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The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Programmatic Agency

Are you a digital marketer looking for an expert programmatic advertising partner to develop a marketing strategy tailored to your needs?

Choosing an agency is usually an expensive and time-intensive process, but with the right knowledge, the process can be made easier.

There are many ways you can go about finding your next agency. Typically agencies are chosen through a tender process or previous relationships, however, you decide to find your next programmatic partner make sure you take a read of this blog post by CEO and founder Ben Myers.

As a London-based agency that works with both brands and agencies, we know a thing or two about choosing your next marketing agency.

We have solutions for agencies and brands/clients.

It’s important to find a media agency well suited to your needs. The best programmatic agency isn’t always the biggest, most advanced, most data-led algorithmic all singing, all dancing. It all depends on your requirements as an advertiser and where you are in your journey.

Programmatic background

Programmatic advertising has seen strong growth and in 2021, will be worth 155 billion dollars globally. Some brands have chosen to take programmatic advertising in-house whilst others continue to rely on the expertise of specialist programmatic advertising like Advant Technology. Others take a hybrid approach in-housing the tech and outsourcing the management and ad operations.

Programmatic background
What does a programmatic agency focus on? – Advant Technology

What is a programmatic agency?

Let’s start with the basics. Programmatic agencies focus on making data-driven decisions about digital advertising by using algorithms to conduct personalised A/B testing and leveraging machine learning to increase clients’ ROI.

These companies may also specialise in creating targeted messaging through display ads, video ads and mobile ads.

Using the definitions above, you can determine how these businesses work together to create your marketing budget through different channels.

Why work with a Programmatic Agency?

The best media agency will create a programmatic strategy that works for your business goals, providing you with concepts, creatives and technologies that will keep you at the forefront of changing market conditions.

They’ll find what works well for your brand before implementing the campaign in a DSP, and crucially before spending your budget. This careful media planning phase will help you achieve even greater reach and a better ROI.

Agencies are also adept at leveraging agency partners with publishers, ad exchanges, SSPs, DMPs, Ad servers, ad networks and ad creatives, making the programmatic landscape more accessible to you.

They should provide turnkey solutions, taking care of campaign management. They’ll help make the process seamless by acting as a liaison between your business, ad tech, data and ultimately your audience. They will also advise on the complexities of compliance standards.

Finally, they’ll help with analytics, reporting and measurement based on your goals and objectives. If you choose right, you’ll be selecting a programmatic advertising partner more than just an agency.

Let’s dive into some of the primary considerations when choosing the best programmatic agency.

Make sure the agency is reputable and trustworthy

Always do background research on any agencies you’re thinking about working with and make sure they have a good reputation for timely delivery and great results.

Check to see if they have a good client retention rate and how long their clients have been with them. Your business is spending money, so you need to make sure the agency you choose will be able to deliver on its promises.

Talk about your business goals & media objectives

Before working with an agency, define clear objectives for your programmatic campaigns. Agencies can help you with both short-term (how many clicks do you want?) and long-term (do you plan to generate leads for your sales team or increase brand awareness?) marketing goals.

Understand what the agency offers

Make sure that the agency has a good handle on how programmatic works, from data analysis to targeting users. Ask them how they plan to reach your target audience, what technologies they use and who their publishers are.

Ensure the fit is right

Your agency should have experience working with clients in your industry or vertical or be adept at understanding it. They should create a programmatic campaign that’s customised according to your business goals, not just sell you the same programmatic strategies used for existing clients/past clients they’ve created for other clients.

Make sure you understand your ROI

Understand what is included in your agency’s agreement, e.g., how will their work impact your ad performance? Is there a success fee involved if certain milestones are achieved?

What’s the payment structure and price of future campaigns?

Agree on clear terms with your agency so that both parties have an understanding of how fees will be calculated. For example, some programmatic agencies charge an ad spend retainer or minimum guarantee each month.

Ask them about transparency

Know whether your programmatic partner can provide transparent reporting so that you can measure the effectiveness of campaigns hitting your goals.

As a brand/client, if you opted for a fully transparent pricing model, you should expect to see the granularity of how your programmatic budget is being spent. This information should be available line by line item, impression by impression across all media buys.

If an agency cannot provide this level of transparency, they are likely not operating a fully transparent agency model.

Programmatic media buying technology stack

Is it important that your agency uses all the latest tech? Or is a more streamlined approach with less technology access better for your brand? If you’re not going to be using every piece of the agency’s ad tech stack, does it matter to your brand? In one way or another, you may end up paying for that.

Ask questions about what Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) they use or what DSPs they are experienced in.

Ask them about why they are using the DSP they use. Understand that each DSP is unique, offering different data integrations, algorithms, inventory access, fee structure, reporting and support.

