Ben Maudsley
Nov 7, 2017

9 checklist items for marketers engaging with performance partners

Tips for every stage of a campaign’s lifecycle can help marketers ensure they’re getting the most out of their partnerships.

Ben Maudsley
Ben Maudsley

Digital programmatic media buying has developed at breakneck speed. Tipped to grow by 31% in 2017, it seems we’re far from hitting the peak of programmatic, as a look at the sheer number of ad tech services currently being applied to each and every buy will confirm. Marketers have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, and like any hot trend, sometimes we adopt before we’re ready to adapt.  

The promise of programmatic is compelling, but marketers need to ensure they are well armed with information and properly set up with the expertise required to understand the nuances of that promise. There has been precious little guidance available, and marketers are frequently not active enough in demanding transparency and clarity from partners. Whilst the role of training is increasingly turning to ad tech vendors, there are some practical and simple points all brand marketers and media planners should think about.

As advocates in utilising multiple partners on any campaign, we have identified the nine things every marketer needs to check off their list, across every stage of a campaign’s lifecycle, in order to ensure they’re getting the most out of their partnerships.


1. Ask some questions

Although it is true that having so many players in the space does contribute to complexity, it also has one major benefit—choice. Marketers shouldn’t have to settle. When engaging in pre-sales consultation with any vendor, ask specific questions to really understand what it is you are signing up for. From where does your data originate? How do you leverage it? From where does your inventory originate? On what other channel, if any, is your data or inventory available? What is fueling your optimisation decisions? If any or each of these queries cannot be answered, marketers should think twice about moving forward.

2. Expect some back

The questions shouldn’t just be coming from you. A partner who cares as much about your success as you do should be trying to find out as much as they can from you, in order to be certain that they understand your goals and how you want to reach them.

3. Be open

You might already have it all planned out—demo, audience, viewability & verification and a Cost per Acquisition (CPA) goal—but you should stay open to recommendations. Bearing in mind your ad tech partner probably has experience running similar verticals or campaigns, they may have a new approach to suggest. After all, they do know their technology best, and would probably know the optimal way to leverage it.

4. Assign an attribution model, share it, and stick to it

Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world where value, in the form of a simple report is easily available and/or clearly understood. So it’s imperative for Marketers to measure deeper than they’ve ever done before to better understand who is delivering what value and in doing so help inform future investment.

Marketers now have access to additional attribution lenses, like what is available in DCM (DoubleClick Campaign Manager). They now have the ability to assign an attribution metric relevant to the role that each partner will play. Generally speaking performance partners can come in two forms, prospecting (bring new people into the ecosystem) and retargeting (converting those that have visited the clients website), so it’s important Marketers set appropriate goals for both partner types. 

In many cases you’ll find a huge gap when comparing a first impression conversion volume/CPA versus a last impression/click conversion volume/CPA, so it’s imperative Marketers are clear on the success metrics during the briefing. A retargeting partner will focus on last impression and click attribution metrics whilst a prospecting partner would focus more on first impression and time decay attribution metrics. Being open around this is critical for each of your partners, as they will set their campaigns up appropriately for the relevant success metric you’ve assigned them.

During post campaign analysis this set up allows for a more relevant conversation and a better understanding where future media investment should be directed.  


5. How can the partner further improve performance?

One of the cornerstones of programmatic performance is the ability to improve on the go. Optimisation is a critical element of any campaign, and whenever your ad tech partner is making a recommendation, you’re always entitled to ask for a quantifiable analysis to support it, as well as an explanation as to how this will affect campaign performance. This applies to all manner of recommendations, from pixel placement, to changing the pricing metric or targeting parameters.

As with most things, communication is key, and should flow both ways. Not only should you be expecting your partners to take the initiative to approach you with ideas and suggestions for the next steps to take; you should also be active in doing the same. This will help keep all parties honest, and enable optimisation every step of the way.

6. Provide insight into your overall strategy

Performance can be impacted by other activity against which it may be acting to complement or to compete. This may affect the ways in which partners tweak activity. Here are some suggestions on the sort of information you should be communicating to your partners: Where does each partner anonymously rank? (This will keep all partners on their toes and performing as best as they can!) What other media activity or initiatives are you running concurrently that may impact the overall demand?


7. Clear and transparent reporting

Transparency at the end of a campaign is as critical as it is at the launch. Marketers should seek as much post-campaign clarity as possible. Remember, we live in the era of performance-driven marketing; you’re entitled to expect a campaign wrap-up from your partner. This would provide you with recommendations or specifics about your campaign performance.

8. Feedback

To allow your partners to better gauge their performance as well as take steps to improve, you need to be proactive about conveying feedback:

Did the partner miss or meet goals? What did you like about working with them? Where can they improve? Has your partner been transparent about what it is they provided or do you feel like you’ve been sold a black box?

9. Future gazing

If you’re looking to develop a long-term working relationship with your partners, it’s important to include them in your discussions about what lies ahead. This will allow them to better develop strategies specific to brand, as well as to introduce any other complementary products that may be unknown. The longer the planning, the better the results are likely to be.

By following these steps, marketers have a set of guidelines that empower them to take a more active role in their relationships with ad tech partners. While it goes without saying that transparency problems cannot be completely eliminated, this does bring us closer towards fostering better relationships and more productive collaboration in the digital advertising ecosystem.

It sounds like a tall order, but the more honest marketers are with their ad tech partners, the more they will benefit from solutions specifically tailored for their needs.

Ben Maudsley is managing director for Asia-Pacific and South Africa at Exponential Interactive.

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