Media Planning & Buying

Six Important Considerations for Building Your DSP Tech Stack

June 22, 2017

Forrester Wave recently published their quarterly report on Omni-channel DSPs. DSP scoring was based on categories and sub-categories like current offering, strategy and market presence. Nearly all technology providers we work with were scored highly in the ‘market leader’ category, with the exception of DBM, who chose not to participate in this study. DSPs and their algorithms have been around for a while; through client feedback and market need, have all reached proximic parity in their offerings. Given the significant similarity in those scores and plethora of options in the market, we thought it would be important to share how 360i evaluates technology to achieve our marketing goals.

Just like in a boxing match, there are weight categories and contenders have their signature punches. Imagine you had to pick boxers in different weight categories with their signature moves to make a dream team. You’d strategically select each so they complement one another’s strengths, and supplement each other’s weaknesses. Exactly the same thinking can be applied to DSPs and their specialties. In this post, I want to take a closer look at 360i’s version of the “DSP dream team” and how we have chosen to pair them, in order to create a potent stack for market advantage.

Our current stack contains of Google Doubleclick Bid-Manager, The Trade Desk, AOL One, Tubemogul (now Adobe) and our latest addition, Accordant Audience Targeting System (ATS). We rated each with our custom scoring matrix, that looks at 50 differential data points for evaluation, and assigned them weighted scores, depending on the importance of the data point. Though complicated, the matrix is an accurate and necessary process for us. Here are our six most valued data points that all marketers should consider when assembling their DSP dream team:


1. Core Algorithm – What is the power of an algorithm and its adaptability?

As Product Lead for Programmatic at 360i, I spend a lot of time understanding the algorithm that powers a platform; you can call it the brain, or the engine of the DSP. This is what truly separates platforms – the basic set of rules and logic a DSP is programmed with to pursue the right bid and deliver expected results. We look for the types of bids a platform can submit, how up to date their logic is and how well they assimilate points of data as compared with other bidders on the market. For example, some bidders have started using artificial intelligence and deep neuro learning in their logic to learn and simulate buyer behavior.

2. Omni-channel-ness – How many channels does it have, and which does it excel in?

All platforms we select are carefully considered individually, and how they fit into the entire tech stack with the help of the scoring matrix. Each DSP is curated, vetted and tested to plug technology and inventory gaps, and bolster the overall offering. Our priority is undoubtedly to find bidders that are leaders in omni-channel disciplines i.e. video, native, direct response, audio, digital out-of-home etc. That, however, does not stop us from onboarding a DSP that is market leader in a single channel, if that channel is a core need of 360i’s or will be in the future. A good example of this would be video, in all forms.

3. Usability – What is the Importance of cleanliness of execution? 

This is an important factor to consider before on-boarding a DSP: will the usability of the user interface (UI) make it easier for the trading team when building, running and reporting on campaigns, saving precious time and employee burn? Or will it create more points of error, and potential for loss of efficiency with complicated navigation? The answer is usually clear.

4. Nimbleness – How important is the willingness to create, integrate or buy?

Another advantage of not picking only the 500 pound gorillas in the market is nimbleness. The bigger the company, the longer it takes for them to maneuver and build tech. They have too many priorities of the largest clients, and internal roadmaps to contend with. Which, in turn, impedes their ability to provide us with custom solutions for our clients, quickly. Hence, how fast a DSP can develop, integrate or potentially even buy tech for our client needs, is a huge consideration for us. It’s worth noting that this factor was not weighed in the Wave Report.

5. Forward looking – What is the need for future-looking investment?

If there is one thing that’s never been said about the AdTech and MarTech industries, it is ‘they have been slow to develop’. There are more emerging options than marketers can keep up with. That’s just the nature of technology; evolution is rapid. Finding tech whose vision of the future is aligned with the market and our business, is very important. Our DSP has to align with the trends and tech we deem essential for our company’s success and be the best at it. Imagine if they were to sunset a core ask that keeps our business ticking? That would be painful.

6. Service – How important is this really?

Pretty important. But it depends on what you are looking for in service. Your priority could be technical difficulties and questions being resolved and answered promptly. If that’s the case, you expect your reps to be knowledgeable, be willing to give you access to information, and educate you on topics. On the other hand, you may want more of a first class service experience, and be waited on a little more. You’re looking for reps who will be in your office often, who will share the workload when your team is busy, and in general be a lot more present in your day-to-day. The latter usually equates to having deeper client pockets. These service scenarios are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but DSPs usually operate by one model or the other. We, as the customer, have to decide which type of service we cannot do without, if we can’t have both. Hence, service scores are subjective to expectation.


In culmination, 360i spends an incredible amount of time thinking, scoring and pressure testing platforms in strategic ways where one single score doesn’t necessarily make or break the decision. Not every agency’s needs are the same, nor should the tech they onboard. In my opinion, there is certainly great value in working with DSP market leaders, but that should not be the only reason you on-board tech. We look at DSPs together, as parts of a boxing dream team, where each player is important for their individual ability, but more important for making the sum total of the team greater, cumulatively. As a product person, you have the opportunity to design the optimal tech stack for your company. If you are selecting tech based solely on general scores and market leadership, then you are doing a disservice to your company. The adtech market will only continue to grow and more and more DSP options will become available so setting up these or other considerations for your agency will be vital as it looks to find success in the future.

Photo Credit: AdExchanger