The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Media Insider.
Yes, I am going to hammer away at the transparency issue again this week.
If we as an industry have any takeaways from the recent press surrounding the Adalytics research into Google YouTube campaigns and its findings that 80% of analyzed campaigns for 1,100 brands between 2020 and 2023 were delivered on non-conforming third-party sites, typically with sound off and not visible, it's that the programmatic digital ad industry has a transparency problem.
And just-released research from Association of National Advertisers’ shows that of the $88 billion that its members spent on programmatic advertising on over the past year, 23% of it was waste, with much of that going to “made-for-advertising” web properties that don’t have any organic content or audiences.
I am tired of people saying waste in advertising is just part of the industry and something that we should accept. No, we shouldn’t.
Let’s be clear, this “waste” is a feature of these systems, not a bug. The tens of billions of dollars of money being programmatically siphoned off the campaigns studied is neither accidental nor unavoidable.
People are stealing money to which they are not entitled. They are taking it away from publishers who deserve it. They are creating artificially low pricing in a market that undermines all who invest in doing things the right way. And they are cheating these advertisers and their investors who receive no return on these tens of billions.
And -- critically for all of us who care about this industry in which we work -- these practices are rewarding, institutionalizing and normalizing conduct and behaviors that should be punished and eliminated, not just seen as a “cost of doing business.”
Yes, this can be solved. Both Adalytics and the ANA team analyzed the ad logs from campaigns, a key truth-set that many DSPs and SSPs do not routinely release. This forces brands to buy blind, relying on verification firms to look out for them. Inextricably, none of them seemed to have either heard, seen or spoken of any evil done. Funny how that is.
Marketers need to demand log-level transparency. They need to care about where their ads are delivered. And, essentially, they must recognize that when they demand “cheaper CPMs” they are telegraphing buyers to dilute their buys with fake stuff and look the other way. It’s that simple. There is only so much real inventory to go around. The markets set prices for it. Hoping to find something dramatically cheaper means that you are begging for goods that are either illusory, fraudulent or likely “fell off the back of a truck.”
Let’s stop doing business that way. Tens of billions of dollars of legacy TV ad spend is shifting into CTV. Linear TV has problems, but transaction and inventory transparency isn’t one of them. Let’s not let that money coming into CTV advertising be wasted because we didn’t demand better of our industry.
What do you think? Are you ready to demand transparency?