How do I know if that demand source is legit?

If you’re a publisher and you have a "contact us" email listed on your site, chances are you get multiple emails from demand sources and ad tech vendors nearly every day. From traditional ad networks to exchanges, from SSPs to vendors with proprietary ad units, the lumascape is certainly not getting cleaner. One of the most common questions we get from current and prospective clients is “who should we be working with?” Honestly, even with a birds-eye view across multiple verticals and different types and sizes of publishers it is still difficult to keep track. However, given how often this comes up and how important these decisions are, it is not something that can be ignored in the hopes that it will go away or resolve itself.

Based on our experience with dozens of different demand sources over years, here are some questions to ask and things to consider:

Has anyone heard of them? New vendors and platforms are popping up constantly. Its impossible to keep track of every firm and whether or not they are worth pursuing. Ask around. See if colleagues have heard of the company you’re evaluating, or better yet any firsthand experience. The demand sources for pubs is a good living document. Check reddit or do a google search.

How’s their English? While not always an immediate disqualifier, this should raise red flags. If their sales person cannot compose a simple legible email, what do you think their day-to-day support is going to be like? Read their website. If you find typos, boilerplate language, lack of an about us page with actual human employees/founders or no address on their contact us page, the risk is probably not worth the reward. One exception to this rule is if you are looking for significant international demand. In that case, if you’ve found a firm that matches up well with the audience you are looking to monetize, you will want to have a signed agreement and a clear understanding of their support process and availability before launching their tags.

Where does their demand come from? Do they have their own sales team or are they simply re-brokering demand from other sources? Any firm that claims to be able to get you higher yields from something you can do yourself is unlikely to deliver any long term value. The ad tech ecosystem is so rife with middlemen they are unavoidable, but at the very least you should make sure that they have their own sales channel or some proprietary technology that is more than just marketing hype.

What is their reporting dashboard like? You want access to daily data, broken out by ad unit or ad size and you want to be able to export it into excel. Plenty of other possible functionality, but these are must haves. Seems simple enough, but surprisingly uncommon.

Where do they perform best? Their top-performing geos should match up with your traffic. If your audience skews more mobile than desktop, you’ll want proprietary ad units and confirmation that mobile is a major focus of their business. If you run a heavily visual website with a lot of images, you may want to seek out a vendor that specializes in image-based monetization.

What are they willing to guarantee? Will they commit to a minimum spend? Ultimately, they need you as much as (if not more than) you need them. If they are asking to run a test, make them guarantee a CPM, ideally with 100% fill. They should also commit to spending a minimum amount. Remember, you still have to deal with the headache of collecting payment even if you only run $100 worth of inventory.

Don’t brush over the nitty gritty. Read their agreement or IO. Find out what the payment terms are. Many times, they stipulate that you don’t get paid until they do by they advertiser. That can mean 90 days or more. Often they require the publisher to invoice them, which is another thing for your team to deal with. 

What’s the impact? Most importantly, what is the upside for you? Are you inserting additional generic display demand into an already cluttered ad stack, so that there is little upside to be made? Are you introducing a heavily intrusive unit onto an already overloaded page? As a publisher, your most important (and for many only) asset is your audience. Do not piss them off. Maintain focus on the long run and only try new units of monetization after careful analysis.

The next time you comb through your “contact us” inbox trying to decide what to respond to and what to delete, remember these rules. Select partners that are well known and trusted, force them to bring real value to you and hold them accountable.