By on May 13th, 2020

How to Choose the Right Programmatic Ad Agency

Finding the Right Programmatic Advertising Agency (Adobe Stock)

As digital media continues to increase its share of spend over traditional media avenues, so do the technologies within digital that help streamline the online advertising planning and buying process. In 2020, programmatic buying platforms are one of the primary vehicles for brands and agencies to efficiently buy digital media across all online sites, apps and platforms. In fact, programmatic ad buying will account for upwards of 70% OF ALL GLOBAL DIGITAL MEDIA AD SPEND this year, and that number will continue to grow throughout the decade.

The reality for most advertisers is that they do not have the internal bandwidth to manage any ad platforms beyond Google and Facebook, but programmatic advertising presents an opportunity for more granular targeting and greater scale across display, mobile, video, native, digital audio, connected TV, and new emerging channels like digital out-of-home advertising. Since programmatic platforms are so complex, most marketing teams will rely on a programmatic ad agency to support their digital media strategy and campaign management solutions.

With many “full-service” agencies across the country touting their digital prowess, how can you be sure you’re choosing the right programmatic ad agency to support your online marketing needs? The following considerations should help you narrow your options down to find the best programmatic agency for your brand’s needs.

Outsourcing vs. Internal Campaign Management

Internal Campaign Management Programmatic Agency

Most agencies call themselves ad tech experts, but the reality is that many are more of account managers than actual users of the technology.

When agencies say they offer programmatic advertising solutions but simply outsource campaign management to third party technologies (as many do), a few things can happen:

  • Additional layers of fees are added on for having a middleman.
  • Response times increase, because your agency doesn’t have their hands on the keyboard—they often have to “ask their team” for answers to simple questions.
  • The agency will lack real-time strategy and insights to share from your campaign.

The first step in sifting through potential agency partners is to ask each one if they are truly managing your campaigns or just outsourcing to another technology partner.

Sophistication of Technology

The more sophisticated the agency, the more sophisticated the programmatic technology they will be managing. Make sure to ask what ad platforms are being used to execute your programmatic campaigns.

Many ad agencies offering display advertising use nothing more than Google Ads, when more complex programmatic advertising software like The Trade Desk could yield better campaign results and insights. While Google products can execute some of the same campaign strategies as industry-leading programmatic tools, it is only one inventory source, and limiting yourself to Google alone will limit your scale and targeting capabilities.

Check with your agency partner to learn what types of technologies they are using: These should include demand-side platforms, data management platforms, and publisher management platforms. The combination of these three tools will ensure that you have the most robust technologies at your disposal.

Pricing Transparency

Programmatic Advertising Agency Pricing Transparency

Every agency on the market will talk about their level of transparency, but most brands don’t know the right questions to ask in order to understand how their services are truly priced. There are many layers of fees that can be added onto your campaign, all of which will take budget away from the actual media in market.

Without probing into your agency’s pricing model, you can sometimes see media margins of 40 to 70 percent being taken off the top of your campaign budget. Here are some key questions to ask to avoid this:

  • Can you tell me what goes into your setup fees? Are you actually setting up the campaign or is your tech provider doing the work?
  • What is your agency management fee, and what other fees are being layered on from the ad tech partner?
  • If the agency is selling “flat CPMs”: What are the backend margins?

Depth of Campaign Optimization

Advertising technologies are built with AI engrained in the software. The tech is getting so smart that more than half of your ad campaigns can be optimized without any data being evaluated by your agency partner. If your agency is “auto-piloting” your campaign optimizations, you should wonder if their lofty management fees are truly worth it.

There needs to be a combination of human and machine management of your campaign, because there are many cases where more complex insights can only be discovered by an actual expert evaluating the data. Most agencies will simply pace your campaigns for you, but programmatic data is abundant: Your campaigns should be looked at under a microscope by ad tech professionals in order to generate the best media performance possible.

Here are a few questions to ask your account management team:

  • How often are you manually optimizing my campaigns?
  • Can you provide optimization notes on a weekly or monthly basis?
  • What grains of data are you optimizing, and how deep do your optimizations go?

Choosing the right programmatic advertising agency is critical to ensuring your digital media dollars are in the right hands. Push your agency partners to truly be transparent, and hold them accountable to delivering on their service model in order to justify their fees and get the most out of your agency partnership.

If you are currently evaluating new programmatic agencies, feel free to contact PrograMetrix for a free consultation to learn more about our digital media services.

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Chris Shreeve is a co-founder and VP of business development at PrograMetrix.

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