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How DMPs Are Like Famous Detectives

By Martin Kihn | January 05, 2016 | 0 Comments


Welcome back, marketers! Let’s start by discussing how ad tech platforms resemble certain detectives of the Golden Age. Stay with me, crimestoppers.

During the Depression and dark wartime years, there lurked an eccentric solver named Nero Wolfe. In the era of action figures like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, Wolfe decrypted the most outrageous stumpers without ever leaving his Manhattan apartment. He was obese, a lover of orchids, and absolutely agoraphobic. What we might call – to borrow the name of a popular character of an earlier era, whose creator died on the Titanic – a Thinking Machine.

Nero Wolfe is the data management platform (DMP) of detectives. While Marlowe and Poirot and Wimsey and so on all run around like demented ad servers and demand-side platforms (DSPs), Wolfe sits in his book-lined study telling the cops what to do.

I’ve said somewhere that a DMP is a “smart database” and I stand resolved. Storage is not the least of its functions. But let’s remember the preamble: It’s smart. It makes decisions. As a fair rule, the DMP relies on links to other systems to get anything done. It’s this existential gap between mind and body that makes the DMP among the most difficult of ad tech-mar tech systems for marketers to understand.

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone

That doesn’t stop us from trying (yet again). Let’s think of the DMP as a wonderful tool to:

  • Store, organize and update info you need for marketing and advertising
  • Build targets for advertising and rules for personalizing

Everything else it offers – like reports and dashboards and triggers and automated models – is really related to the above two goals.

Now I was tooling around the virtual world recently and ran across an academic paper written by some brainiacs at Turn (Turn offers a DMP and a DSP ) and other places. It neatly recalls the problem the DMP originally appeared to solve:

“While a lot of work has ben done to optimize each individual channel, how different channels interact with each other is little understood. … One main obstacle is that while there are abundant data to leverage, they are all in different platforms and in different forms.”

The paper goes on to describe Turn’s architecture, admiring the audacity of these ad tech systems’ ability to churn through information of almost comical size at hideous speeds – they mention 1 million+ ad decisions per second, in 2013, – and yet bewildering shallowness. Given the ratio of noise to signal in all those impressions and offers, ad tech feels like a jetski crossing a desert as wide as the planet and deep as a grain of sand.

Would you like to know The Top 10 Amazing Secrets of DMPs? Of course you do.

And it’s coming – on Thursday, two days from now, at 10 a.m. ET. Until then, keep solving crimes.

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