Safeguarding the future of digital advertising with programmatic

Jessica Miles
By Jessica Miles | 5 August 2020

Jessica Miles is ANZ country manager at Integral Ad Science.

As the marketing and advertising world becomes more and more complex with the introduction of newer technologies, platforms, and tools, the fundamentals of what we’re trying to accomplish remain unchanged: connecting the right people with the right message at the right time. In the earlier days, the transactions were simpler. However, this seemingly simple process lacked scalability, efficiencies, and required lots of manual inputs.

Programmatic advertising is simply a tool that utilises technology to automate the buying process so that advertisers can accomplish buying and optimising media more efficiently. Programmatic’s efficacy for digital as well as evolving mediums and its potential for scalability makes it the perfect advertising tool for global marketers. Clearly, programmatic has it’s best days ahead of it or does it?

Transparency challenges in the programmatic supply chain:
The recently released ISBA report highlights that now more than ever, marketers urgently need transparency into their programmatic supply chain costs alongside transparency into the quality of the media delivered. Sometimes identical ad placements have differing costs and sometimes marketers pay more for their lower quality placements. Transparency is king for efficiency-focused marketers and in the current climate, all marketers are focused on maximizing the impact of every last dollar spent while eliminating wastage.

The report found the complexity of the programmatic advertising supply chain has resulted in certain challenges;

  • The percentage of advertiser spend that reached publishers averaged 51%.
  • The “unknown delta” of 15% represents around one-third of supply chain costs. Even in disclosed programmatic models, this amount remains unattributable.

It’s time to use programmatic to reach the right consumer at the right time and leverage high tier metrics such as time-in-view, engagement, ad recall, etc across platforms. We cannot afford to replicate the offline metrics to online and then the same metrics on evolving mediums such as OTT/ CTV/ digital out of home. These evolving mediums bring their own strengths and capabilities. The strategies to execute on newer mediums should not be a rip off from digital-offline creatives, strategies, metrics were largely replicated on digital platforms, not very long ago. We need standards, measurements, and transparency to make sure that advertisers continue to invest in digital with the same confidence they show offline spending.

Industry standards to keep the programmatic supply chain thriving
Standards and collaboration drive increased accountability which enables all parties to transact transparently to drive efficiency.

With standards and increased accountability, it makes it possible for all parties involved to understand what is spent at each hop of the supply path. Advertisers will understand how and where their money is being spent and how effectively it is being used. It means more money is flowing to parties that deserve it and efficient parties are being rewarded for their strong performance. Essentially, a publisher or vendor in the supply chain that is driving results for their advertisers will be financially rewarded for it, as the advertiser optimises their spending to these vendors and publishers.

The relevant initiatives we can use include are Ads.txt, App-ads.txt, Sellers.JSON, and OpenRTB SupplyChainObject. AANA, IAB Australia, and MFA launched the latest edition of their Australian Digital Advertising Practices (ADAP) which defines programmatic standards in order to lift trust, transparency, and knowledge of the supply chain across the industry. Given that the digital ecosystem is complex, it becomes even more important for advertisers to have a thorough understanding of its key participants, practices, service agreements, and commit to the related recommendations contained within ADAP. IAB Australia has identified areas that should be actioned as soon as possible and some of them include mandatory and immediate adoption of sellers.json & SupplyChain Object standards by all SSPs, DSPs, and Ad Exchange vendors. Widespread industry adoption of IAB Tech Lab Taxonomies, prioritisation of Supply Path Optimisation by DSP’s among others.

The adoption of industry standards is critical to the success of the future digital ecosystem
Investing in industry standards, initiatives, and recommendations ensure that advertisers are investing in high-quality media and driving value out of every dollar spent. Poor media quality is a complete waste of advertiser money and can generate significant negative value. In some cases, investing in poor media quality does not only drive significant inefficiencies but can also negatively impact brand value and fund criminal activities, breeding bad behaviour. This need to invest in high-quality impressions, those that are viewable, fraud-free, and brand-safe is unique to digital and requires a high level of transparency from all media players to be successful.

No one is saying this is easy. Digital is difficult, which is why it’s even more important for every one of us to adopt initiatives like Australian Digital Advertising Practices and commit ourselves to drive transparency. Together, we can make it hard for fraudsters or ‘bad actors’ to ‘game the system’ and instead divert investment to the vendors and publishers that deserve it. For marketers, transparency means the ability to redirect funds toward the most efficient, effective media. This is especially important in the current economic environment, where every dollar counts.

All supply chain participants must contribute to the industry’s evolution. This includes a shared understanding and application of 'transparency'; contractual arrangements with standardised definitions; clear and consistent protocols for sharing data; careful monitoring of log level reports; supporting industry initiatives to investigate any unattributable costs; and implementing robust governance and compliances.

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