Rocket Fuel targets independent agencies with new self-serve DSP

Global ad tech company Rocket Fuel has for the first time made its digital media buying platform available to agencies and marketers in North America on a self-serve basis, giving clients greater control over Rocket Fuel-powered campaigns at a lower price point.

Rocket Fuel hopes that its high level of automation compared to other self-serve demand-side platforms will prove attractive to independent agencies, which typically have fewer resources available to manage programmatic trading in-house. While the large holding companies have set up subsidiaries that are dedicated to programmatic buying (such as GroupM’s Xaxis or Omnicom’s Accuen), independents usually have to figure out programmatic themselves.

Rocket Fuel counts both holdcos and independents as its clients, but the new self-serve platform may be especially appealing to independents who want a low-touch platform with minimal fees that still delivers strong performance.

Independent U.S. agency Booyah Advertising has been one of the first to commit to the new self-serve platform. “Rocket Fuel’s campaign optimization technology has always led the pack for Booyah in its ability to make the most of any media budget,” Booyah president Troy Lerner said in a release.

Rocket Fuel CEO George John says Booyah has been pushing for self-service for some time.

“For them, the agility is a big selling point,” John told AD-Vantage. “If one media buy is going better than another, it’s so much easier to go in and make changes on the platform.”

He said that contrary to popular belief, programmatic trading makes a lot of sense for independent and boutique agencies, and that independent agencies were among Rocket Fuel’s earliest adopters. In order to compete with big holding companies, independents have to be light on their feet and innovating constantly, he explained — and being closely held gives them the agility to hop on new platforms and spread new strategies through the company quickly.

An army of robots at your fingertips

Rocket Fuel’s self-service clients will use the same interface for digital media campaigns that Rocket Fuel’s own traders use. But John said that unlike other DSPs, Rocket Fuel uses always-on optimization by default, meaning that “artificial intelligence” makes many of the tactical decisions about which channels and placements to buy. The upshot is that traders have to make very few decisions before launching a campaign, and the platform does most of the work.

“The whole campaign adapts itself to do more of whatever works,” said John. “It’s like promoting yourself to be a manager of robots.”

Of course, Rocket Fuel’s heavily automated approach to trading doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some marketers and agency traders want to make fine-grained decisions about their campaigns, relying on their own expertise to spot problems and course-correct, rather than machine intelligence.

But John said marketers and agencies have been learning to rely on machines. Being able to buy media as it’s being shown to viewers makes many of the time-tested truths of marketing – like the best day of the week to advertise, or demos that are pointless to market certain products to – obsolete. While those principles may have proven useful when buying media weeks or months in advance, with real-time media machines can suss out and implement insights before humans are even aware of them.

Rocket Fuel was already available for self-service trading in Japan, where it’s used by the DentsuAegis Network, but John said the company held off on making the platform available in North America and Europe — largely because clients here hadn’t gotten used to thinking in real-time, and didn’t yet feel comfortable letting artificial intelligence direct their campaigns.

“What’s changed is now we have enough customers who trust us,” he said.

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