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A manifesto for the future – why education, honesty and transparency are key for the growth of digital trading

The Drum Digital Trading Awards judging took place on 24 April, with a cross-section of the industry gathering to analyse the entries received for the inaugural awards scheme. A number of themes emerged from the judging day, and coupled with recent initiatives to improve brand safety in the industry, these indicate the need to develop the industry on a number of dimensions.

Here, The Drum puts forward its Digital Trading Manifesto on behalf of the industry – a set of principles we believe the industry should embrace in order to facilitate future growth. A few of the judges share their reasons why education, honesty and transparency are key in the future of the industry.

HONESTY The Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) is dealing with issues around inappropriate ad placement and other issues affecting the industry. Niall Hogan, UK MD of Integral Ad Science, welcomes this, and argues the industry needs to set a “gold-standard” by trading “honest digital media”.

“By that I mean fraudulent-free, viewable ads that are seen and engaged with; and that are placed on a site or within an environment that truly benefits the brand or service that is paying for that media space.

“As we move further into a fully programmatic world, we risk excelling at buying (and selling) the wrong kind of impressions. We need a set of principles and guidelines that will instil trust in advertisers. The industry needs honest digital media.”

SIMPLICITY Some in the space have argued that the digital advertising ecosystem, though complex, has often been unnecessarily over-complicated.

“There is still a tendency to over-complicate the digital trading and programmatic space,” says Sue Hunt, UK MD of Improve Digital. “Technology inevitably brings complexity, but that shouldn’t inform trading strategy. Education and trust are key to encouraging media owners and sellers to open up their audiences as well as inventory, ensuring they have the controls to protect their assets yet still provide valuable opportunity for advertisers and relevance for the user.”

TRANSPARENCY Transparency is essential to the future growth of the programmatic industry, and the key impetus behind the launch of the Digital Trading Awards. “The industry will grow much faster if advertisers feel confident and comfortable with its practices,” says Rob Dreblow, head of marketing capabilities of World Federation of Advertisers.

CONVERGENCE It’s necessary for convergence to happen in this space to foster innovation, according to Nicky McShane, chief revenue officer of shopa.com.

“In actuality, there are still too many mouths at the table, pushing the CPM prices up to where the return is even further diluted,” she says.

“There equally needs to be more transparency alongside a much simpler route to trade. Like all emerging areas of digital, transparency and ease of trading will only make the space grow faster.”

COLLABORATION It’s key for the digital trading ecosystem to work together with creative agencies and established media, according to Mary Keane Dawson, CEO of MyHealthPal.

“Digital trading is here and in its wake there will be many casualties unless industry businesses (media, creative and technological) and their leaders start to think and behave very differently. Digital trading could be the tipping point for the entire industry to get its house in order – or it could cause a lot of casualties.”

Lee Baker, founder of The First Space, agrees with the need for more collaboration in the industry, saying “we succeed better together”. He urges the industry to “talk to, understand, and work with all the DTA award winners and nominees and other exciting businesses” in the sector, which has become a “collaborative economy”. Baker also says the complexity of the industry can be better understood by collaboration and discussion.

“Tear up the Lumascape slide and take the time to understand who the partners are that can help you. It’s a rewarding and exciting time for the brave and innovative publisher.”

NEW SKILLSETS

Still in the spirit of collaboration, digital trading should look to other sectors, such as finance, to “enable us to bring more diversity into the trading environment”, according to Melina Jacovou, CEO and founder of Propel. “The industry needs to understand the scope of its talent pool now and embrace different skillsets. These individuals are now far more technical than they’ve ever been.”

MATURED METRICS As the industry grows and matures, many believe a move towards a more sophisticated approach to measurement is needed, rather than focusing on last-click as an indicator of performance.

Jo Sampson, client partner at Essence, would like to see the wider digital industry moving away from post-click measurement.

“There are a variety of ways we can harness technology to show clients effectiveness such as cross-media econometrics and attribution.”

According to Sampson, this allows agencies to “confidently deliver value for brands, and interesting creative communications to consumers,” but also requires collective responsibility on the part of brands, agencies and publishers to create high-quality, relevant and timely content.

A FOCUS ON VALUE Lastly, the digital trading industry could do with a change of tactic in the way it promotes itself, according to Sacha Bunatyan, UK COO at Amnet, who believes there is a need to rethink the conversations the industry is having, instead focusing on positivity and delivering value for advertisers.

“We need to focus on the value that programmatic delivers to clients and how they can be best placed to take advantage of it, rather than the challenges of industry which seem to dominate the headlines. We are our own worst enemy in this regard.”

This article was first published in The Drum’s Digital Trading Awards supplement 2014.

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