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Adobe Digital Advertising Technology

It’s time for an honest conversation about transparency



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October 27, 2015 | 6 min read

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The topic of transparency has been a major talking point for the media industry this year. Whether it’s guaranteed viewable ads versus potentially viewable ads, the cost of the many forms of ad technology that enhance brands’ digital investments, or new pricing models, it’s safe to say that advertisers and their agencies are investing significant time and energy into understanding and injecting transparency into the digital media value chain.

Today, most of these efforts focus on two types of transparency: media transparency and services transparency.

Media transparency includes key topics like viewability, ad technology costs, bot fraud, ad blocking and skipping and others that impact how $1 in media flows from marketer to publisher. Services transparency focuses on agency pricing models, black box media arbitrage solutions and other dynamics that govern the commercial relationship between and advertiser and its agencies.

What may be missing in these discussions, however, is a deep and committed effort to understand and maximize the performance transparency that creates a win/win dynamic between marketers, agencies, publishers and technologies to deliver ROI for all.

While marketers and agencies are jointly committed to removing unnecessary costs from the value chain, too often conversations about transparency are focused on what’s familiar rather than what’s important. One of the inherent challenges in addressing performance transparency is that it requires honest conversations with agencies and the publisher community about a marketing program’s performance and what’s necessary to generate material improvement. It requires sharing clear pictures of what’s known, what’s not known and collaboratively architecting a plan to address the gaps.

There’s no question that media and services transparency are important. Marketers don’t want to overpay and agencies and technologists and publishers can’t produce great work without the appropriate compensation—but the time is now to shift the conversation to an area marketers and agencies both have in common: aligned business objectives and how to leverage performance transparency to grow both.

When marketers and agencies agree on the right objectives, and jointly assemble the data and analytics to understand what’s achieving those objectives, they’re empowered to weed out bad actors and poor performers by rewarding good results over bad—and driving the changes that are necessary in the marketplace. Publishers will dramatically reduce non-viewable ads because they don’t create brand equity or drive sales. Ad sellers will take the necessary steps to eliminate fraud because non-human media consumers don’t buy marketers’ products (if they do, that would be fine too.)

Getting there will not be easy. Achieving true performance transparency will require agencies and clients to work together as they never have before. They need to have open and honest conversations about what they’re not currently getting from each other, and take steps to remedy those shortfalls. It requires knowing what we want from the outset and opening up our stores of information to each other to be sure we can achieve it. And we need to be sure we’re focusing on the right things.

Clients and their agencies need to have honest discussions on topics including:

  • Brand Safety: Do we know where a brand’s ads are running, down to the individual URL level, and do our platform partners allow for analysis at that level? Do we have a white list or black list of sites in order to reach the intended audience?
  • Frequency Management: How are we de-duplicating our efforts across different buying platforms and device types? Are we actively managing frequency to eliminate waste? Will our publishing partners allow us to place measurement pixels on our buys?
  • Audience Management: Are we reaching the intended audience(s) and do they actually perform or are we missing opportunities to test new audiences? Are all third-party data segments created equally and are they truly representative of our target?
  • Viewability: Do we need 100% viewability from an audience that might only barely reach a client’s minimum goals? Or can we have 80% viewability from an audience more likely to act on the message they’re seeing?
  • Attribution and Impressions: Do we truly understand where the results are coming from, or are we settling for a last-click attribution model that rewards bottom funnel retargeting programs and does not account for other elements of our media and marketing plan?

Many of these discussions will require information from a third party, like a publisher, ad exchange, network or server. By working together to set metrics on performance transparency, marketers and agencies can present a unified front to publishing partners and require the information they need to get the results that reach audiences, select the right technologies to enable performance transparency and start taking action on the kind of metrics that lead toward greater return on media spend.

Bottom line, clients are looking for this leadership and trusted advice now. Together, we can bring about the sort of change we all know is needed but have been afraid to tackle alone.

Kelley Maves, SVP, Data Solutions & Product Management, VivaKi

Tel: +1 312 253 5000



Twitter: @VivaKi

Timothy Waddell, Director, Product Marketing, Adobe

Tel: +1 385 345 1139



Adobe Digital Advertising Technology

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