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[Tech Talks] Radical Transparency in the Programmatic Supply Chain

Even the most fervent believers in programmatic advertising believe it needs to undergo a cleanup, as marketers lose faith in ad tech due to issues like hidden fees, ad fraud, and murky auction models. P&G’s Marc Pritchard (who also happens to be a steward of the world’s largest advertising budget) has said that the digital media supply chain can be “murky at best and fraudulent at worst. 


Laura Quigley, SVP APAC at Integral Ad Science addresses the cause of the trust issues in the programmatic supply chain and what ‘Bringing Back Transparency’ will look like.

What led to the Trust Issues in programmatic?

The ISBA published a groundbreaking report that sought to answer a seemingly simple question: what does the programmatic supply chain look like? The results are astonishing. The topline finding, that publishers received just half of advertiser spend, will leave many advertisers scratching their heads. Where did the rest of their budgets go? Even worse - PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that 15% of advertiser spend–representing around one-third of supply chain costs–could not be attributed. 


There is a lack of understanding of how programmatic works and how the industry shares its data and information. Overly complex methodologies and practices can spell confusion and industry practitioners don’t get the complete picture of the back end transaction it, hence it leads to a lack of transparency, followed by the trust challenges. 


The ISBA found that on a number of occasions, up to 4 different parties would end up doing the same job at the same time, a job that only needs to be done once, by one party, for only one data set. They also saw a large number of advertisers had almost 300 distinct supply chains to reach only 12 publishers. With little to no communication between parties, an informational bottleneck is created. Transparency for both advertisers and publishers during the ad supply process would bypass these access delays, easing the current strain on the overall campaign timeline, and saving wasted money.


With digital ad spend continues to boom and gain even more scale globally, the industry is becoming laser-focused on being accountable and transparent. As the complex story of digital advertising continues to unfold, many companies are still struggling to respond effectively. Amidst all the turmoil, industry players have been taking a stand to impose media quality standards and re-build confidence in the ‘Wild West’ digital ecosystem.


What will ‘Bringing Back Transparency’ look like?

ISBA PwC study provided a few recommendations for advertisers, publishers, and the industry, with the two critical ones being:

  • Standardisation is urgently required across a range of contractual and technology areas, to facilitate data sharing and drive transparency; and

  • All industry participants should collaborate to further investigate the unattributable costs and agree on industry-wide actions to reduce them.

All supply chain participants must contribute to industry evolution. This includes a shared understanding and application of 'transparency'; contractual arrangements with standardised definitions; clear and consistent protocols for sharing data; careful monitoring of log level reports; supporting industry initiatives to investigate any unattributable costs; and implementing robust governance and compliances.


IAS has partnered with Amino Payments to bring to market the world’s leading digital media transparency product: ‘Total Visibility’. As the name suggests, this solution delivers visibility into programmatic supply path costs in addition to an understanding of the quality of media delivered.


This enables marketers to know beyond doubt if they are getting the best monetary value for their highest quality placements or if they are overpaying relative to media quality based on factors such as viewability rates, brand safety, and bot traffic.


In summary:

  1. Automation: Programmatic is a great tool for driving automation, it allows the advertiser to control reach across channels and platforms, this will continue to be even more exciting as traditional mediums digitise. 

  2. Efficiency: Seeing outcomes in real-time is powerful as well as being able to drive efficiency through optimisation, ultimately driving stronger results for advertisers. 

  3. Transparency: There are supply chain challenges today but the important thing to know is that it’s a fixable issue and we can all work together as an industry to continue to ensure digital is a smart and safe place to invest.  

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