Buy, Build, Or Both? A Response to Today’s AdExchanger Article

April 10, 2015 — by Rachel Meranus    

In the rapidly-evolving world of digital marketing, the decision to build versus buy the necessary capabilities is a big one; oftentimes so big that brands push off that decision in favor of status quo. But with the proliferation of media channels and connected devices, the fragmentation of media consumption, and the growing accountability of marketing for true business outcomes, more and more brands are faced with the decision of whether and how to bring technology in-house.

In today’s AdExchanger article “To Build Or Buy An In-House Programmatic Stack? Do Both,” Tony Ralph, director of advertising technology at Netflix, gives sound advice for marketers facing this conundrum, and, as the title of the article indicates,  the answer is a hybrid of both.

As Ralph explains, for an advertiser, choosing the right technology partner makes all the difference in success, “…a prudent path is often to pick the right vendors that allow them to evolve their programmatic practice organically, by building in conjunction with the platform.”  More specifically, this partner should be one “…that allows immediate execution while simultaneously enabling iterative development ’on top of‘ the platform over time.’”

I’ve attempted to summarize Ralph’s advice on identifying the right partner below, while adding a bit of my own.

Determine the partner’s philosophical approach to building their technology – are they building for a managed service or self-service world?  Regardless of how you intend to use the platform (via a 3rd party managed service partner such as an agency or with your own in-house specialists), a partner who builds their technology with a self-service mentality has put the advertiser’s best interest first.

The “foundational component” to look for is a full-featured API.  APIs allow you to customize your marketing technology stack, adding other partners to the infrastructure, or building your own custom applications. Importantly, if a partner isn’t using their own APIs to build apps on their platform, that’s a red flag indicating that, perhaps API’s are not being treated as a “first-class feature.”

Another critical feature is a “first-class event-level data offering,” – look for true event-level storage that enables real-time dynamic segmentation rather than static segments, cross-device user identity not limited to cookies, and lossless activation to your media buying environment.

In short: pick a partner that you can grow with…look for one that provides “a sliding scale of end states.” One size does not fit all and as such, you should have choices and growth opportunities.

Lastly, for you to be truly successful with your partner, you need access to them in ways you may never have considered.  You need influence over their roadmap to know that your business interests are top of mind with your partner.  That they will grow with you.

There’s a lot more great stuff in Tony’s article.  I highly recommend reading it today!