You will also find that some DSPs are better suited to specific industry sectors, for instance, Google DV360 is not very strong in verticals which we classify as grey markets, such as casino gambling, sports betting or CBD marketing.

Programmatic innovation and programmatic strategy

The best programmatic agencies will be up to date with what’s happening in the programmatic world, and inform clients on new ad formats, new tracking standards, new analytic platforms and even new data platforms. They’ll deliver those insights in way that gives you a clear understanding on how it can benefit your business objectives.

Make sure it’s secure

The agency will ensure that your programmatic advertising is compliant with industry standards by verifying that all data is collected via legal channels.
An agency should also be familiar with ad fraud detection systems like IAS and Doubleverify, useful for preventing ad dollars from being wasted.

Services structure

This one really depends on your business and the type of work you are looking to get done for you.

A lot of agencies offer different types of fee categories. Think about what structure works for you, do you want an agency strictly focused on programmatic media buying or do creative services sit within the account too?

Ensure you have a good working relationship

Working with a programmatic agency should be a positive experience for your marketing team, so both parties must be on the same page regarding communication and expectations. Make sure you choose an agency that makes its people available to answer questions and follows through on promises on time.

Quality of work

As agencies grow larger, it can become challenging for them to maintain high levels of quality, ask some questions about how they keep clients happy?

Are they open to critiques and new ideas, or do they believe their way is the only way? If they have a steady stream of returning clients, they’re doing something right. Look at client retention rates as an indicator.

Long term contracts

Short-term partnerships can allow you to test out agencies while rarely committing to large sums of money, eventually, you want to commit to a long-term contract. This is a commitment and fit from both sides and allows you to ensure that traders and account managers stay on your account.

Culture & service

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of culture and teamwork when choosing your agency. If there is no chemistry, it can make for an unsuccessful partnership.

You’ll know when you find an agency passionate about programmatic advertising. Finding an agency that cares and that is passionate isn’t hard. You just need to reach out.

Takeaway List of Considerations

There are no right or wrong answers to the questions and considerations in this guide. Careful consideration will help you define what you need in a programmatic partner.

These takeaway questions are designed to get your thinking juices going so you can get to the roots of what you need and what you want.

Takeaway List of Considerations
The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Programmatic Agency Word Cloud

Questions to ask your programmatic agency

  • Have they worked with media budgets similar to yours?
  • How long have they been established? What is the background of the management team?
  • Do their clients rave about them? Check out their reviews.
  • Is there a good level of transparency on what they do and how they do it?
  • Do they value face-to-face interaction with you as a brand?
  • Do they have a deep understanding of your business and target audience?
  • Where do they source their talent from?
  • Can they provide references?
  • How many other brands do they work with?
  • Are the brands in the same industry vertical as the industry vertical you operate within?
  • What is the technology stack they use?
  • How much automation do they have in place? Reporting automation, for example, to give you real-time results might be important for your company stakeholders.
  • Do you need a dedicated account manager? Are you willing to pay for one? How many do you need and what is the cost vs account managers who might work across several clients?
  • What is their team structure like? This can be very important when you consider things like culture and collaboration.
  • Are they familiar with productivity tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Basecamp?
  • Are they up to date on the latest industry trends, including any emerging new technologies?
  • What is their attrition rate like?
  • Do they only work with brands, or do they also work with other agencies?
  • What does their reporting look like, and do they provide proactive insights?
  • Do they provide an open door policy to discuss anything with you?
  • What does their contract look like?
  • Do they have a leadership team that is well respected in the industry?
  • What is their payment structure?
  • How do they ensure RFPs are sent to the right vendors? How much control do you have over which agency partners win the business?
  • Do they have trading agreements?
  • Do they have sector experience?
  • Do they have experience in your geographical region/country?
  • Are they a full-service agency where programmatic is outsourced? What effect is that likely to have on ad space?
  • What targeting capabilities/methods do they use?
  • Do they offer paid search services or partner with another agency that does?
  • How do they plan on using first-party data?
  • How do they plan on using second and third party data?
  • Do they offer innovative formats such as digital home and programmatic audio advertising?
  • Do they use just one platform or multiple programmatic platforms to execute?
  • Will they give you a media plan before launching with clear budget distribution?
  • Are they willing to move media spend around based on performance aka, dynamic ad budgeting?
  • Do they offer both desktop and mobile inventory?
  • Can they run connected TV CTV campaigns?
  • How do they charge for their service?
  • Do they put blacklists on their campaigns?
  • Do they offer fraud tracking?
  • Do they offer brand safety features?
  • Do they A/B test?
  • How do they structure the campaigns?
  • What bidding optimisation will they use?
  • Do they have a robust pixel implementation strategy?
  • Have they worked with Google UTMs?
  • Are they experienced in tag management platforms such as GTM – Google Tag Manager
  • Will they help me choose the best ad format?
  • Will they help me with my messaging framework?
  • Will they help me with my landing pages?
  • Will they work with other agencies?
  • Will they work and suggest the best approach in how programmatic fits in with other organic and paid media channels?

