Questions to ask a Vendor

Since team AUSAM tends to be a little ... opinionated on the world of Digital Marketing and Media - one of the questions we get most often is how to evaluate adtech and media vendors and partners. Below are some of our favorite questions we’ve used in the past which we think will get you to a place where you can recognize who you should take that meeting with.

The first and easiest thing on the list is figuring out which industry standards, accreditations and outside verification integrations your chosen vendor supports. In addition to simply being accredited or being able to integrate with your preferred third party partner, it’s also important to ask if your campaign can be optimized against third party metrics/reporting and if you will have the ability to pay according to those metrics (e.g. paying only for viewable or fraud free impressions). Most companies will have their own, proprietary, take on addressing fraud and viewability, but if the Facebook story that never ends has taught us anything – it should be that there’s value in third-party auditing and not letting partners "grade their own homework" so to speak.

1.     What third party partnerships do you offer or support? (measurement, viewability, attribution, etc.)

2.     What audience guarantees do you offer?

3.     Are you MRC accredited?  If so, which metrics are you accredited for? Is this self-reported accreditation or have you been audited by the MRC?

4.     What are your available pricing structures?

5.     Are you seeking TAG certification and if so, what’s your timeline for becoming compliant/certified?

We’ve also found it helpful to understand where/how a partner obtains inventory. If publishers own or operate inventory it can be easier for them to manage custom integrations and provide more transparency on the buy. For those with no O&O inventory, it’s still helpful to understand where their inventory comes from. Do they buy it up front and sell it to you later in a package or at a markup (suggesting they may have a skin in the game in regards to what inventory to give you to ensure they sell everything they pre-bought). Are they winning inventory in an auction (in which case are you being charged a flat CPM and they are making money by paying a much lower dynamic CPM) and what type of transparency or control do they have on auction inventory? You can even ask if they will be transparent and share actual CPMs so you can understand the media markup.

6.     Where/how do you source your inventory and what kind of control and transparency can you offer (upfront package buy that you then need to resell, private deals, proprietary bidder, white labeled bidder, are you using another company – like a DSP – to acquire inventory on your behalf)?

7.     If so, please list your DSP/bidder technology provider.

8.     Do you have access to mobile web and mobile app inventory?

9.     What unique or exclusive inventory you represent?

a.     Do you own that inventory or simply operate/monetize it on behalf of someone else?

10. Who are your social/native/video (insert format here) partners?

11. For publishers: how is your waterfall setup and what options to do I have to prioritize my deal if we run into spend/scale issues?

We all know that data has been a topic du jour for quite a while now. Make sure you're asking questions to understand data quality, how protected your own data will be and what types of things you can target/report out on.

12. Do you have a DMP? If so what is it used for and/or how can we leverage it? What guarantees of data safety, quality and controls do you offer to your clients?

13. Please list your DMP provider.

14. What data providers do you work/integrate with? Are these direct integrations or data purchased from a co-op/marketplace?

15. Who owns my campaign data?

16. Is my performance or campaign data ever compiled, shared or published (e.g. white labeled case studies, award submissions, PR communications, internal newsletters, internal or external benchmarks or best practices)?

17. What, if any unique data you have access to (and how do you access this data)?

Lastly you’ll want to ask some questions around campaign governance. That is, how are your campaigns managed and what transparency can they provide with their process, successes and approach.

18. Do you employ or have experience with: A/B testing, multivariate testing, optimizing on third-party reported metrics, bidding /paying based on incrementality?

19. Please send a sample of some actionable audience insights you provide to the clients you work with.

20. What platform benchmarks can you share?

21. Do you have experience with or and are you able to provide best practices for tying media KPIs to site metrics/sales?

22. How frequently are campaign optimizations made?

23. Anything else you feel is relevant or distinctive to your offering?

Easy! Right?