Tesco-owned business aims to increase transparency in programmatic media buying

Tesco-owned Sociomantic Labs aims to help improve marketers’ faith in programmatic media buying with its latest product launch which will rate inventory sources in terms of quality, thus addressing mounting concerns over issues such as transparency and fraud.

Sociomantic has today (6 October) unveiled Supply Quality Index (SQX), an algorithm it has developed that will help advertisers using its demand-side platform (DSP) ensure the media sources they are buying from will provide a return on investment.

SQX rates inventory sources – such as open ad exchanges, or other supply-side platforms (SSP) – based on real-time analyses of three measures: transparency, performance and inventory quality.

Sociomantic’s head of global supply, Alex Reinhold, told The Drum that SQX helps rate supply sources based on a range of traits, which will help it determine whether or not it will operate a “black-box” approach, or actually transmits all of the information necessary for Sociomantic to determine where an advertiser’s money goes.

This includes monitoring abnormal fluctuations in prices, or the qualitative value of an ad impression being auctioned from an inventory source. In addition, it also measures the actual value of inventory being sold. On the basis of all these measures, SQX then assigns a supplier-specific score that media buyers can use to help inform their buy.

“We factor that score into our bidding, so that we bid less for inventory from low-quality suppliers, and more for suppliers that meet our quality standards,” he added.

“It’s our hope that the SQX can incentivise SSPs and ad exchanges to act ethically and rethink their business models, putting quality over easy profits.”

Sociomantic – a company owned by Dunnhumby, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tesco – is bringing this product to market in order to help allay concerns over inventory quality in open media trading environments, such as ad exchanges, where the sheer volume of media can make policing quality a challenge.

The issue of click-fraud, or bot traffic, has been debated widely in trade press over the past 18 months, with a forecast from the Association of National Advertisers claiming that $6.3bn of media budgets will be lost to bad actors generating non-human traffic (NHT) this year alone.

To further stoke fears, comScore recently produced a report claiming NHT is more common on video sites than display ad ones in the UK – a move particularly concerning for advertisers looking to spend their brand media budgets using programmatic buying tools – with 64 of the top 100 sites averaging what comScore has deemed a low rate of human traffic.

This has prompted the industry to act, with blue-chip brands including Nationwide, Procter & Gamble and Unilever, currently collaborating to grapple with the thorny issue via a specialist ISBA working group to devise a commonly held definition of what actually constitutes ad fraud – as opposed to poor practice.

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