Digiday Research: Publishers and marketers need to collaborate to fix transparency issues

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This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Top publishers, brands and agencies from across Europe gathered for Digiday’s Programmatic Summit in Wicklow, Ireland, in April. Major topics like transparency, how to reap the benefits of header bidding, and the challenge of finding the right talent were among the core themes discussed by attendees throughout the summit.

A few data points:

With the summit held just weeks after the YouTube advertiser boycott, topics like brand safety and transparency of ad distribution, as well as fee structures, were front of mind for all attendees. Satisfaction with the transparency of programmatic-buying processes was patchy, at best. Only 4 percent of delegates said they were very satisfied with transparency in programmatic trading, with 13 percent saying they were satisfied. Just over 40 percent said they weren’t satisfied, and the remaining 40 percent said they were somewhat satisfied.

Publishers, agencies, brands and ad tech vendors spoke about how to fix the transparency problem and rebuild trust, at working group sessions throughout the summit. The core theme of the discussions was how to collaborate. “If the agencies work with the clients and have a united front, the more you can have open communication about vendors you have and the more powerful and aligned you can be together,” said one marketing executive.

Server-side bidding
How to get the most benefit from using header bidding was a major talking point. But it’s not a method all publishers favor, largely because the more demand partners are plugged in to a publisher’s wrapper in the browser, the higher the risk of page-latency issues: the stuff of nightmares for publishers. So, server-side bidding, regarded as the evolution of header bidding, generated more air time. The prime difference between the methods is that server-side takes the burden of ad calls out of the publisher’s header or browser and onto a third-party server. Goodbye, latency headaches.

When asked what the biggest advantage server-side bidding can offer, more than half of publishers said reducing latency. That was deemed far more important than server-side’s other big advantage: the ability to scale demand partners, with 6 percent of publishers citing that as the best advantage. Higher CPMs were picked by 17 percent of those present, and 9 percent selected higher yields and more access to inventory.

What was also clear is that server-side bidding has taken off almost at the same speed as header bidding, with more than half of publisher attendees saying they have either already integrated a server-side solution or worked with a partner that has used it.

Mobile in-app
The same techniques that have worked so well for growing display programmatic haven’t ever translated that well to the cookie-less mobile environment. But mobile in-app programmatic targeting was identified as the biggest challenge, as well as the most untapped opportunity for both publishers and marketers.

In-house challenges 
Finding the right programmatic talent has never been harder. For publishers, that’s largely because the kind of skill sets needed now are a hybrid of data science and analytics aptitude mixed with commercial acumen. On the marketer side, the cost of recruiting the best programmatic talent is an ongoing challenge. One marketer in attendance said: “Programmatic specialists come at such a premium because of the talent gap, so it is the major ad tech companies swallowing the talent, and it isn’t in their interest to be transparent.”

So it was no surprise that 42 percent of publishers and marketers listed recruiting the right talent as their biggest challenge when building in-house programmatic propositions. Thirty-one percent said that the technology costs of bringing programmatic in-house were prohibitive, and 27 percent noted that managing third parties was their biggest challenge.


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