Oversold And Overpromised: Marketers Move Away From DMPs

Data management platforms (DMPs) were once painted as a panacea for all of a marketer’s data needs – from collection, to harmonization to segmentation and syndication.

But marketers have since cooled on the technology, concluding that it‘s too disjointed to perform many of the functions promised.

Marketers tell AdExchanger they have struggled to achieve ROI, often hiring consultants or in-house talent to manage their DMPs. Some went through disruptive rip-and-replace processes only to find that their new DMP providers also had poor match rates, bad integrations and weak connections into paid media.

Today, the DMP’s focus on third-party data no longer resonates in a world where privacy is top of mind, the cookie is being deprecated and walled gardens grow taller.

Marketers at major brands told AdExchanger they are in the process of sunsetting their DMPs, and agencies confirm that their clients are moving away from DMPs en masse. Data-poor CPG brands like Hershey’s are choosing not to renew their DMP relationships, while others, like Bayer, are using their DSPs for DMP-like capabilities.

“Everybody was so excited about DMPs,” said Belinda Smith, head of global marketing intelligence at EA. “But it’s expensive, laborious and match rates are low. It felt like the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.”

A great sales pitch … but not much else

Because they straddled ad tech and mar tech, DMPs were often purchased by c-level executives or IT teams at large organizations, who then required their media teams use the platform. But those teams frequently lacked the data or talent necessary to make it work.

“Someone would tell the C-suite this story of real time, one-to-one, omnichannel marketing,” Smith said. “Someone at that level signed off. Then they’d engage us on the back end, and we’d say, ‘All of the use cases you wanted aren’t possible.’”

Josh Palau, VP of media strategy and platforms at Bayer, seconded that notion. “Some of the things [the sales teams] were saying they had functionality to do, I was like, ‘Who does that?’” he said. “No client, especially these days, has a few people sitting around doing nothing.”

Media teams hoped to rely on DMP managed services for help, only to find support teams were often unreliable or inaccessible. Marketers described to AdExchanger a lack of vertical expertise at their DMP vendors, along with high turnover and long waits to get a simple answer.

“Large mar tech companies sell software. They don’t operationalize,” said Tyler Sands, VP of enterprise strategy at Publicis Media. “In the ad tech space, there’s an expectation of service along with technology.”

While AdExchanger sources struggled with all major DMPs, four called out Adobe specifically for its aggressive sales pitches that didn’t fully deliver on its promise.

“[Adobe] has such strong engineering capabilities, but their sales force is singularly focused on selling more products and not helping with implementation,” said Megan Pagliuca, chief data officer at Hearts & Science.

Adobe provides hands-on service, strategic guidance or limited tech support depending on client needs, said Judith Hammerman, head of Americas sales for Audience Manager and Experience Platform. She said it also offers tutorials and access to Audience Manager experts to help marketers get the most out of the platform.

Despite that support, marketers still hired talent to manage the DMP as a full-time job, and consultants made hay doing cost-heavy integrations and constant repairs on DMPs.

Publicis’ Sands also pointed out that the ad tech and mar tech disciplines required to operate a DMP are often siloed at large organizations.

Added Palau: “There was an underestimation of how many parts in an organization needed to connect to realize the full value of the DMP.”

No data for DMPs

When marketers first implemented their DMPs, many struggled because they didn’t have the data to actually use them.

Some DMPs said they came stocked with third-party segments or access to data marketplaces, but marketers soon found they weren’t contractually allowed to acquire that data.

Verticals that didn’t have direct relationships with consumers, like CPGs, struggled to generate enough data to use their DMPs and had to partner with third-party data providers and invest in capturing first-party data to make the investment worthwhile.

“That’s where a tremendous amount of costs can enter the system,” said Evan Hanlon, chief strategy officer at GroupM.

Other marketers simply couldn’t get around organizational silos to obtain the data they needed to use the DMP. In a previous role at a large cable operator, Palau had trouble accessing certain pockets of viewership data across the organization.

“Some of this rests on, who owns [the data] in your organization?” he said.

