April 2, 2024 | 4 min read

3 Headaches of Advertising Through Onboarders (And How to Fix Them)

Switching to direct activation to ad environments makes paid media faster, less expensive, and more effective.

Woman looking frustrated, surrounded by red icons indicating problems like a clock for slowness, a dollar sign for cost, and a warning triangle for malfunction.

For years paid media marketers have been told the answer to their problems is using more first-party data. But when they do, and the results don’t live up to the hype, they get frustrated — understandably so. 

Why isn’t the promise of first party data paying off? The culprit is very likely their onboarder, the service used to get audience data into ad platforms such as Meta or The Trade Desk. These onboarders include companies like Liveramp, Axciom, or Epsilon, legacy solutions that worked when they came on the market a decade ago but haven’t kept up with the evolving ad ecosystem. Today, paid media through onboarders is slow, less effective, and more expensive.

If you skip the onboarder and activate directly to ad platforms, it makes your paid media efforts faster, more effective, AND less expensive. That means you can put more dollars to delivering ads to customers and not wasting it on legacy solutions acting as the middleman.

By direct activation, I mean sending audiences straight to your seat in ad platforms like Google, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat without filtering them through a 3P graph. This requires a custom connector that CDPs have.

At a time when advancements in AI are promising much greater speed, scale, and personalization, it doesn’t pay to stay shackled to an old technology that takes two weeks to deliver data and loses 50% of the signal along the way. Direct activation represents an easy change that every paid media marketer should make to drive growth and innovation. 

Let’s dig into how direct activation makes your paid media work better. 

Faster activation 

Onboarders typically take 7 to 14 days to get a campaign into an ad environment. Sometimes even more — I've worked with Amperity clients whose time to market through their onboarder was more than 25 days. Even more frustrating, there was no transparency around what was happening during that time, or why it took so long. 

In contrast, when marketers activate directly to ad platforms, the ads are live in two hours. That includes clients like First Hawaiian Bank, who had previously been stuck at 26 days

That bears repeating: two weeks or more, down to two hours

Needless to say, this makes marketing teams much more agile and efficient. 

Direct activation is a critical example of why you should own, not rent, your paid media data and process. 

More effective activation

When you send an audience to an ad platform, it matches your list with the records it has and serves ads to the people who match from both lists. With an ad onboarder, typical match rates are below 40% — but sometimes zoom up to as high as 120% or more. 

What this tells you is that the matching process is no longer effective, trustworthy, or both. How else can you match 120% of an audience?

Meanwhile, when I work with brands who are activating directly, they see match rates of 85-95% across key platforms and, more importantly, improved campaign performance like the 5x increase in return on ad spend we saw with SPARC Group

There are two reasons for this delta in match rate between onboarders and direct activation. One, every handoff entails a loss of data fidelity. Taking one step out of the process means a more efficient data supply chain. And two, onboarders take the audiences they’re sent and reference these against their own identity graphs, which are founded on third-party data sourced from other vendors and increasingly becoming less accurate. 

Grounding the audience in first-party data without extra handoffs or reference to a third-party-based identity graph makes the matching more effective, so your ads get in front of the customers you want to see them. 

Less expensive activation

Onboarders maintain their own identity graphs, based primarily on third-party data. That means that they need to pay for the use of that data, and they don’t simply absorb that cost — they pass it on to the marketers who use their service. 

Instead of paying what’s essentially a middleman’s fee to use the onboarder’s audiences, brands can build their own identity graph and skip the extra cost. 

What kind of savings are we talking about? Fee structures for onboarders vary, but typically start at $10K per month per ad platform destination. Direct activation cuts this cost in half. 

Onboarders used to be great — now there’s a better way

A lot of paid media marketers I speak with feel like they’re locked in to their onboarders, with no easy replacements .

Good news: direct activation improves performance across the board. It’s not just an alternative, it’s a much better approach. Better news: Amperity can help paid media marketers test and compare results fast.

So why did people ever sign on with onboarders in the first place? Because it used to get the job done. It’s important to keep this in mind — when your team started using an onboarder, it wasn’t a mistake or a bad decision. 

This is legacy technology that once stood at the forefront of advertising innovation. Now it’s gotten a little long in the tooth. Direct activation can and should replace it as a more effective, more efficient approach to paid media. It’s a critical example of why you should own, not rent, your paid media data and process. 

Watch a demo and learn more about how Amperity can help you quickly make the switch to direct activation for paid media that's faster, less expensive, and more effective.