Upon A Time

Historically, digital ad-tech companies offered a service. Each had competitors in their core function area but stayed fairly self-contained and focused on one or two key components of digital delivery or measurement. The lines between them were clear and marketers would pick and choose depending upon what was needed.

Some choices were based on the solution offered, while others related to the vendor. For example, a marketer once needed a separate video ad server unless it purchased inventory directly from a publisher. On the audience side, a vendor who could report on demo delivery was crucial for understanding the reach of a campaign against specific targets.

When digital was still relatively new, this divide was inevitable because so much complexity of the medium made it near impossible for any one vendor to meet the full spectrum of needs. Yet as the medium has become more sophisticated – and arguably more complex — ad-tech companies have tried simplifying processes on the back end by developing a broad range of offerings that can be turned into a single-source solution for marketers.

But is this what marketers really need? Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?


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On the surface, it might seem like a plus for a marketer to take advantage of the cost and implementation efficiencies of consolidating multiple streams of business with a single partner. Some, however, aren’t comfortable with leaving all of their proverbial eggs in one basket.

To best match the partner and approach, several key concerns must be addressed:

The Importance Of Data Continuity

Remember that methodology and processes will vary across vendors. Though the services may be similar, they’re not interchangeable. If comparing current campaigns to historical data is a key measure of success for a marketer, don’t consolidate with a new partner.

Are Media Buys Guaranteed On Demo Delivery?

If publisher remuneration is based on the ability to deliver a specific number of demographically targeted unique visitors, similar to posting TV buys, then a vendor that can report on this capability must be part of the solution. Bear in mind that some publishers might place restrictions on the vendor whose numbers they’ll accept, which may impact the decision to consolidate.

A New Need, A New Metric

Perhaps an advertiser that historically focused on direct response and cost per action is now running a brand campaign and wants to understand impact on upper-funnel metrics. If they don’t have a current tech partner that offers this capability, they will need to engage someone new.

Don’t Forget About Cost

Working with a single partner across multiple touch points generally comes at a lower cost than spreading that business across several partners. Processes can be streamlined, freeing up employee bandwidth. Marketers with smaller budgets or manpower constraints may weigh this factor more heavily than an advertiser with a bigger budget or larger implementation team.

It’s imperative that marketers align internally on key priorities and objectives so that agencies can provide strategic guidance around the decision to diversify or consolidate. Working in partnership ensures that the best solution is in place for meaningful, accurate and impactful implementation of digital campaigns.

Follow MEC North America (@MECideas) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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