What Is a Meta-DSP and Why Should Advertisers Care?

How to Spot the Difference Between a Real Meta-DSP and a Fake One

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Over the last 18 months, the term meta-DSP has become more widely used, but not necessarily understood. Forrester defines meta-DSPs as "ad tech platforms that have built a software layer on top of demand side platforms [DSPs] to centrally manage and operationalize campaign design, trafficking, tracking, and reporting across the DSPs it operates, with a high degree of automation."

Many solution providers have the same claims when it comes to technology, saying they have a real-time system that works across multiple DSPs. So what do marketers need to know about this advertising model and how can you spot the difference between a real meta-DSP and a fake one?

Meta-DSP: Who, what, why, when?

A meta-DSP is not actually a DSP; it is an advanced trading and management platform that unifies multiple DSPs and technologies through one single entry point, creating a holistic view of the media ecosystem. Meta-DSPs aggregate data to provide clients with greater audience reach, scale, campaign insights and cost saving efficiencies.

The concept was born during the ad-tech boom when digital disrupters recognized a need to bring disparate DSPs (with different unique selling propositions) and data sets together under one roof. The approach allows marketers to simplify campaign execution and evaluate multiple vendors, increasing scale.

In a Forrester Wave study, 53% of marketers admitted to using four DSPs on average just to meet the needs of their video campaigns. Conversely, 85% said they believe in the value of a single stack rather than a series of solutions.

Now more agencies are attempting to buy or build their own meta-DSPs, although some are more advanced than others. With everyone claiming to have the same technology, make sure you take a deeper dive into the backend to see if this statement is supported by a genuinely integrated software (as opposed to an upmarket Excel spreadsheet).

There are a number of problems the current digital advertising ecosystem has -- not least the amount of technologies available in market -- as well as the speed of change and innovation. Meta-DSPs work to negate some of these issues, taking some pressure off an already time-consuming job for marketers in their search to find the right technology to achieve their goals.

Climb those walled gardens

There's an ad-tech war currently being waged -- sometimes publicly, sometimes behind closed doors. Many large media suppliers are trying to entice marketers into their walled gardens, offering promises of juicy apples and cool new toys. Then there are the smaller independents that offer specialisms not available through other suppliers. When you run your campaigns through a meta-DSP, you don't have to compromise -- you can play in all the walled gardens and access the whole market -- through one point. You also don't have to worry as much about picking the wrong partner and paying the price because your brand gains access to the best part of each technology rather than relying on one to provide benefits across the board.

Make your legacy and future proof your brand

It can be a long process choosing a partner to move forward with, especially when the ad-tech ecosystem is so fragmented and you know there will be consolidation coming over the next few years. Marketers continue to be under increased pressure to choose the best partner(s). No one has ever gone wrong choosing some of the unicorn tech brands, but why choose one when you can increase performance, scale and reach and have all your preferred partners under one umbrella? It means you don't have to gamble with your future and back-track on valuable research when this happens.

Get around the world … in 50 DSPs

DSPs have different strengths and weaknesses, and some perform better in certain markets than others. For example, DSP A may have greater reach than DSP B in APAC, while DSP B may have richer targeting ability than DSP A in North America. If you're a marketer looking to operate across several regions or even looking for a global overview if you operate DSPs separately, it's difficult to get that overall view.

A meta-DSP brings everything together in one place, so you can keep your chosen DSPs by market but view the analysis on a global level. Marketers can also test other DSPs while continuing with their already chosen DSP technology.

But what about bidding against yourself?

Bidding against yourself is a legitimate query, but the answer all comes down to math. If you are working with multiple media vendors, you may already be bidding against yourself, although the probability is extremely low -- even with highly targeted buys across multiple DSPs, the chance of bidding against yourself is around 4%. By not utilizing a meta-DSP approach, you're sacrificing 43% of incremental reach. In a world where marketers are increasingly forced to show ROI based on data that's not something they can risk.

A meta-DSP is the path forward for marketers; it unifies the strengths of the strongest players in the Lumascape and it will ultimately be the backbone of all biddable media.

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