New Benchmark Shows We're Making Progress

CANNES, France -- ANA, in partnership with TAG TrustNet, has released early findings from our first quarterly Programmatic Transparency Benchmark Study. And real progress has been made!

In 2023 we released the ANA Programmatic Media Supply Chain Transparency Study; the initial report at Cannes and the follow-up/complete report in December. The purpose of that work was to make investments in programmatic advertising work harder with a greater percentage of spend resulting in an ad that the consumer has the opportunity to see. But we can’t just drop a 125-page report and walk away. We made the commitment to keep the conversation going and track progress (or lack of it) with an on-going quarterly benchmark report. Initial results of that first report are positive. 



Perhaps the major finding of the 2023 study was the significant (and shocking) amount of spend in Made for Advertising (MFA) websites. MFA sites typically have most or all of these characteristics – high ad-to-content ratio, rapidly auto-refreshing ad placements, high percentage of paid traffic sourcing, generic content that is often dated and not unique, and poor design. Yet MFA sites can fool advertisers as they look good on metrics such as cost (CPMs are generally 25% lower), viewability, IVT, and video completion rates.

In the 2023 study, some 21% of impressions and 15% of spend was in MFA sites. That surprised lots of people, and the industry responded with solutions to address that. 

Jounce Media previously provided the third-party validation that MFA supply as a percent of all web bid requests dropped in half between the release of the initial ANA report in late June 2023 and March 2024. Now, in this new benchmark, ANA can confirm that we have also seen a significant drop in ad spending delivered on MFA websites – from 15% in our 2023 study to 4% now. Clearly, our work has had an impact.

Further, the 2023 study reported that advertising ran on an average of 44,000 websites and apps for study participants. Think about your own personal web surfing behavior as most of us visit just 10-15 sites in an average day. When advertising appears on too many websites (and 44,000 is indeed too many) “bad things” can happen – lower viewability, more IVT, more brand safety issues. Our 2023 work recommended that advertisers know, and then optimize, the number of websites being used for their programmatic campaigns. The new benchmark shows that the average number of websites and apps on which campaigns run has dropped to 23,000. Again, progress! 

Advertisers and their agencies should heed the recommendations in the 2023 ANA report re: MFA sites and website optimization which remain valid:

  • Recognize that Made for Advertising websites can account for a significant portion of your open web programmatic budget. Audit your activity to understand the percent of impressions and spend represented by MFA websites. Advertisers should determine if MFA sites fit with their brand suitability standards for content and user experience and clarify their tolerance for the inclusion of MFA inventory in their campaigns. 

  • Know, and then optimize, the number of websites being used for your programmatic campaigns. That can easily be done by first pulling a standard report from your DSP. 

  • Buy through direct inventory supply paths with a focus on “trusted sellers.” Trusted sellers, by definition, are partners known for their credibility and reliability in the programmatic ecosystem. Trusted sellers transact with buyers on direct supply paths as opposed to reseller paths that add more markup and generate carbon waste. Trusted sellers ideally do not engage in the sale of MFA inventory, as their business thrives on transparency and authenticity. Buyers should be able to get the scale they need by selecting 75 to 100 trusted sellers; that will provide access to thousands of high-quality websites.

  • Prioritize the creation and use of website “inclusion” lists versus focusing on “exclusion” lists. Exclusion lists are largely ineffective in practice. Attempting to exclude individual sites from the vast expanse of millions of sites, with new domains being created every day (often via AI), is a herculean and futile task. Focus on what you want rather than what you attempt to avoid. Update inclusion lists monthly. 

It's very gratifying to report progress! ANA and TAG TrustNet are offering this new benchmark service to ANA members on a limited basis. While all data will inform aggregate benchmarks, each participating advertiser will also receive its own confidential monthly metrics, including MFA activity, transaction costs, media quality (ad fraud, viewability), sustainability and DEI. Industry averages and recommendations will be released quarterly. 

Programmatic advertising offers key benefits, including the ability to target the right audience and cost savings from automation. Unlike the walled garden world, open web advertising allows for more independent performance measurement while simultaneously supporting quality journalism, diversity of choice, and minority-owned and -operated media.

When programmatic tools are used diligently, the open web provides one of the best opportunities for advertisers to reach broad and diverse audiences efficiently across the entire internet. We encourage the industry to continue to implement the recommendations in our 2023 study that are now supported by the release of our first quarterly Programmatic Transparency Benchmark Study.

Next story loading loading..