FAQs

Should I in-house or outsource Programmatic Advertising?

Advantages of in-housing marketing:

  • Better control: You’ll have more direct and better control over your own marketing and advertising efforts if you do them in-house. This enables you to be more innovative. Your employees can work on their own creative ideas and push the envelope of new technologies, whether it’s increasing audience data insights or developing new ad formats.

Disadvantages of in-housing marketing:

  • In-house talent can be costly: In addition to the financial investment required for hiring and training your employees, you’ll also need to account for the additional overhead costs like office space (and furnishings), IT infrastructure (including bandwidth), etc. High staff turnover can also dampen your efforts.
  • Lack of innovation: A lack of investment across platforms compared to the pooling of budgets from multiple advertisers. Marketing services companies often have access to a broader pool of resources to draw when building out creative strategies and technologies. This also gives them the benefit of leveraging different perspectives for inspiration on new ideas, tools and techniques.
  • Lack of cross-channel marketing expertise: Without an in-house marketing team, you lose the ability to have an in-depth discussion about multi-layered digital programs that are well integrated with other channels, like TV and social media. It is also less likely that these different programs will be integrated with each other.
  • No scale: If your company doesn’t do paid media marketing on a large enough scale, you might find it difficult to justify the need for an in-house team.
  • Limit costs: You can maintain a lean budget, and that’s especially appealing to smaller businesses. Your marketing and advertising efforts will also be more scalable, so you’ll only pay for what you need – when you need it.
  • Lack of control: You don’t have the same level of direct involvement and control over your marketing and advertising efforts when you outsource to a third-party provider.

What business/pricing model should I choose?

Non-Disclosed Margin

In this model, the agency will use its knowledge of the programmatic landscape to run a campaign. The agency will make money by performing what’s known as media arbitrage. The agency will make money by buying media at one price and selling at another. For illustrative purposes let’s say they buy at $0.85 CPM and sell it for $1.00; their gross profit would be $0.15.

Percentage of Spend

A transparent approach where the agency takes a percentage of your media budget to plan, manage, and optimise your programmatic media budget. Your budget is $10,000.00, 15% of which goes to the agency, 85% towards the DSP.

Combination Pricing

Some agencies use a combination approach, a hybrid approach mixing multiple pricing mechanisms.

Results-Based Pricing

Usually, a combination of % of media spend + a kicker based on programmatic outcomes. For example, 15% of media spend + £10 for every sale tracked.

Day Rate or Hourly Rate

Pay for the hours/days required to plan, manage and optimise campaigns.

Conclusion

Programmatic buying is one of the most effective ways to reach desired audiences. However, marketers need to consider their goals and choose an agency that can help them measurably achieve these objectives.

There are many benefits to working with an agency, but make sure they have the necessary experience and expertise to realise your company’s goals.

There are a ton of marketing agencies out there but few programmatic experts. If you need international media buying executed programmatically, Advant Technology could very well be the right fit.

FAQs

Keep in mind the following definitions to help you understand how programmatic technology and processes around it work:

What are demand-side platforms DSPs?

Technology service providers that allow advertisers to purchase digital advertising space via real-time auctions. They then create automated targeting strategies using data collected based on users’ online behaviour and interests based on these user profiles. This allows marketers to focus their ad spend on audiences that are most likely to be interested in their product or service. With programmatic buying, ads are placed throughout many different websites or apps rather than simply being targeted toward a single website through traditional means of advertising.

What is programmatic paid media?

Advertising where marketers pay a demand-side platform for digital ad spots to increase brand awareness and generate sales.

Programmatic paid media might include display ads, video ads, mobile ads or native ads, among other forms of promotion, including social and search-based advertising.

What are advertising algorithms?

Computer systems designed to automatically match advertisements with the interests of website visitors.

These systems are driven by both statistical analysis and machine learning. This allows advertisers to focus their ad budget on locations that will be most successful in creating customer engagement. Marketers can use these analytics to determine which platforms, topics or formats perform best for specific goals they have set out to achieve.

What is a paid media marketing agency?

Companies help businesses manage their digital advertising campaigns across various adtech programmatic platforms. They may also assist in creating messaging strategies that fit the campaign goals of an organisation through paid advertising, paid social or paid search.

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