Self-Serve or Managed Service

What’s right for your app: Self-Serve or Managed Service?

Programmatic advertising is not for the faint of heart. But, it’s still the most efficient, precise and scalable way to grow your app compared to manual media buying. From working with different dashboards to understanding multiple data reporting methodologies, managing a mobile growth strategy can be complex (to say the least). That’s why thoughtfully identifying the right type of DSPs to partner with is critical. This includes deciding between a self-serve DSP or a managed service. Below, we define both types of DSPs and outline which is the best fit based on your app’s resources and growth needs.

But first, what is a DSP?

A DSP or demand-side platform is a system that lets advertisers purchase and manage digital ad inventories from multiple ad exchanges through a single interface. As a marketing automation tool, DSPs streamline the process of programmatic ad buying; so that advertisers can purchase high-quality impressions at scale with minimal friction. While a DSP’s technology functions automatically through algorithms, the platform itself is managed by media buyers and account managers.

What is a Self-Serve DSP?

A self-serve DSP is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: marketers sign up for access to a platform integrated with a variety of ad channels, publishers etc. to manage their own mobile programmatic ad buys. With a self-serve DSP, marketers have total control of the configuration and optimization of their campaigns from beginning to end in real-time.

Self-Serve DSP: Pros & Cons

If your app or performance marketing agency employs programmatic professionals already, then a self-serve DSP could be the best fit for your mobile advertising needs. This means you have at least one full-time team member who knows how to set up advanced audience targeting and conversion tracking, data layering, and budget configuration on your team. This individual should also have the bandwidth to consistently manage campaigns, interpret data, and make optimizations.

If you do not have this expertise currently on your team, then a self-serve DSP might not be the right fit. While a self-serve option gives you total control and transparency into your campaign, it also requires full-time, dedicated management. This can drain resources if your marketing team is lean.

Benefits of a Self-Serve DSP:

  • Total control & transparency
  • No campaign minimum or management fees – good fit if your overall advertising budget is small
  • Freedom and flexibility to manage every aspect of your campaign

Disadvantages of a Self-Serve DSP:

  • Steep learning curve
  • Requires full-time, in-house dedicated support
  • If you’re managing channels and a larger advertising budget, can be inefficient
What is a Managed Service DSP?

A managed or full-service DSP functions as an agency would. They’ll provide you with an account manager and team to set up and manage your campaign from beginning to end.

While this type of DSP will take charge of technical details, like data science and campaign configuration, your marketing team will still lead the campaign’s branding, creatives and overall strategy. You’ll work with your managed DSP to plan your campaign and set out objectives, target audience, budget and channels.

Once your insertion order (IO) is approved, your managed service DSP will take over day-to-day operations and troubleshooting. This includes managing bidding adjustments, engagement monitoring, optimizations, and ongoing data analysis. Of course, your DSP will provide you with regular campaign reporting and strategic suggestions to keep you up-to-date on your performance.

Managed Service DSP: Pros & Cons

Opting for this type of DSP can give you less control and flexibility over the execution of your ad campaigns. However, it could be the right fit if your marketing team is small and unfamiliar with the programmatic ecosystem.

Additionally, managing the day-to-day minutiae of programmatic campaigns can be time-consuming and overwhelming. Outsourcing this hyper technical aspect of your marketing strategy can free your team up to manage more strategic initiatives. It can also give you access to exclusive inventory. Depending on the specialization of your DSP partner, they might have integration with unique in-app inventory. They might also have unique first party data or targeting models to more efficiently scale up your campaign than if you managed your own campaign with a self-serve DSP.

Benefits of a Managed Service DSP:

  • Strategic recommendations and data reports
  • Access to exclusive inventory
  • No learning curve (saves time, resources and energy)
  • Historical expertise & data

Disadvantages of a Managed Service DSP:

  • Management fees
  • Need to go through an agency to make adjustments to your campaign
What’s right for your app: Self-Serve or Managed Service?

Deciding which DSP type is right for your app, depends on your team’s resources, expertise and budget. As mentioned above, if you have knowledgeable programmatic professionals on your team who can manage ad buying in house, then a self-serve DSP will be cost-effective. It could also be the more efficient option since it gives your team the flexibility to make instantaneous campaign changes without going through a third party. Finally, it could be the right fit if your overall advertising budget is small.

On the other hand, if your team is not knowledgeable about mobile programmatic buying and/or doesn’t have the bandwidth to manage this complicated process, then a managed service could be the better fit. Even if your team has experience with programmatic, it might be the best fit. Why? Because a managed service will be dedicated to the overall, day-to-day needs of your campaign.

Account managers and data scientists at managed service DSPs are also focused in the programmatic ecosystem. They’re on top of the trends, the channels that are performing and ones that aren’t. Your account team at a managed DSP can focus solely on scaling your growth campaigns so that you can dedicate your resources to other parts of your marketing strategy.

Meet Nero: A Managed Service with Self-Serve Capabilities

To meet the needs of different apps and marketing teams comprehensively, we recently launched our Nero platform. Through a single user interface, Nero gives advertisers complete visibility into the combination of variables involved in their programmatic media buys. This includes full dashboard visibility into their campaign along with day-to-day optimization and management by an expert growth team.

Finally, Nero is being built to accommodate the future needs of marketers, as more apps move media buying in-house. In the future, Nero will be able to support the self-serve capabilities of advertisers, letting them pick and choose the parts of their campaign they want to control versus those they prefer for LifeStreet to manage. And eventually, if and when they are ready to build their own programmatic strategies, they will have the ability to directly access a full suite of tools needed to manage their own campaigns.

Looking for a DSP to Meet Your Programmatic Growth Needs?

Whether you’re looking for a managed service option or not, LifeStreet’s Nero platform has agile growth solutions for your app. Contact our team to request a demo and get started today.

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