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5 important lessons about media transparency from 2021

January 4, 2022

Marketers navigated many responsibilities in 2021 including protecting their brands from ad fraud, ensuring brand safety and examining supply chain transparency. News about inflated audience numbers and budgets lost to fake traffic brought into focus how critical it is for marketers to know where they’re spending their advertising budgets and the level of transparency their media partners provide.

After speaking with several media and marketing leaders, we wanted to share a few lessons learned this year about transparency and solutions marketers should consider when planning media in 2022.

1.) Industry solutions provide greater transparency

Industry organizations such as IAB Tech Lab, Media Rating Council, Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and Alliance for Audited Media have created solutions to increase supply chain transparency, minimize ad fraud and improve brand safety. By working with partners and publishers that have implemented solutions from these groups, marketers have greater insights into their media buys, which leads to better outcomes.

Eileen Becker, senior director of client services, Trusted Media Brands, said her company relies upon industry solutions to provide advertisers with transparency and proof of quality. “We are highly invested in the brand safety of our sites, and it is important that our advertising partners understand this commitment,” Becker said. “In addition to AAM publisher audits, we participate in digital verification offerings such as TAG and IAB Tech Lab.”

Having one solution in place is a great start, but a multi-layered approach provides the greatest protection against multiple issues.

Jeanne Finegan, managing director and head of Kroll Notice Media, looks for several solutions in her vetting process to help her find media partners that provide legitimate audiences and better outcomes.

“We count on being able to select the right media to reach the right audiences and convert this media into an actionable result,” Finegan said. “The second we started making sure that humans were on the other side of the screen, we saw better outcomes. We saw more people hitting our websites and we saw greater outcomes in terms of overall responses and conversions.”

2.) Select the right KPIs for increased ROI

Bots may generate clicks, but they don’t offer any real engagement. Focusing on KPIs such as conversions helps marketers optimize their campaigns to achieve better results.

“There has been a long-established narrative in the digital ecosystem that more is better,” Finegan said. “We value quality environments, accountability, and human engagement over clicks. When you look at campaign data in the context of quality and resulting conversions, you quickly see that if you are buying quality publishers, you have better outcomes.”

3.) Third-party publisher audits are essential

Media audits have been around for decades in print but are a newer concept in digital media. Third-party digital publisher audits analyze whether the publisher has a process in place to deliver human website traffic and minimize ad fraud, which is essential to fostering greater transparency.

“Having verification of what you’re paying for is the only way to have transactions founded on trust,” said Chris Black, senior vice president of strategy for Zenith. “Our level of risk tolerance is very low because it’s low for our clients. Third-party verification provides us with the level of trust and assurance that we want in every transaction.”

By partnering with audited digital publishers, marketers can trust that their ads are reaching humans, which increases campaign effectiveness and ROI.

4.) Transparency helps marketers optimize their budgets

By investing in partners that provide greater transparency, marketers can allocate more media investment to websites that offer human audiences and better ROI. Marketers also receive more accurate data to make informed decisions and ultimately improve future campaigns.

5.) Marketer support of industry solutions is essential

While the industry has developed solutions to improve transparency, it takes marketer support to encourage these initiatives become more widespread. Marketers need to ask their partners to implement industry solutions and invest in those that do. Actively advocating for transparency elevates the entire industry and maintains a healthy ecosystem that offers greater marketing ROI and rewards quality media providers.


media buying
Supply Chain
media audits