Why Big Brands Aren’t Buying Self-Service

amitavner“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 Amit Avner, founder and CEO at Taykey.

With all the buzz about self-serve ad platforms, it might seem as if everyone is using them. But, as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving.

I recently spoke with 10 peers who run ad-tech companies serving agencies and big brands. Most of these people said their companies either offer a self-service option or are in the process of building one. However, those already offering self-service said less than 10% of their customers use it.

So while plenty of different players — including vendors, publishers and ad-tech companies — are exploring self-service options, it appears that only a small portion of advertisers are actually using them, especially when it comes to the larger brands. The people I spoke with said their clients asked for the option, then ended up rarely using it.

Self-service platforms, of course, offer advertisers of all sizes the ability to set up their own campaigns, manually optimize them, add or remove budgets and, in some cases, pay for campaigns using a credit card. I’d argue that this is great for the long tail, but not ideal for the big spenders.

Big advertisers with big budgets don’t want or need to pay for million-dollar campaigns with a credit card. They generally don’t want to set up or optimize campaigns on their own, instead preferring to partner with an expert. And they also often require different features and capabilities — usually unavailable on self-service platforms — than smaller brands.

On a self-service platform, for example, you can’t use and analyze all the stored data to find relevant trends. In order to keep within your search, you have to select some data while throwing out other data that doesn’t add value. Similarly, self-service platforms don’t enable brands to use all the available platforms to meet their goals or target their audience. So if you’re considering a self-service platform, make sure it has the capabilities your brand needs before pulling the trigger.

Given the low adoption, why is everyone building self-service? Because it’s new and attractive to companies looking to cut costs. But it also comes with some potential downsides: Self-service requires significant engineering effort and maintenance that could instead be used to build innovative technology. In my opinion, big brands would be better off investing their money in tools that add real value.

That said, it makes sense for Google, Facebook and Twitter to offer the self-service option to smaller-budget advertisers. However, the full-service option is a much better fit for ad-tech companies working with bigger agencies and larger brand names.

Follow Amit Avner (@AmitAvner) and AdExchanger (@Adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Very true, self serve ads and ad platforms are really best for smaller advertisers with lower budgets. Adblade has been building private labeled self serve ad platforms for our publishers for years and they account for no more then 15-20% of the publisher’s ad dollars. We find vertical publishers and some local publishers have a much higher success rate offering self serve ad platforms. You also need to offer a UI and dashboard that’s simple to use as many out there are designed terribly and have a high abandonment rate. But yes bottom line, the big bucks are still about account managers actively creating and managing campaigns for clients using more advanced tools and analytics.

  2. For us, self-service is about the smaller deals – making sure that our Sales team has time to focus in on the large, more complex offerings. You want to focus in (devote resources) on opportunities that provide the largest ROI.