ANA Finds As Much As $20B Wasted On Programmatic Ad Buys

The current programmatic media ecosystem is “rife with waste” to the tune of $13 billion and maybe as much $20 billion according to a new study by the Association of National Advertisers. 

The organization issued what it called a “first look” today of a more in-depth study that will be issued later this year.  

And the report lays much of the blame for inefficiencies in the programmatic arena on the advertisers that utilize it, saying that they too often put cost ahead of value and more generally fail to exercise proper stewardship over investments in the space. 



The report cites so-called “made for advertising” websites which it asserts account for 15% of the current $88 billion open programmatic web market, which the study focused on and which accounts for about 17% of the digital ad market.  Such websites, per the report usually feature low-quality content including fake news and conspiracy theories. Such sites are also rife with links to spam, pop-up ads and other intrusive formats to maximize revenue.  

According to the report, the average campaign runs on 44,000 websites, which by definition is wasteful. “Advertisers can reach 95% of audiences using a few hundred websites.”  

Another big problem is a lack of data, often driven by the fact that advertisers often don’t demand specific data rights in their buying contracts. Without better information, advertisers often overpay for inventory.  

The methodology for the report illustrates part of the problem. Sixty-seven ANA member companies volunteered to participate in the study but only 21 ultimately were able to do so. The 46 others were blocked by their contracts or other hurdles from getting access to log data from DSPs, SSPs and ad verification providers. The log level data, upon which the report is based, includes a detailed record of everything about an impression obtained from the tech vendor involved in a programmatic transaction.  

One key issue for programmatic buyers—know if their agencies are acting as principals or agents. Principals don’t have to act in the best interests of buyers unless specific contractual language requires them to do so. Agents must legally do so, per the report.  

Among the recommendations: 

  • Advertisers must be more active stewards of their media investments. 

  • Marketers need direct data access contracts with all primary supply partners, including DSPs, SSPs and ad verification vendors.  

  • Create agency partnerships that provide complete access to data and full transparency of websites purchased on media buys.  

  • Eliminate most MFA websites from media buys and prioritize viewable, fraud free and brand safe programmatic buys.  

The second phase of the report will dive deeper into the programmatic media supply chain and tackle subjects such as cost waterfalls, media cost analysis, and ad quality (specifically viewability and fraud). The complete report will be issued in the next few months along with a “handbook” that will provide explicit guidance for marketers to better navigate the programmatic media supply chain. 

The ANA worked with several outside companies on the report including:  

  • PwC US who supported the study with its Media Intelligence platform to ingest and analyze log data.  

  • TAG TrustNet, an industry initiative to drive transparency, accountability, and efficiency across the digital advertising industry with a technology platform enabling deterministic matching of impression LLD. 

  •  Kroll, a provider of services and digital products related to valuation, governance, risk, and transparency, served as the investigative/qualitative research partner. 


3 comments about "ANA Finds As Much As $20B Wasted On Programmatic Ad Buys".
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  1. Dan Manella from Stephens Media Group Tri-Cities, June 19, 2023 at 1:14 p.m.

    THE ANA has been here before.  As reported on May 6, 2021....

    ANA CEO Bob Liodice said: “Marketers do not have a fully transparent line of sight into their programmatic supply chains. The lack of full transparency for ad delivery and ad quality is diminishing marketers’ ability to fully optimize investments and drive greater business growth. We believe this lack of transparency is costing advertisers billions of dollars in waste.”    (

    Do you really think they want to know?  It's been more than 2 years since they came out and said this. Bob Hoffman is right on everything he's been saying.  

    If the ANA says that 13 to 23% of every programatic dollar is wasted - or fraud - what is the probability that it's even GREATER?  Probably more of a probability than it is LESS.  But even if their estaimate is right on the mark...isn't even 5%...or 7% too much waste and fraud, let alone 13%?  If so, then DOUBLE that...or TRIPLE that should be unbearable and enough to stop the current practices. But it doesn't.   

    At what percentage does it become fraudulent billing? 

    At what percentage does the industry require regulation?  

  2. Augustine Fou from FouAnalytics, June 19, 2023 at 4:12 p.m.

    the ANA's presentation is just more fluff which continues to illustrate they don't know what they are doing or what they are saying. The MFA sites stuff is just regurgitated from others. 

    And there's many aspects not accounted for. For example

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 19, 2023 at 4:31 p.m.

    Agreed---it's very bad.But, to be fair, advertisers don't seem to mind that 30% of thier TV "impressions" play to empty rooms and are unwillling to demand----and fund---TV rating surveys that maeasure whether people are actually present in the room---let alone looking at the screen---when their commercials are presented.

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