Although the issue may be simple to surmise, the answer is far tougher -- and if agencies don't get it right, they now not only have each other vying for clients, they also have technology companies that are more than happy to deal directly with advertisers.
The issue of transparency is one of the central themes of the OMMA RTB and Programmatic event taking place in London on October 14th.
One of the best parts of organising the day -- for which speaker nominations are still open -- has been speaking to many advertisers, publishers and agencies, and the emerging theme is that advertisers are very wary of trusting agencies to run programmatic campaigns for them. When you talk over the issues, you can easily understand why.
The major challenges involve getting assurances on questions that are far more easily posed than answered.
The overarching question for advertisers of all sizes is how they actually know that they have received what they have paid for. With click fraud so rampant, it's an area that a brand would rightfully want assurance on.
The crucial issue for the big brands is how they can be sure their brand name doesn't get put against inappropriate material. It's the same question that has been there with the launch of ad exchanges -- but with programmatic automating the process further, brands are concerned that their logo could appear in places they really don't want it to be.
Data is another major issue. Brand X really doesn't want Brand Y, a major rival, to be better informed to gain a competitive advantage through data gleaned from their ad spend.
Of course, just a decade or more ago, it was all far simpler. The easiest way to know you were getting what you paid for was to book traditional media and then open the paper, turn on the TV or radio and see that your budget had resulted in a tangible advert.
With digital display only needing to show half an advert for a second and two seconds for video, advertisers are rightfully concerned that they are not getting that much for their ad spend -- and may sometimes be getting nothing at all.
The stakes, however, are now being raised. Programmatic makes a lot of sense when executed professionally with reputable partners -- and when it comes to partners, there are many technology-based vendors and platforms coming forward which can either be a resource that agencies use or just as easily, a tool that advertisers use directly without the aid of an agency.
Sure, search has already seen widespread automation, so automation is not new. However, search itself was a new category. Display is different -- it's the lifeblood of the agency and advertiser relationship, and with automation budget holders now have more options.
I cannot think of a single issue in digital display that is as important right now.
If agencies don't proactively tackle these issues, the next couple of years could offer some a potentially bumpy ride.