‘No one wants full transparency’: Candid thoughts of ad buyers

Transparency in media buying is a tense, complicated process that agency executives aren’t sure advertisers really have the stomach for when it involves changing overhauling how much they spend on media.

During closed doors session at Digiday Hot Topic: Transparency in Media Buying event in London on Thursday, held under Chatham House rules, agency executives discussed the challenges of getting advertisers to commit to a model that benefits both parties. Here’s a sample of what was said:

The realities of obtaining full transparency
“Let’s assume you do put a load of resource into proving to a client that you’re in the weeds, and doing a lot of analytical work for them to prove both cost and strategy. You can do all this, and then Google can change something in the backend, and suddenly the goal posts are completely different. All that work goes down the drain.”

“People talk a lot about blockchain, but blockchain will never get adopted across advertising because no one wants full transparency.”

“Real transparency only occurs in industries where there is a business model where that works for, like insurance.”

“Transparency has become such a buzzword, to the extent that brand advertisers don’t always know what they’re trying to gain from it. They often just ask us for transparency, and when we ask what they want specifically, they just say,  ‘We don’t know, what is everyone else asking?”

“The way around transparency could be to focus a lot more on the outcomes of media buying rather than spending so much time and money understanding where the money went. Clients don’t actually care about that mechanical media detail as long as they can say that they put a £1 ($1.30) in and got £1.15 ($1.50), for example.”

“We’re in danger of talking about transparency as a one-size-fits-all solution to everything that’s wrong in advertising. There are so many variables to the issue. For example, does it make sense for a small advertiser to try and build a transparent ad tech stack if they don’t have the budget or the data to make that worthwhile?”

“I can only give my clients information I’ve got access to and while sometimes I do know what I don’t know there are other times when I don’t know what I don’t know, which makes the situation very challenging.”

“We’re struggling for scale of ads.txt-authorized inventory outside of the U.K. which means not buying as much verified inventory as we’d like and having to take a gamble on other sites.”

Platform inconvenient truths
“No matter how much data is leaked out of Facebook, the spend continues to flow into them. The people, the audience are there, so it’s very hard not to use them. We’re between a rock and a hard place if we’re totally strict with them.”

“Everyone here will admit they don’t get the transparency they need from Google and Facebook, but they still put 60 percent of their budget there. There is always the justification that the audience is on those platforms. In reality it means everyone ends up working with the companies that are fleecing them.”

“Amazon is opening up the access to help us start to attribute, which is amazing. Facebook is less flexible, and are slower in terms of seeing what our challenges are and acting accordingly.”

“We had one instance recently where Google wasn’t allowing any client that wasn’t spending above a certain amount to access third-party data providers. We did all that work, isolated some really good third-party data providers and then suddenly we’re told all that work had been for nothing.”

“People talk about consolidating programmatic buying into one demand-side platform but that’s not always possible. We have clients that are interested in using Amazon data, for example, so we have to use Amazon’s tech.”

The industry is in a GDPR holding pattern
“Can someone get in trouble for it already? Everyone is waiting for that.”

“The only people who define whether or not we believe if someone is complaint or not, is the publisher direct, and the DSPs who represent the long-tail of sites. If a DSP decides certain supply [of inventory] isn’t compliant, or maybe it doesn’t recognize the consent management platform it gets difficult. I’ve had deals that have gone kaput purely because the DSP has said this inventory isn’t complaint. You then speak to the supplier and they’re tearing their hair out saying that they are — so it could be errors in the DSP or something else — there is so much troubleshooting going on.”

“The problem with GDPR is, there are no experts, no standards, there haven’t been class actions that have gone beyond being advisory.”

“The overriding principle for GDPR is really good, but the challenges are enormous. We spend a lot of time despairing about it, but we have to lean in to it. We have to keep pushing it forward.”


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