Brands need to ask some pointed questions to ensure they are getting real value from demand-side platforms (DSP). That’s the view of Timothy Whitfield, the new VP, strategic solutions, Sizmek APAC.

Whitfield is one of the best-known technologists in the local adtech sector and made the move from GroupM to Sizmek earlier this year. (He was also a Which-50 contributor during his time at GroupM).

“There’s a certain rhythm to the way that adtech is evolving, he said. “Whereas safety was a massive issue, now it’s more of a standard as the technology evolves.”

However, Whitfield told Which-50 he is frustrated by what he describes as a blind spot. He is referring to a lack of sophistication in the way brands and agencies sometimes compare demand-side platforms.

“I guess what frustrates me more than anything at the moment is when two different top adtech companies are compared and they are really so fundamentally different.”

While from a distance both of them look relatively similar when you lift the hood and take a closer look the reality is much different, he said.

According to Whitfield, “On the one hand you have companies with a massive technology core and some services wrapped around them. That’s the one you really want. On the other side, you have companies with the tiniest core of technology but with lots of services wrapped around that tiny core.”

He said in a market like Australia, which is relatively small, brands still have a lot of choices to make. “There are two dozen DSPs operating in Sydney alone,” he said.

The problem he suggested is that many of the service providers lack the technological clout needed to really meet the needs of brands.

“They have limited ability to actually demonstrate real technology and real artificial intelligence.”

If anything they are copying the way advertising networks evolved, he says.


Whitfield offers four questions brands might want to ask when considering which DSP to use.

“The first questions I’d ask would be: ‘Do you have a self-service interface? Yes or no?’  And if they say ‘no we don’t have a self-service interface’ then there is already a problem.”

“Then I would be asking, ‘Do you have an API?’” 

He said this was important as platforms need to be extensible.

It is also important to find out how many staff they have this market, he said.

“The real question is how many people do they have who could actually sit down and service the business. If you are running a million dollar campaign you don’t want to head towards the end of that million dollars campaign before someone checks on the progress. Instead, you want somebody assessing the success of the campaign at about the $50,000 mark.”

It is also important to understand the composition of their local teams, he said. “You also want to make sure that there are technologists in the market locally as well, and not just salespeople.  You want to see a ratio where there is a solid amount of engineers working.”

And finally, Whitfield suggested it is worth testing is the reputation of a company is based on substantial achievement or not.

“You might want to look at whether all the noise in the market about the DSP is a function of hard work, and case studies, and because they are doing a great job.  Or where it is because they are they taking their clients on skiing trips.”

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