It’s no secret that the digital advertising supply chain is a complex and often invisible process. It involves a number of intermediary players which, paired with a lack of transparency in some parts of the industry, has given rise to the term ‘tech tax’ and characterised ad tech as a somewhat shady sector. In order to address this, increasing transparency and boosting understanding of the digital supply chain is essential.
To equip advertisers with the right knowledge, IAB UK launched its Transparency FAQs at the start of the year; a set of questions for buyers to ask that help them understand the role intermediaries play and decipher where value is being added across the supply chain - and where it isn’t. While not a silver bullet, it’s a useful and much-needed step forward when it comes to addressing issues of ad tech opacity and providing advertisers and agencies with necessary insight.
But what more can be done and what are the biggest challenges when it comes to boosting digital transparency for both advertisers and consumers? We ask Unruly’s Jess King and the7stars’ David Counsell – both members of IAB UK’s Video Steering Group Committee – for their views.
As an industry, we need to agree what transparency looks like
Jess King, senior product manager, Unruly
Transparency is vital. It should be something that we consider a given when it comes to transacting in the world of digital advertising. From an advertiser perspective, it is a quick and easy way to identify partners that are willing to share and partners that may have something to hide. For a business like Unruly, it provides us with a huge opportunity to cement ourselves as the number one trusted ad platform.
The challenge for the industry is to understand exactly what advertisers and clients want and need when it comes to transparency. And, most importantly, what the use case for this information is. This is a relatively new conversation and messages are still mixed - we need to agree as an industry what transparency looks like and why we need it. There is a lot of scare-mongering when it comes to the supply chain and it is important that we use this new transparency discussion as a vehicle to dispel the myths and truly make progress.
Transparency must be a two-way street – as much as advertisers and clients demand information and openness, supply partners have a right to understand why they information is being requested, what it will be used for and, vitally, receive feedback after information is shared.
We all deserve transparency in this industry but it is only by working together that we can get there. Ask questions – challenge your partners and take note of those that are/aren't forthcoming with responses and data. Utilise companies like TAG and programs like the WFA to assist us all in these conversations by providing much needed independent advice and verification.
The way to demand transparency is at a contractual level
David Counsell, trading director, the7stars
Transparency is essential in today’s climate with trust so rightly high on everyone’s agenda. Without it, there are many different routes to hidden revenues that go against the best interests of clients. This is why only those who have the best interests of all parties at their heart (with a solid, honest offering) offer full transparency. It’s unfortunate that the use of the word “transparency” has been abused by many in our industry, being utilised in often partially transparent occasions.
In terms of progress, the video industry has come a long way in the last two years, with many of the larger video platforms and publishers who had resisted third party verification now opening up this opportunity. Generally, agencies get full visibility into what inventory they are buying and the quality of that supply. The biggest issue is possibly the industry’s engagement with video networks, whose business models don’t allow for full transparency.
Transparency shouldn’t be encouraged; it has to be demanded by those who are aware of the issues that a lack of transparency causes. Without it, we’re potentially damaging our industry by allowing companies that only consider their own interests to profit. The way to demand transparency is at a contractual level.