What marketers candidly say about programmatic: ‘Salespeople rarely know the answer’

This week, Digiday gathered over 100 marketers and agencies to discuss the problems that afflict programmatic advertising at the Digiday Programmatic Marketing Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. Chief among them: publishers oversell their inventory and vendors provide bad data.

We held meetings under Chatham House rules, agreeing that all discussions be on the record, only without attribution of names and companies. Below are some of the main concerns that were discussed throughout the week.

Inaccurate data
“Every marketing platform will you, ‘You can have a million impressions for whatever audience you want.’ But none of that is accurate.”

“You can get all these third-party data segments, but who says they’re accurate? At least one-eighth of these impressions are a bunch of a garbage.”

“Every single analytical model, there’s going to be a lot of fraud skewing their analytical model, and they don’t even know about it.”

“We’re tapping into DSPs and using their data segments, but there’s a lot of unknowns. The data partners have to be more transparent about what goes into those segments.”

DSP clutter
“The tech stack gets heavy when each DSP is coming to you to ask what they can do to get you to run more buys through them. We had six DSPs at one point, but now we have only three that we regularly use and we pull up others on special occasions.”

“The biggest takeaway from the recent Forrester report is the lack of differentiation across DSPs. We’ve seen a benefit in cutting down our number of DSPs to two.”

“Most brands don’t know what the fuck an internal auction is or how DSPs might use it to their benefit. When I bring it up to clients, they give me quizzical looks.”

Unscrupulous publishers
“Publishers will say they have their own first-party data. But we’ll see that a fashion site is selling auto enthusiasts. So how the hell does that happen unless they are adding third-party data to their modeling?”

“You buy on a sports site, and you check where it is serving and it is serving on a historical site. We’ve noticed that even top tier publishers are working with ad networks to expand their impressions by selling on other publisher’s websites.”

“These old publishers are going against programmatic because they want to scare advertisers to go back to the old ways.”

Vendor snafus
“We always ask our vendors how they are collecting the data. Is it deterministic or probabilistic? They’ll reply ‘it is confidential’ because salespeople rarely know the answer to that question.”

“We partner with a leading verification firm. We were confident that we had a small amount of fraud. But we did an independent audit and found that we still had a sizeable amount of fraud due to domain spoofing, which was really eye opening.”

“Trying to maintain keyword or website blacklists is the last line of defense in the path of brand safety. I’d rather go after the exchange than the domain because the exchange is like the drug dealer here.”

“Transparency only goes so far. My DSP might be transparent, but the SSPs usually aren’t. We are left in the dark about their take rates and often we can’t even tell if it is a first-price or second-price auction.”

“Data companies are like frat boys, they hook up and leave. Once you integrate with them and get their targeting data, they’re out and they don’t give a shit with what you deal with afterward.”

“I complain about vendor salespeople being shit, but then again, we still went with their services. So maybe the vendor salespeople are actually good at selling their crap, and we’re shitty buyers for enabling them.”


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