Commentary

Will Marketers' Clarion Call For More Transparency Be Heard?

Research finding on programmatic media conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and Forrester Research make it plain: Growth in programmatic media could stall if issues
around transparency aren't resolved—right now.

The findings, released on March 4 in conjunction with the ANA’s 2016 Masters of Media Conference, align with what ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice characterized as media’s four biggest issues: viewability/measurement; ad fraud; ad blocking; and media transparency.

The urgency around transparency—issues ranging from inventory pricing, fees, ad fraud, viewability, measurement and ad blocking—can’t be underestimated. “The brand marketers want media transparency,” said Joe Weaver, president and CEO, Promatica Consulting.

Weaver frequently gets called in to consult when brands run into transparency issues as a result of working with agencies, trading desks and managed services partners. For example, even when a transparent model appears to be in place and the breakdown of working media dollars vs. non-working media dollars is explained, if a media agency has a stake in an ad-tech vendor or there are “preferred provider” arrangements, the model is useless. “Relationships with ‘preferred providers’ are preferred because they’re preferred by the media agencies or holding companies,” Weaver said.

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While the ANA/Forrester study found twice as many marketers are putting budget toward programmatic media vs. two years ago, they’re also increasingly dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. For example, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they’re worried about buying fraudulent or unviewable inventory. Worse, brand marketers don’t feel confident in the partners that are buying the inventory—55% expressed concern over the lack of transparency in firms in the supply chain, vs. 21% two years ago.

If these findings aren’t alarming, they should be. And if you’re servicing brand marketers and not taking steps to confront these issues, shame on you.

Meanwhile, brand marketers themselves are trying to resolve the issues. For example, 62% of marketers had asked for comprehensive campaign guidelines from their agencies. Half are tweaking blacklists, 45% have targeted white lists, and nearly half have added technology to track non-human traffic and bots.

But only 25% of the marketers polled have created restrictions on buying ads on pages with sourced traffic, a major source of fraud. Meanwhile, 42% of marketers have purchased inventory through private marketplaces (PMPs) created by media companies that are supposed to help make media buys more transparent.

For its part, the ANA suggested that marketers look closely at agency and tech partner contracts, and add new fraud and viewability measurement partners.

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