Lost in translation: Gaining clarity around adtech transparency
Right now, ‘transparency’ is the predictive text after adtech.
It is the latest and likely the most enduring concern to hit the advertising industry in recent times. Adtech players have been scrambling to take the lead in defining to their benefit what transparency should mean in programmatic advertising.
In recent months a number of header bidding partners have flooded the marketplace – threatening conventional auction dynamics, launching products that promise choice and fairness through first-price auctions, and forming collectives that aim to work towards standardization in auction set-ups.
To make the bidding process more transparent, OpenX, has launched a new product which explicitly offers bidders a first-price auction option for buying programmatic media. Meanwhile AppNexus, PubMatic and Rubicon Project have joined forces to launch Prebid.org, an independent organisation with the aim of improving the performance of header bidding solutions for premium publishers.
Little wonder then that transparency has quickly become the new buzzword.
But what is really meant by the term? It can be argued that the meaning of transparency has been lost in translation. Depending on a key player’s position in the ecosystem, it can mean a variety of things. The Drum, in partnership with leading global advertising technology company Media.net, decided to get to the bottom of this confusion by comparing what transparency means from each of the key players in the market.
What does transparency mean anyway?
It is challenging to be “transparent” in an industry rampant with undisclosed fees, unfair auctions, data leakages, and agencies hiding rebates.
Transparency in fees across the supply chain: The seriousness of how money is channeled throughout the media supply chain and who eventually pockets what was recently brought to light with The Guardian’s dispute with ad tech firm Rubicon after claiming it failed to disclose fees earned from advertisers that appeared on the publisher’s site. An IAB study from 2015 revealed that less than half (45%) of programmatic revenues in the US reached publishers, while adtech firms ate up the rest.
Transparency in opportunity: In a fully transparent world, all parties have an equal opportunity to respond to every bid with no preferential treatment. Marc Pritchard has implored all facets of the industry to “come together, put down finger pointers, and solve these problems.” But cleaning up one’s actions requires full disclosure about their participation in the problem, according to Media.net’s chief operating officer, Namit Merchant.
“Let’s start by acknowledging complicity and the fact that programmatic can never be like the stock market it is often compared to because all of the participants (publishers, DSPs, exchanges, networks, and marketers) do not disclose how they operate in order to take advantage of the spread,” he says.
Transparency in placement and viewability: To make progress with the ad tech opacity problem, every player in the digital ecosystem needs to be speaking the same language. Ad placement and viewability rates need to be clear. For Ben Walmsley, digital commercial director of News UK, this means everyone should be clear about how advertising is measured.
“Transparency to us means that everybody should be graded by the same standard. There needs to be some clarity and consistency that applies to everybody and publishers have an obligation to accept the standards that they have agreed upon,” he says.
Tom Shields, chief strategy officer at AppNexus agrees. For him, transparency means being able to see exactly what is happening with your transactions in the marketplace, “where they go, if they were viewed, and who gets how much of the spend.”
Transparency in auction dynamics: According to MediaMath’s SVP of business development, Greg Williams, transparency is about looking at it holistically.
“This means looking at the entire supply chain and includes things like ad quality, load time, and latency that impact the customer experience. Is data represented in the right way? From the buy side, it means understanding auction dynamics, how you bid in those environments and what that looks like,” he explains.
Read the rest on The Drum.