Digital Advertising Innovation: Next Generation Self-Serve Solutions

Apr 28, 2020

Growth Accelerates in Digital Advertising

 The U.S. advertising industry continues to grow at a rapid pace. Frost & Sullivan’s research indicates that digital advertising revenues in the United States totaled approximately $132 billion in 2019; with mobile accounting for over 70% of the digital advertising spend. Data-driven programmatic digital advertising, improvements in digital advertising campaign performance measurement, and enhanced privacy protection are among the key growth drivers for digital advertising. Frost & Sullivan’s research indicates that by 2025 digital advertising will account for over 70% of the total advertising spend in the U.S.

Programmatic Advertising – the Preferred Digital Advertising Mechanism for Advertisers

Data-driven, programmatic digital advertising, or the use of automated solutions to facilitate digital media purchase and campaign execution, has emerged as the preferred digital advertising mechanism for brands and agencies.   Frost & Sullivan’s research indicates that publisher interest in programmatic advertising is at an all-time high. While display advertising has traditionally been the backbone of programmatic advertising, adoption of programmatic methods for rich media, native and video advertising have increased significantly over the past year in the U.S.  The real value of digital advertising lies in driving tangible business outcomes such as increased in-store visits, purchases or enhanced customer satisfaction levels, and these types of objectives are best achieved through the use of advanced machine learning solutions. Thus, the value proposition and business models for digital advertising solution providers must be predicated on attaining measurable business goals.

Self-Serve and Managed Services for Programmatic Digital Advertising

At a high level, self-serve and managed services are the two most widely used options for executing digital advertising campaigns through programmatic platforms. A self-serve platform enables advertisers (brands or agencies) to execute their campaigns in-house. Increased transparency and greater control over the campaign lifecycle are two important benefits of the self-serve model. Managed services, on the other hand, involve solution providers managing campaigns on the behalf of advertisers.  Most aspects related to campaign lifecycle management are handled by the managed advertising company.  This is an attractive option for advertisers pursuing complex KPIs who need more advanced data science capabilities and teams to optimize campaigns and drive results.

The Need for Advanced Self-Serve Solutions

The term “self-serve” is often associated with a platform or a tool for campaign execution and nothing more advanced – in other words, platforms that facilitate and enable spending money on media.  Unfortunately, many of these platforms are  buying mechanisms only because advertisers have historically lacked sufficient in-house resources and capabilities to execute complex campaigns.  However, Frost & Sullivan’s research indicates a growing market need for “next-generation” self-serve digital advertising solutions that can leverage technological advances in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Moreover, the ML/AI capabilities offered in a self-serve model can be leveraged not only for model creation and KPI optimization, but also to improve operational efficiency.   Machine-learning solutions enable automation of critical and otherwise time-consuming tasks such as cost management and real-time pacing analysis.  This also drives campaign performance and enhances productivity by eliminating manual requirements.

Performance-centric Implementations

The need for a highly performance-centric approach cannot be overstated. While this is true for the entire industry, it has been difficult to achieve in the self-serve world. The lack of appropriate client-support has been an issue with self-serve and central to any next-generation self-serve solution.  The ability to track conversions/attribution, while continuing to adjust to changing market conditions to maintain performance, is another critical requirement. For example, often companies rely on the more simplistic, but less effective methods of retargeting based on cookies and assumptions-based “audiences.” With changes to 3rd party cookie tracking, audiences can have less scale and lower impact. Therefore, new approaches, such as statistical modeling based on specific business KPIs, must be considered for targeting and performance.  Users should look for a ML-based approach that is not reliant on legacy third-party audience segments and pixel retargeting to drive performance. Given that mobile is the most important channel for digital advertising, mobile-first, multi-device execution and measurement capabilities must be prioritized for such offerings.

The Last Word

Integrating the best features of managed services offerings into self-serve platforms built with advanced data science capabilities can uniquely address the elevated performance requirements of media buyers. This is not to say that self-serve platforms should be positioned as a replacement for managed offerings. Frost & Sullivan believes self-serve platforms can certainly compliment managed services. The decision to go with self-serve vs. managed services for digital advertising depends on internal client expertise and resources, taking into account where the best performance has been achieved historically. More custom campaign goals often are better suited for a managed service offering comprised of industry expert oversight and in-depth data sciences.  However, the next-generation of self-serve solutions would ideally deliver a performance-centric approach allowing advertisers to run and manage these campaigns themselves, while tapping into robust and actionable data sciences capabilities. Based on Frost & Sullivan’s research, AdTheorent’s Direct Access is a great example of such a next-generation self-serve digital advertising solution. AdTheorent’s Direct Access offers numerous benefits: transparency, advanced data sciences as service (DSAS) capabilities which extend the reach and effectiveness of the advertiser’s in-house team, pricing and KPI performance optimization, as well as a level of service not typically available with self-serve solutions.  AdTheorent Direct Access leverages AdTheorent’s industry-leading platform and performance-first approach to media executions and should be considered by advertisers for high impact digital advertising campaigns.

Category : Big Data, Digital Media

Vikrant Gandhi


Fourteen years of product marketing, research, and consulting expertise, which includes supporting clients’ needs through more than 140 syndicated market research deliverables and consulting assignments. Particular expertise in Assessing next-generation telecommunications trends, technologies and market dynamics; Helping clients develop and execute their go-to-market strategies; Providing continuous inputs to clients into new market developments and helping them understand the strategic implications.

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