This interview appears on MediaPost.

In the last few months, ad tech overall — and programmatic, in particular — has taken a beating over issues related to brand safety, transparency, and more. In all fairness, these issues extend to the digital media and advertising worlds at large, not only to the sub-sectors of ad tech/martech and programmatic media.

Reflecting on these concerns, Joanna O’Connell, CMO, MediaMath, said ad tech is still trying to overcome legacy attitudes on what programmatic is. So how does the industry create an environment that adheres to principles of transparency? “Marketers care about being in control of their own data and destiny, and about inventory quality,” she said.

O’Connell reflected: “Ten years ago, you had ad exchanges and then the DSP [demand-side platform] was about letting the buy side get more direct access to the inventory and the users you could find in that inventory.” But things didn’t evolve the way they should have. Programmatic hasn’t “totally paid off on that promise.”

She said marketers are looking to gain access to audiences within the context of programmatic. And not just any audiences, the best audiences. Private marketplaces (PMPs) are one example where programmatic hasn’t quite lived up to its promise. PMPs were supposed to offer a more direct relationship to publishers. “But they didn’t solve the problem of getting to the audiences. PMP deals don’t really solve the publishers’ problems. PMPs were a step in the right direction, but they didn’t go far enough,” O’Connell opined.

“The way in which these deals came to life — a traditional buy through programmatic pipes — doesn’t accomplish everything. You have to find the people you really care about in those buys with publishers. The deals need to be about an audience-first approach in premium environments,” she said.

Against that backdrop, O’Connell cited what she believes are the biggest challenges facing programmatic media:

–Measurement and attribution, which are interrelated. “Attribution should be something that becomes an input into the actual buying and optimization process; it’s not a report. Attribution vendors need to be integrated into the decisioning. We need start measuring true incrementality and the causal relationship between a business’ revenues and the media channels that directly contributed to that revenue growth. Return on ad spend can’t be faked.”

–Ensuring the advertising supply chain is brand-safe and fraud-free. “We need a clean, well-lit supply chain that people can understand. I still feel like there’s so much room for education. The more marketers understand what’s happening with their dollars, the more effective they’ll be in spending them.”

–Marketers are still buying individual media channels. “That’s not a good way to manage the consumer’s experience,” since it doesn’t really reflect the consumer’s purchase path.  In order to deliver a positive consumer experience, the lens through which the industry should focus, an integrated media approach is best. Programmatic should be an enabler of good marketing, not the other way around.”