Data Management Platforms 101

Ariana Gale in Adtech 101

in Adtech 101

As all marketers know, effective targeting is one of the keys to campaign success – but effective targeting relies on having access to rich datasets.  Continuing our adtech 101 series explaining the fundamentals of all things adtech, we move on to consider the technology used to power advanced advertising segmentation and customisation– data management platforms.

In a sentence, what are data management platforms?

A data management platform (DMP) enables the collection, analysis and storage of large quantities of audience data for use by advertisers, agencies, publishers or adtech intermediaries to enhance their targeting capabilities when undertaking behavioural advertising.

How do data management platforms work?

A DMP collects a huge range of both online and offline data.  The starting point is first-party data from an advertiser’s own direct customers, such as customer databases, mailing lists and web and analytics tools.  The DMP can also act as a central storage unit in which to amalgamate information about advertising activity and campaign data, which may have been bought across a variety of demand-side platforms (DSPs) or collected from ad networks or ad exchanges.

In addition, the DMP also imports (often aggregated and anonymised) third-party data from various data vendors.  Data used/stored in the DMP can come from a multitude of sources such as connected devices, wearables, set-top boxes, Internet of Things devices, marketing data and point-of-sale (both in-store or through e-Commerce).

These different pools of data are overlaid and cross-referenced to create a detailed profile about individual customers or cookie IDs.  The data is then analysed using advanced algorithms to de-duplicate the data, match users across different devices and define groups of users who share the same attributes or behaviours.

Who uses them?

Advertisers can use these enhanced datasets to better understand their existing audiences, and target new groups of “lookalikes” (users who share the same qualities or habits as existing customers).  The information from DMPs can then be plugged into DSPs, ad networks or ad exchanges to inform buy decisions when trading in real-time (including bid amount) or to determine which ad, or creative, is served to which user, at which time – often across multiple channels and devices.  These campaigns will provide additional data about the users, which can in turn be fed back into the DMP to further hone the targeting or re-marketing in real-time.

However, DMPs are not just of benefit to advertisers.  Agencies can use DMPs to combine and analyse the results of multiple client campaigns to generate insight which informs future campaigns for all clients.  On the publisher side, DMPs enable website owners to gain a fuller understanding of their users, which can be used to increase the value of certain inventory on the site for advertisers who want to be sure of targeting specific audiences.

Should all advertisers be using a DMP?

On the one hand, DMPs provide a platform for advertisers with large amounts of first-party data to manage this effectively.  For global companies who buy advertising across multiple platforms, the structured integration and storage of data is, in itself, a valuable service.

In addition, DMPs clearly offer more than just an advanced CRM, as they allow advertisers the chance to amalgamate their own data with that from other sources in order to optimize future media buying.  As such, a DMP is an essential element of any advertiser’s arsenal of adtech resources.

However, DMP technology is increasingly being offered, in varying degrees, by most DSPs – it is already common to find DSPs offering advertisers the possibility of creating audiences for re-targeting.  Last year saw a spate of DMP acquisitions in order to strengthen the acquirer’s data management capability quickly, such as the acquisition of BlueKai by Oracle last year.  This means that it is now less likely that advertisers will have to employ a standalone DMP – although the advantage would be that independent DMPs can link to multiple DSPs rather than being locked into a single ecosystem.  The other option that some advertisers have taken is to develop their own in-house DMP, giving them ultimate control over the data.

Key data management plaforms

Forrester’s report on DMPs in January this year ranked the top 10 as Adobe, Cxense, IgnitionOne, Krux, Lotame, MediaMath, Neustar, Oracle, Rocketfuel and Turn.


Having acquired standalone DMP BlueKai in early 2014, Oracle completed the year with an acquisition of Datalogix, the company recognised within the industry for having the ability to connect offline consumer spending to digital marketing.  The DMP is part of Oracle’s wider Marketing Cloud offering.


Rocketfuel acquired standalone DMP [x+1] last year.  This included the KeyChain offering, which provides a persistent offline identifier to enable online and offline data linkage, meaning that advertisers can recognize more customers in more locations.  This is part of Rocketfuel’s wider Programmatic Marketing Platform.


One of the few remaining standalone DMPs, Krux sells itself as a neutral DMP with no conflicts of interest.  It can integrate and communicate with all major DSPs, ad networks and exchanges and hence avoids any concern relating to “walled garden” effects.

Data Management Platforms 101 was last modified: October 16th, 2015 by Ariana Gale