When you buy advertising space for over-the-top (OTT) ads on TV streaming services, there are two major ways to purchase that achieve significant scale in any market: through Demand-Side Platforms and through Resellers. The former is technology-driven, the latter is sales-driven. Here, we will examine the major differences between the two and demonstrate why working with a media buying platform offers clear advantages over working with just a reseller when the objective is to reach audiences at scale across multiple publishers and with capped frequency.
What is a Demand-Side Platform (DSP)?
A DSP is a tech-driven, real-time buying platform used by advertisers to purchase ad inventory from multiple publisher sources in one place, often using bidding algorithms to buy at the most efficient price; this method is also known as “programmatic buying”. You do not have to negotiate multiple contracts to secure advertising space on multiple networks; rather, the inventory access has been preconfigured by the DSP vendor and you can simply agree to the price you are willing to pay for access to the multiple inventory sources in one fell swoop. This approach achieves maximum scale across multiple publishers without the administrative headaches associated with placing multiple buys.
Another significant benefit is that DSPs allow marketers to target the audience who will see their ads based on things like age, gender, location, and other behaviors. Through media buying platforms, you can select the characteristics of your target audience based on the data the platform has, and it will push your ads to whoever fits the bill. You can even set up multiple advertising campaigns targeting different segments and ensure that every segment of your audience is receiving the ad that is most relevant to your brand.
DSPs typically offer two types of fulfillment: self-service and managed service. Self-service platforms allow media buyers to log in, set up campaigns, select the media mix and targeting options, monitor and optimize the campaign and analyze the results themselves. This approach requires significant operational expertise and human resources to manage the campaign effectively and is typically well-suited for very large media buying organizations who have invested in significant in-house ad operations resources. The managed service approach puts the onus on the DSP platform vendor to plan, manage, optimize and interpret campaign results, freeing up smaller organizations to focus on their core client value proposition at the fraction of a cost it would take to take this capability in-house. Large, national brands often work with agencies under the self-serve model, while regional/local brands find the managed service approach a much better fit. In either case, the technology platform-driven approach means efficient media buying and pinpointed audience reach.
What Are Resellers?
Resellers are sales organizations that aggregate a portfolio of publisher inventory that can be purchased by marketers, typically on a CPM basis, to reach their target audience through a single point of sale. Resellers come in different flavors, from ad networks who serve as middlemen connecting buyers and sellers manually (with minimal automation) to ad sales reps who co-opt programmatic buying platforms and sell them as their own capability. The better sales reps evoke a sense of trust with media buyers and, in many instances, represent multiple ad products to serve as a one-stop shop for their media buying clients. For advertisers in regional and local markets, the traditional local TV, radio and cable sales organizations have taken on the role of “trusted reseller” of forward-looking ad technology vendors who don’t have their own local sales footprint but offer cutting-edge tech solutions for inventory access, audience targeting and sophisticated campaign reporting.
DSP vs. Resellers
The challenge that Resellers face is that, as middlemen, they are one step removed from the ad delivery process itself. It is the buying platform that controls decisioning around which inventory to buy, when to buy it and at what price; it is the buying platform that leverages the consumer data to be used for audience targeting; it is the buying platform that tracks and reports on campaign delivery and performance; it is the buying platform that often produces the post-campaign summary and detail for advertiser invoicing. The highly dynamic and real-time nature of digital ad campaign delivery is such that the “seller” of the media plan needs to be in lockstep with the actual delivery results and, when there is either a deviation from the plan or simply an explanation required for why the campaign is performing as it is, the response needs to be both credible and timely. This is only possible if sales and delivery processes are tightly linked and there is an understanding of how everything works on both sides.
Questions that an advertiser relationship manager (i.e. the seller) should be able to answer with confidence and with fast turnaround might include:
- Which zip codes am I running in today and can I change that tomorrow? How long will the change take and how will I verify that it has been made?
- Why is my average CVR deviating from the expected 95% that has become industry standard for OTT/CTV? This week looks different than last week, why? Is there video pre roll mixed in with my FEP (full episode player) content?
- What consumer data sources are being used for audience targeting and what percentage of my campaign is using each data source?
- My reach and frequency calculations looked extra high last week. Can you provide more insight on why it changed?
- Can I get impression-level reporting for auditing purposes?
- Can I make a mid-campaign change to my media plan and how long will it take to show up in reporting?
Resellers will be able to answer these questions generically but mid-flight campaign details might be elusive because they require (a) easy access to the impression-level detail, (b) an understanding of how the delivery process works for this campaign, (c) the ability to quickly make adjustments if required and (d) hard evidence that a change has, in fact, been made. All of this might typically be at the tech vendor’s fingertips but not the Reseller’s.
Why DSPs Are the Best Choice
With technology-driven media buying becoming the norm in digital advertising, it is important that vendors have a handle on what the technology is and how it works. Good client communication requires deep and timely insight, which requires platform-driven data accessibility. In a world where transparency, campaign insights and turnaround times are the key to a good client experience, the OTT/CTV vendors that own and control their own tech platforms have the opportunity to deliver a superior client experience.