Not every big advertiser still believes a data management platform can unlock the alchemy that turns data into gold.

Duracell, for example, have opted to ditch their DMPs. Other advertisers like Radisson Hotels Group think they need a DMP, but are unsure of how to make it work in a way that does more than just serve targeted banner ads.

According to four different ad tech experts, the trend has gathered pace in recent months. One programmatic consultant, who spoke to Digiday on condition of anonymity, said clients have removed tags from their advertising and websites in the short term so that they aren’t putting any data into the DMPs, which stops the platform incurring costs. Data collection is a focus with the impending enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation, but simple business concerns are motivating marketers more.

“Eighty percent of the advertisers I speak to feel like they’re not getting the most from their DMP,” said the consultant. “But rather than shut them down and admit that a piece of technology so expensive hasn’t worked up until now, I’m seeing marketers use the GDPR to exercise break clauses in their contracts with DMPs so they can figure things out.”

There’s an opportunity for advertisers to save face. No CMO would want to switch off a DMP indefinitely — not after expending all the resources to set it up. In most scenarios, there’s a tripartite relationship between brand, agency and DMP when it comes to ownership of the data and the skill sets. That takes time and money to establish. And even once the data is inside the DMP, establishing the organizational processes that allow that data to make its way into planning, execution and insight is tough and requires a lot of time, effort and rigor.

It’s not surprising, then, that many advertisers are wondering whether the rewards of a DMP justify the costs. The looming GDPR can compound those fears, said Pierre Diennet, product director at ad tech firm Lotame, which has a DMP business. Diennet has noticed more advertisers realizing they’ve poured more data into DMPs, but haven’t had the results to show for it. “A lot of the time, the most important thing brands need to consider is how they brought their data [into the DMP],” said Diennet. “What this means is that optimizing DMP usage is the main challenge to success, not necessarily GDPR. Brands need to start thinking strategically about how they feed that data into the platform by considering what pages on a site they decided to tag up, for example.”

There are marketers who have been “hoodwinked” into believing a DMP would resolve their data challenges, said Charles Cantu, CEO of ad tech company Huddled Masses. DMPs will find themselves under “scrutiny similar to what ad tech vendors are experiencing, but will adjust their services and pricing to continue to grow,” he said. Nevertheless, DMPs will be required to be much more accountable that what they “prophesize to marketers as the future is paved in performance and success, not theory, acronyms and mystery,” said Cantu.

Being able to pick apart a DMP is easier said than done for many advertisers still debating what skills they need to bring in-house. Advertisers are currently only use DMPs to leverage their first-party data across programmatic channels, said Wayne Blodwell, CEO at The Programmatic Advisory, which advises businesses on how to develop their own DMPs. The “full potential of a DMP is only unlocked when advertisers can start to use that data across all channels,” said Blodwell.

“The reality is many brands are still trying to get their processes organized enough so they can run some targeted banners, which you do not need a DMP to do,” he said.

It’s ironic that the DMP’s role is being questioned at a time when it’s more important than ever for advertisers to be able to legally harvest intelligence from various data sources. The industry is filled with talk of why advertisers should move to customer data platforms, which manage first-party rather than third-party data. While there’s a clearly a role for emerging technologies, if advertisers don’t focus on how they validate their data and others’ data, they will find themselves chasing windmills once again.

This story was updated after it was incorrectly reported that Deutsche Telekom no longer used a DMP. The advertiser still, however, continues to work with Adform for audience segment building.

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