YouTube, fake news, ad fraud – programmatic is still being seen as part of the problem and was very recently described as a "murky" business by Procter & Gamble.
But it’s also the fastest growing area in digital display and is set to grow 31% this year with big and small brands reaping the rewards.
Innovation and new systems have their place but there’s no need for a total rethink when it comes to transparency in programmatic.
Here are six steps every brand can take in conjunction with their programmatic partners to ensure transparency in campaigns they’re running today.
1. Communicating and understanding how audience data is being used
There are excellent data providers out there but a partner should vet a supplier and share some key information, such as:
- Which country is the audience data collected from? We always recommend that it’s sourced from the same country as the campaign is running in, where possible;
- What are the rules that are categorising an audience – is the information modelled? If so, how is it modelled? A direct relationship with a data provider - one known by all parties - can help shed light on this.
2. As exciting as defining your audience is, a dose of realism never goes amiss
Often as a marketer you will know how big the potential universe for your product or service is. If the numbers from a data provider are hugely out of kilter with what you know, something is wrong.
For example, right now there are data providers out there who suggest they can identify 120,600 users in the UK who are in-market for a Ferrari. Does that really feel right? Always interrogate.
3. How does the data that is used correlate with campaign success?
Transparency is as much about communication as anything else – and this is a two-way process.
Too many providers talk about instant optimisations and success. Very often, campaign changes made too early are based on too little data. We should be open about how long it really takes to learn and improve a campaign, and what is really achievable.
4. MRC-accredited content verification tools are useful and integrations are constantly improving
This really must be standard practice and efforts such as the Digital Trading Standards Guidelines (DTSG) are a step in the right direction – but these should be just formalising what has been in operation for years now.
The tools are never 100% infallible. The role of an agency and their knowledge of a quality media owner is always going to be a valuable and necessary skill so make sure this isn’t just a tick box exercise.
5. Programmatic has grown up and quality inventory can be found, but it does cost
Direct relationships with a publisher and a programmatic partner should be firmly established to understand not just the method of buying and the prices, but also the product approach of a publisher.
For example, what is the publisher’s approach to how many ads there are on the page? Does a publisher push one format size over another?
Always start with the user experience and the campaign objectives. Programmatic user-focused advertising does not need to sacrifice where the ad is placed. You can achieve both. Is ‘brand-safe’ re-assurance enough for your brand?
6. Understand up front exactly what reporting will be provided and that this fits what you need
Even the most successful campaign requires deeper reporting than simply "goals exceeded".
Understand all the metrics you would like to see – and expect regular updates. Programmatic is associated with real-time in so many ways, but reporting is often delivered only at the end and not as the campaign progresses.
Ask for regular reports and understand what will be provided and what you need. The two should be closely aligned.
Transparency isn’t about popping up the bonnet and being talked through the technology behind programmatic. It’s about knowing what information is available and what questions you should be asking at each stage of the process, as well as being reported to clearly and regularly throughout an effective campaign.
Daniel Shaw is co-founder of Encore Digital Media