"The Opaque Stack," a panel at MediaPost's “The Reckoning: Trust, Transparency, Science & Accountability" on Tuesday focused on the increasingly complex media-buying and -selling landscape -- complete with layers of ad tech, fraud and mistrust.
Led by Tim Hanlon, managing director, FTI Consulting, panelists were Seth Demsey, CTO, AOL Platforms; Jason Kint, CEO, Digital Content Next; Chris Rothrock, director of media, LMO Advertising; and Michael Tiffany, CEO, White Ops.
"If you’re a clean player, you’re at a severe market disadvantage," Tiffany said. Clean players compete with adversaries
who sell visitors by the visit -- and, making things more complex, third parties can guarantee traffic looks good to ad metrics companies and Google analytics, he said.
Why is there fraudulent traffic in the first place? Tiffany said as you do greater targeting against geography, you restrict the number of people you can serve an ad to. This puts the sell side in a place where they reach out to any third party that can promise them extra visitors (which turn out to be bots).
Hanlon asked the group if the answer is to pay for the privilege of a walled garden -- a premium publisher with lots of different offerings. Is that where the ad and publishing ecosystem is headed?
Kint said that's possible in the short term. "My only pause is, I'm an open Internet believer. I think it's important to our members and the future of innovation," he said, mentioning that the indirect system and third parties can sometimes create more scale for smaller publishers. "But it’s such a mess right now that i think we have to go back to a private marketplace or more direct buying to get back to trust to build properly... Ultimately, that trust comes from the marketers and consumers on both ends, getting the value they expect."