How Advertisers and Publishers Can Increase Trust & Transparency

In the ongoing conversation regarding adtech transparency, industry leaders continue to work towards the larger goal of building trust throughout the programmatic landscape. But what do experts on both sides of the industry agree and disagree on? 

Three crucial topics have arisen that directly shape how the adtech ecosystem will develop in regards to trust and transparency over the coming year: Fee transparency, Supply Path Optimization, and Measurement Transparency. These points hold a number of potential transparency issues that have been addressed by both buy-side and sell-side industry experts, which we have outlined below.

Fee Transparency

The release of the ANA Media Transparency Report in 2015 shone some light on the issue. The general consensus among experts is that working towards increased transparency is a collaborative mission, and cannot be done by one faction of the industry alone. Advertisers and publishers share this need, and therefore being proactive about change is in everyone’s best interest. 

Increased fee transparency means recognizing the value that each party brings so that they can be rewarded accordingly, allowing everyone to work towards providing more valuable services and help all parties reach their end goals.

In reference to transparency in the supply chain, Dan Callahan, VP Audience and Automated Sale at Fox Corporation, notes, “where it gets opaque are those middlemen and those taxes.” It stands to reason that we should be rewarding those companies who are persistently doing business correctly and transparently, and over time those companies who refuse to follow suit will eventually shrink and disappear. 

Simply put, working with supply-side platforms to ensure they are transparent with their buy-side partners will return more yield. But what about the middlemen? 

By differentiating the middlemen from the value providers, it is possible to remove those extra players whose inclusion is forcing publishers to give discounts in order to offset increased prices. Success, in this case, means driving more revenue back to the transaction. 

Paolo Provinciali, Head of US Media Anheuser Busch, states, “if we’re able to embark on a journey where we have fewer embedded relationships, that will allow us to move the industry forward both from an advertiser perspective and a publisher perspective.” 

In the end, identifying who is helping and who is hurting is a good first step to reducing lost revenue and driving dollars back to verified companies.

Supply Path Optimization

With supply path optimization, we look at the balance between advertisers’ desire for a direct path to inventory, and publishers attempt to maximize yield. When publishers make their inventory available in multiple places at the same time, it creates increased complexity for advertisers, as DSPs and buyers drive up costs by bidding on the same impression. 

So how can we collectively simplify the supply chain? On one hand, it would be advantageous for advertisers to reduce the number of paths in order to understand who to work with for the desired inventory. 

There was a time in the industry when everything was bought publisher-direct; but the natural exponential growth of inventory lead to some unsafe practices, making brand safety an important discussion. As a result, a type of regression to the original practices seems to be happening, where advertisers know the publishers with whom they want to work, and stick with them. 

But for publishers, making inventory available in as many places as possible creates the greatest chance to maximize yield. The more supply available, the better the pricing will be from the buy-side; as a result, more demand encourages publishers to anticipate more partnerships. It is crucial for creating long-term relationships that both advertisers and publishers align on how they value their audiences, what their KPIs are, and how they can match one another. 

Finding a happy medium between simplifying the supply chain for advertisers and maintaining an acceptable yield for publishers will require an industry-wide understanding of one another before any real change can occur.

Measurement Transparency

A shift in consumer data collection is taking place as browsers eliminate third-party cookies. Safari and Firefox have already done so, and with Chrome not far behind, campaign measurement is about to undergo a sizable change. Thus far, companies have been able to trace back every action from consumers that led to the end goal; but consumer privacy has altered the way in which data can be collected. 

So how, then, are brands expected to measure the success of their campaigns?

David Markel, VP Enterprise Strategy at Publicis Media, believes that in every crisis, there is opportunity. He says, “the responsibility on the part of the brands to protect consumer privacy … is an opportunity to take a more consumer-centric lens and apply it holistically across the program and improve the value exchange.” 

It is safe to say that better measurability is a desire for both sides across the industry. The future may see brands focusing on what is available and measurable, and making estimates based on those limited findings. The lens through which any collection and usage should be evaluated is whether or not it is protecting consumer privacy. With the new privacy and technology changes, an updated system must be created for measurement in a way that respects consumer data. 

In this ecosystem, first-party data collection is a huge asset. Having a good value proposition is a great way to bring in consumers, where they supply their emails to log in if they feel the content is worthwhile. Building a solid subscriber base with whatever content is being distributed creates trust and drives that all-important first-party data. 

Fortunately, the conversation concerning privacy puts consumers at the forefront, focusing on the brand-consumer relationship and first-party connection. Paolo Provinciali believes, “we can think about other ways to be relevant without knowing everything about you, even though, obviously, the more we know about you, the more I’m going to be able to tailor [the] message.” This results in brands reconsidering their value propositions, and whether or not it is worthwhile to the consumer.

Final Thoughts

So how should we be thinking about trust and transparency for the future? Certainly, continuing to think about the sustainability of advertising practices and the way in which data is being collected is a start. Additionally, considering consumer perspectives and what they receive in exchange for their data offers a better chance of building a positive relationship with them. 

Collaboration is key. If everyone takes a stand to hold companies accountable for what they do, find out how they conduct business, and evaluate whether or not they’re bringing value to the partnership, there will be a much better chance at industry-wide transparency.

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