For digital platforms, integrations are like data — let’s shift the discussion from quantity to quality

08 Aug 2017 | By Tobias Arns

It's often said that the quality of conversation is the best indicator of subject matter understanding. The more superficial, the less true understanding there likely is. Talking about binary options (yes/no) and quantity alone (how many?) always precedes qualitative and more substantive discussions (what does it do, how does it exactly work, what are the actual commercial implications?)

Such superficial discussions, especially on complex and versatile issues is commonplace in emerging technology driven markets — especially when there's intense competition, and all are rushing to claim the highest peaks by claiming the most of this or the best of that.. Alternatively, it's of course also possible that such opacity and lack of precision around the subject matter is used very deliberately, and we'll address this alternative here equally.

Either way, the general obfuscation of business critical detail, and the pursuit of simplifying everything into a simple numerical comparison (such as the number of integrations) are not only counter-productive for the industry at large, but quite frankly outright dangerous for customers trying to separate the wheat from the chaff.

All DMP integrations are not created equal

When assessing DMPs, the subject of integrations always ranks high on the scorecard. And for good reason. However, what unfortunately almost always gets lost in translation — but which in reality far outranks in true importance the gross number of integrations for anyone assessing the right DMP partner for them — is the quality, commercial terms, and provided functionality of these integrations. Integrations are not created equal, far from it. For those more familiar with actual integration details as opposed to their marketing collateral derivatives, you know what I’m talking about.

So why should DMP customers scrutinize their DMP providers on the quality, commercial terms, and provided functionality of integrations relevant for them, as opposed to being fooled by an impressive gross number of integrations entered into a RFI cell?

The reason is that integrations come in may shapes and sizes. They equally come with very varying usage terms. They can support data flows in one way only, or be bi-directional. They can offer access only the open data marketplaces, or also enable peer-to-peer level data licensing alike.They can be direct platform integrations, or they can be intermediated by a middleware provider. They can offer execution only, or execution and reporting on execution. They may support segment data level transfer only, or also raw data and campaign performance data alike. Again, there is more than one possible direction for most of these data flows. They may be treat every ’data integration' as bulk being executed as best effort, or they may offer over-the-top console accessible transparency into how the integrations are truly performing. They also vary considerably on their commercial usage terms.

You have the right to demand more

As a customer, you have the right to demand more. In fact, you have an obligation to demand more. For reference, if it hadn’t been for customers demanding more qualitative campaign reporting, we’d all still be using ad server impressions only. Because of customers demanding more, IAB viewable impression are the base line today, with a shift already happening towards even more qualitative impression level data on actual in-view times.

If your DMP candidates cannot clearly — and with great detail when requested — explain exactly what their integrations truly offer you in terms of customer utility and value, then most probably these 'integrations’ don't offer much at all. Hence the deliberate obfuscation.

Don’t settle for a binary black and white claim on integrations. It is upon you to demand the full Technicolor version instead.