Nobody Cares About Your DSP

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

A couple years ago while on vacation, we got rained out at the beach. Bummer.

Not wanting to waste the day staring at our kids playing Minecraft on their iPads, we ventured into town, where we met up with a friend and ended up at one of those paint-your-own-pottery places. The kids had a fun time painting picture frames and piggy banks. Me? I picked out a coffee mug.

I ended up painting it in Underscore Marketing’s colors, scrawling a rather cynical message on the side: “Nobody Cares About Your DSP.”

The past few days, I’ve been at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Austin, TX. It’s the first summit I’ve been to after a long hiatus. The Breakthrough Summit differs from all the other summits in that it’s smaller and more intimate than the other summits, and it puts together advertisers, agencies, sellers and tech companies to talk about the future of digital opportunities.

Breakthrough represents a great opportunity to show advertisers how digital can solve problems and live up to modern challenges. It’s an opportunity we often squander, unfortunately, by failing to keep our eye on the ball. More on that in a minute.

Summit Host Kevin Ryan is a friend and business associate of mine. He’s seen my coffee mug. And he’s highly strategic, having written the book about how challenger brands can use digital to take down much larger competitors. He opened the summit by using humor to show the marketers in the room some of the dreadful situations automated and programmatic technologies can put us in from a customer experience standpoint. He also showed us how those blunders put digital marketing into a state of constantly having to apologize for its behavior.

As part of his presentation, he also showed everyone my coffee mug. The “Nobody Cares About Your DSP” message isn’t the cynical screed of an overworked agency guy marooned on Programmatic Island. It’s a warning. It reminds people that their tech is not nearly as important as its ability to solve problems for marketers.

Unfortunately, the digital industry has a rich history of squandering great opportunities like Breakthrough summits. We squander them by failing to keep our eyes on the prize. We don’t discuss how we solve problems, instead opting to fling technical terms around and concentrate on the little incremental differences that make our tech better than the next guy’s tech. And it kills us every time.

Don’t get me wrong. There were some great presentations. Integral Ad Science’s Denise Zaraya led an discussion of viewability and fraud. Instead of bragging about whatever makes IAS better at rooting out ad waste than its competitors, Zaraya walked attendees through an interactive quiz that highlighted how little folks in the room knew about the magnitude of the viewability/fraud problem. And then she showed what happened when IAS stepped in with its solution. Simple, to the point, and answers the question “What can you do for me?”

The iMedia programming folks did a tremendous job of keeping presentation topics focused on high-level problems. Ryan focused fireside chats and marketer interviews on what really matters. The problem occurs when you let ad dorks go on stage unsupervised. I won’t name names, but some of these myopic presentations were total duds:

A discussion of a dynamic creative tech that helped a marketer increase CTR by 4X on about $21,000 worth of direct response ad spending. Said advertiser spends billions on advertising annually. Yes, billions with a “B.” A handful of sponsor presentations that squandered their opportunity by talking more about how the company was funded and how minute differences in tech made them superior to their competitors than how they helped marketers address challenges. A presentation about a creative format with a slightly differentiated pricing model that would have blended in with the presentations given by Unicast and Enliven at the Rich Media Roadshow in 2001.

It’s infuriating that, seemingly every time the digital industry is granted a few minutes in the marketer’s spotlight, we waste the opportunity by geeking out on the tech details. Folks, we need to heed the message on the coffee mug. Nobody cares about your DSP. They only care that you can be trusted to solve their problems.

By Tom Hespos

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