Gartner recently published a paper called Critical Capabilities for Ad Tech. It evaluates the future of programmatic in companies of various sizes. This paper can also serve as a handy overview of DSPs and DMPs on the market.

Caveat: this is my take on information from Gartner. I’m viewing it through the lens of an agency man who had enough time to play with various platforms. Tailor my recommendations to your own needs.

Small Overview of Ad Tech Vendors

Adform

Gartner recommends
Marketers looking for a technically solid, media-neutral, full-stack solution should consider Adform for their ad tech needs.

If you are running campaigns in Europe, Adform has a lot to offer – great customer support, integration with many different inventories, ability to target using third-party data (perfect for Germany). You can bend this GDPR-ready and very versatile tool to your will.

UI is somewhere between “not ideal” and “atrocious”. When it comes to media planning, Excel is a better bet than Adform.

when you start working with Dynamic Creative Optimisation, be aware it is still undergoing development and enhancements, so it might function on different campaigns differently. Adform also allows to run Connected TV creatives in certain inventories, which is cool.

Adobe

Gartner recommends
Marketers that lean toward an in-house approach to paid media advertising strategy, operations and measurement should consider Adobe Advertising Cloud.

Great DMP / CDP, decent DSP. Based on my sources, fees might be quite expensive, so nothing for start-up agencies. Adobe offers precise tools for an upmarket price tag.

I would contend with Gartner only on one point – customer support. If it is as bad as with their other products, most notably Analytics, which is also a paid product, run away.

Criteo

Gartner recommends
Marketers looking for a performance media solution with reliable software and services should consider Criteo for their ad tech needs.

Most widely known for its aggressive retargeting capabilities, Criteo is closer to a performance-based model of display advertising than to branding.

Agencies and retail clients use it to ensure conversions don’t escape from the bottom of the funnel.

Display & Video 360

Gartner recommends
Marketers with heavy investments in the Google stack should consider Google Display & Video 360 for their ad tech needs.

If you are running on Google stack, you would have to be mad not to use DV360. It perfectly integrates with tools like Google Analytics 360 or BigQuery. DV360 doesn’t have a great DMP, but who needs that when you can purchase already polished audiences straight from Google…

Barriers to entry are high on smaller markets, especially when it comes to required spend. That’s why many Central European advertisers prefer Adform to DV360.

Xandr (formerly AppNexus)

Gartner recommends
U.S. marketers focused on integrating premium TV and video advertising with other programmatic formats should consider Xandr Invest for their ad tech needs.

Fully agree with Gartner here. Xandr is great for campaigns in the U.S. If you are thinking of running ads in Europe, go for Adform.

In terms of UI, Xandr is better than Adform, but then again so is having your car stolen. Some ad exchanges are integrating Xandr for its DSP and DMP capabilities they believe to be on par with the industry standard.

The Trade Desk

Gartner recommends
Marketers focused on a transparent, agency-enabled approach to programmatic advertising should consider The Trade Desk for their ad tech needs.

Although Gartner gave this platform a really great score, I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe this year…

This list doesn’t comprise all vendors that Gartner evaluated. Feel free to read the original paper.

Conclusion?

There are no definitive winners or losers here, as everything depends on your organisation’s ad tech needs.

If you are an American advertiser focused on video, I would recommend Xandr.

Do you want to run ads in Europe and target like Mad Hatter? Give Adform a try.

Trying Criteo might make sense to those pressed for ROI instead of reach and frequency.

If you have more money than God and you don’t like Google, go for Adobe. If you have more money than God and do like Google, DV360 is clearly your poison.

Try as many as you can and make up your own mind. I’d love to hear about your experience.