When marketers did use the data that came with the DMP, they were unimpressed with its quality and recency. Cookie profiles turn in 30 to 90 days, leaving marketers to manually sync their audiences or work with an onboarder to keep them fresh.

“It’s absolutely fair to say people weren’t following any practices before selling that data,” EA’s Smith said. “People are starting to realize, maybe there wasn’t enough due diligence there.”

Disconnected from paid media

But the biggest setback for marketers was the DMP’s lack of connection into paid media. Brands wanted to upload media data to retarget consumers, manage reach and frequency across channels and tie exposures back to first-party data.

The ad buyers AdExchanger spoke to were particularly frustrated with the lack of integration between the Adobe Audience Manager DMP and Adobe Ad Cloud (née TubeMogul), though Hammerman said Adobe has invested in a server-to-server integration that uses a shared ID between the two platforms.

But the disconnect didn’t just come from the vendor side. Publishers largely blocked DMPs from dropping pixels on their pages to protect their audiences.

“Publishers didn’t want them to allow their tag on anything,” said Vinny Rinaldi, head of addressable media and technology at Hershey’s. “The thinking was, ‘If we don’t sign something, why would you work with me again after you build an audience off of my site?’”

That promise continued to crumble when Google restricted portability of the DoubleClick ID in 2018, and Facebook removed third-party data integrations soon after. Adobe launched a CRM matching feature for social media platforms earlier this year in response, Hammerman said.

Marketers also struggled to upload other, more basic types of data into their DMPs. AdExchanger sources said they couldn’t upload mobile device IDs and lost data when exporting audiences into their DSPs – even within a single marketing cloud’s stack. Adobe said marketers can upload device IDs into Audience Manager directly or through an SDK, and it released a feature this year to alert users when mobile IDs are formatted incorrectly.

But sophisticated marketers have simply bypassed their DMPs by working with onboarders like LiveRamp to match audiences directly into their DSP.

“The client can take their data, sync it into the DSP, have no loss, no cost and higher accuracy,” Pagliuca said.

Do DMPs have value without cookies?

After years of frustration, marketers found themselves in a new regulatory environment that invalidated many of the DMP’s use cases.

With GDPR in place and CCPA looming, the DMP’s main function as a hub for third-party data has become more of a liability than an asset. That’s only exacerbated by technical changes like Apple’s ITP and browser tracking limitations in Firefox and Chrome.

“Now that we’re moving to a cookieless world, what value do [DMPs] have?” Rinaldi said.

One thing DMPs did well was manage for cross-channel frequency capping. But that use case is becoming less valid as cookies deprecate more quickly, reducing the longevity of audience segments.

“Unless you can identify me at a PII level, which is specifically what DMPs were not designed to do, frequency capping and sequential messaging become a lot more difficult,” said Jamie Seltzer, global managing director of mar tech and data strategy at Havas Media.

Many marketers feel DMPs have failed to innovate. Marketing clouds have launched customer data platforms (CDPs) and talk about creating identity-centric solutions that leverage first-party cookies. Some have even launched consent management features in their platforms.

But the evolution away from cookies hasn’t yet come to fruition. As DMPs have stalled, technologies that focus on first-party data, like CDPs and clean rooms, have risen alongside them.

“The reality is, your data is going to live in different places,” Pagliuca said. “It’s killed the vision of what DMPs were supposed to be.”

Moving on

As marketers move on from DMPs, they’re taking these learnings – and a heavy dose of skepticism – with them as they test new technologies.

Marketers are adopting CDPs to sit alongside the DMP to manage first-party data and integrations. But once burned by the DMP, they’re now cynical. Hershey’s, for example, thought hard about the use case for a CDP before deciding to work with Merkle’s M1 as its identity source.

“Since we’re not going to get scalability on first-party data today, why don’t we just rent it?” Rinaldi said.

But ditching the DMP isn’t so simple. Marketers have invested heavily in both talent and technology. Many have been upsold deeper into an enterprise stack and are sticking with marketing clouds to see if they can deliver on the evolutions they promise.

But they can’t continue with the sales pitch they’ve used in the past, Pagliuca said. “There’s no way that will be successful.”

Allison Schiff contributed.

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