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How to choose a top-performing display partner

Published: March 29, 2017

Author: Luis Valles

As digital marketers, we are always looking for ways to improve our campaigns. Whether we do this by refining our targeting methodologies or by rethinking who our ideal consumers are, there are always opportunities to test our hypotheses. As an Account Manager for our Display Advertising team, one such way I do this is by working with a display partner.

While we use an ad server to set up and track our display campaigns, we utilize display partners to access ad inventory, set targeting parameters, and optimize. There are different types of display partners, so…

Know your options

Some, like The Trade Desk, are self-serve, which allows us as the agency to manage inventory and targeting strategies. With these types of partners, we have a bit more control in optimizing a campaign.
We can also work with partners on a managed-service basis, meaning they essentially take the reins, with our direction, and manage the campaign. Some of the larger managed-service display partners include RocketFuel, Viant, and Yahoo.

Ask the right questions

Last September, I began working with one of 3Q’s clients, a self-publishing platform. As we moved closer to the holidays and budgets increased, I was tasked with exploring new display partners to help us expand. When evaluating partners, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Has anyone in your agency worked with this partner? While this seems like a simple question, colleagues working on different accounts may have good insights on their experience with potential test partners, such as: Are they easy to work with? How responsive are they when you have questions? How did they perform? (Do keep in mind that all clients are different.)
  2. What is their unique selling point? When it comes to digital media, there are hundreds of display partners in the space, and it’s our job to do our due diligence to see if their offering is worth testing. We want to understand: What are their unique targeting capabilities? What kind of data are they using? Do they have access to exclusive inventory? Have they had success with similar clients?
  3. What’s their pricing structure? Pricing (and your client’s budget) could determine whether or not you can test a new partner: How are their CPMs priced? Can you purchase media on a CPC or CPA? Do they have monthly or IO minimums?

Once you have chosen a partner to test, the next step is to set a budget and create their ads in your ad server. After that is complete, you want to begin running media and monitoring performance. It’s important to know that it will take new partners a few weeks or even a month to ramp and ingest the proper amount of data to begin making optimizations. For this reason, I would not recommend ending a test after a few weeks if performance is not what you expected. Make sure to give it some time.
In the case of the client I mentioned above, after vetting a handful of partners, I ended up testing two and had great results. Both partners were successful at driving revenue (our main KPI) and one of them even turned out to be a top performer after about a month of running. This is pretty impressive given that our long-standing partners had been running for about 5 months.
Testing and learning is essential for running successful media campaigns, and it’s our job as marketers to make educated decisions to grow our clients’ businesses. Choosing a strong display partner is an essential step toward making this happen.

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