The Blame Game: Transparency In Programmatic

Viewability and ad fraud dominated the conversations late in 2014, but a third quality roadblock -- transparency -- had been lurking in the shadows.

A new report from Forrester and Index Exchange, the media marketplace division of Casale Media, sheds light on transparency in programmatic from the publisher’s point of view. It must be noted that Index Exchange is a publisher-focused entity.

Publishers have taken a "woe is me attitude" toward transparency issues.

“The demand side has way more information,” one senior national-level publishing executive is quoted as saying in the report. “They have a bazooka and we have a knife.”

“We never know what they (demand side) are doing,” said another publishing executive. “They blame us when they can’t see. It’s easier for them to get data rather than pay us to include what they want in our targets. We’d all have an easier time if they would just tell us what they are looking for.”

Forrester conducted 13 interviews with senior publishing executives between August and October 2014 for the study. Yet despite interviews with publishers playing the blame game, Index Exchange’s VP of Platform Solutions Alex Gardner believes it's on them to lead the “next phase of programmatic.”

“Publishers must take the lead on innovating the next phase of programmatic, because the buy side is continuing to move quickly and will not wait for them to figure it out,” Gardner stated. “Publishers have a tremendous opportunity to turn data and insights into value for brands. Smart publishers are already doing this. Those who aren’t, really need to move quickly to put the tools in place to improve transparency and maximize results for marketers.”

The current state of things leads to a “vicious circle of suspicion and distrust,” writes Forrester in the report, “and is not serving the best interests of either advertisers or publishers.”

Per the report, the cycle looks like this: Advertisers are not telling publishers exactly what they want, so publishers are not offering their best inventory. Since the inventory may not be best suited for the advertisers’ needs, campaign goals may not be met. This hurts the publishers because it causes the advertisers to pay less for inventory that isn’t meeting their needs, and it hurts the advertisers because they aren’t reaching campaign goals. All the while, distrust brews between the two because advertisers feel snubbed and publishers feel used.

Transparency and trust qualms are not reserved solely for buyer versus seller debates, either. Trust between brands and agencies waned in 2014, causing the use of agency trading desks to slip in favor of independents. These trust issues were reflected in what became known as the “in-house trend."

“Agencies control the dollars and need to make the market more comfortable,” one publisher is quoted as saying in Forrester’s report. “If they don’t, I believe demand-side platforms (DSPs) will start to take more in-house.”

"Blame game" image via Shutterstock.

2 comments about "The Blame Game: Transparency In Programmatic".
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  1. Neil Mahoney from Mahoney/Marketing, January 8, 2015 at 12:53 p.m.

    I spent 12 years as a publisher of B2B magazines, so I know how hard it is to build circulation. Today, B2C publishers go to ridiculous lengths to increase their circulation. I'm a 60+ yr. old male. Believe it or not, I'm receiving "Seventeen" and "Latina" magazines!! Needless to say, I didn't request them.

  2. Andreas Akesson from AIC, January 11, 2015 at 4:41 p.m.

    that is it. Transparency on both side. Publishers, fight back:

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