Why Most DSPs Have Failed to Deliver Full-Funnel Content Return on Investment

Content Amplification

One of the leading industry questions that’s been around for more than 10 years is, “How do I deliver and measure the ROI of content marketing?” This question has been the subject of countless blog posts and many conference presentations. Demand supply platforms (DSPs) tap into more than one online advertising network in order to programmatically display some form of advertising for content – display, native, social, etc. Why is it that so many of these DSPs fail to deliver on content ROI post production?

Before we can answer that question, we need to look at what KPIs actually drive ROI. What used to drive online ROI isn’t the same today as it once used to be. Due to the high adoption rate of content marketing and the flood of owned, earned and paid media there’s much more noise online than there used to be. We’re in an era of content surpluses, as opposed to the former content deficits.

Basically, what this means is that in the past, for most industries, there were more people online looking for content to answer their questions than actual content available. These days that has reversed. There’s more content online offering solutions across industries than people looking for it.

This is problematic because it creates a noisy online arena where brands are jockeying for attention digitally across channels using content. The most used and traditional forms of content exposure have been the following:

  • Organic and paid search
  • Organic social media
  • Display advertising
  • Email

I remember well how great these channels served my team for many years. They still have an impact, but not like they used to. Paid search pricing has skyrocketed, there’s only 10 positions organically on the first page of Google, organic social media has squelched its visibility, display advertising is ignored, and our inboxes are bursting at the seams.

Back when these channels ruled the roost, we marketers focused on impressions and clicks primarily. . . and it worked! However, it’s not quite working like it once did.

Because of this the marketplace has evolved and developed new and innovative forms of content exposure and amplification for brands. It had to. These newer forms include:

  • Programmatic native advertising
  • Sponsored content
  • Online PR/influencer marketing

These solutions are great, but only one of them scales – programmatic native advertising. Not only does this channel scale but does so in a non-interruptive way (unlike the traditional forms of paid content exposure). Looking at various studies (there’s so many I don’t even feel I need to put a list of links in this article) it’s clear that brands and agencies are investing the most in programmatic native advertising versus the other more recent channels.

This is important to note, because not all native advertising channels are created equal. Some actually make it harder to measure and drive ROI. When I say network, what I mean is SSP (Supply Side Network). That just simply means the original network the content was promoted on. Facebook in this description would be considered a social media SSP.

DSPs tap into more than one SSP to allow advertisers to add scale to their content distribution across one interface, instead of multiple ones. What is preferred? If you want scale for the distribution of your content would you rather dive into 40+ paid media interfaces on one technology to tap them all or use each one independently? That was a trick question. We know the answer already.

OK, so we’ve determined that scaling paid content distribution from a DSP is the most efficient in driving the views we need, as opposed to going to one or more networks and possibly having to manage multiple interfaces to accomplish our goals.

Now the question we need to ask ourselves is, “what are our goals?” The bottom-line answer is “ROI.” However, there’s a series of tactical and up-funnel KPIs that drive ROI. It’s our job, as marketers, to identify and measure them to move down the funnel and track ROI.

When it comes to programmatic paid content distribution there’s only four things that are measured towards KPIs in the macro-sense.

  1. Impressions
  2. Clicks
  3. Engagement
  4. Post-click action

For over a decade, we have been satisfied with impressions and clicks as our KPIs for paid content distribution. Question – do you produce content for ad impressions or clicks? Seriously, think about it. Or, rather, do you produce content to deliver actual content engagement? Which do you think drives the most ROI?

Based on our own studies, there is NO correlation between impressions, clicks and engagement. In fact, the bot/fraud industry is astute at driving impression and click numbers to pad the pockets of scammers. Not only that, but Chartbeat Analytics learned that two thirds of all programmatic native advertising clicks bounce within less than 15 seconds. Why that is significant is because the 15 second mark means that 70% of average consumer views 80% or more of the content at the 15 second mark.

Now, back to the original question – Why do most DSP fail to deliver ROI?

Because ALL of them optimize the platforms across SSPs for impressions or clicks. They’re fraught with click fraud and all sorts of nefarious schemes. Networks and technology that doesn’t optimize towards 15 seconds or more of content engagement waste two thirds of paid media spend. What if you had to run the 100-meter dash and couldn’t leave the starting gate until all the other runners were two thirds the way down the track? Do you think you could win?

The question we need to ask ourselves is if our DSP optimizes towards impressions, clicks, or engagement. I can answer that question for you – if you’re not working with inPowered your optimizing towards impressions or clicks only. Any other way you’re failing to deliver optimized content ROI by using AI technology to maximize content engagement.

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