DSPs. DMPs. SSPs. RTB. Somewhere in this alphabet soup there is supposed to be an easier way for advertisers to buy the online media they want, targeted to the online audience they want. With all the players in the market, there must be something that really works, right?

Resonate Networks typically acquires inventory through direct publisher relationships, but we feel compelled to test new technologies to see if they maximize the efficacy of our campaigns. So we started testing DSP inventory and third party data providers. We had high hopes for our test, but we have largely been underwhelmed when we zoomed-in on the details.

Myth 1: DSPs require much less effort to manage than multiple direct publisher or network buys.

Actually it’s just as much. DSPs provide a wealth of data to help you get the most from the buy, but the buyer has to sift through it. While most offer detailed reporting, at the end of the day, it requires a smart campaign manager, with a lot of time, to review, interpret, and act on the reporting. There’s nothing wrong with this service model, but advertisers need to go in with their eyes open, knowing what they need to do to get the most from their buy.

Myth 2: There’s scale ripe for the picking – and it’s cheap.

Maybe; it depends. Do you require premium inventory, brand safety, or a whitelist of sites? Need data attributes in cookies? Geo-targeting?  Frequency capping? Every bit of criteria whittles down the available inventory and increases costs. For a marketer without any criteria or no limitations beyond cost, the exchange world is their oyster. But for most smart brand marketers who need to reach less random audiences, exchanges fall short of delivering scale, dependability, and predictability.

Myth 3: Third party data is a boon to advertisers who know their target.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. You know you want to find Middle Class Moms, so third party data targeted through DSPs lets you find them. But this target requires three separate attributes: income, gender, and presence of children, and cookie data is spotty. Any given data provider covers only a portion of the online population at any given point in time. Only a portion of their cookies will have gender, and only a portion of those will also have income, and then another portion will also have a child indicator. So the time we’ve found the Moms, we’ve lost the reach. And that’s before we actually find the cookie and bid on the impression.

So we tried to give the DSPs a chance. We heard repeatedly that combining data attributes doesn’t drive scale and cost-efficiency in campaigns. But most advertisers have spent years identifying their audience profiles. Why should they have to dilute that profile just to execute an online media plan?

Well with us, they don’t. But then, we aren’t part of the alphabet soup.