Transparency in advertising is simple – just ask for it

Transparency is surely one of the advertising industry’s favourite buzzwords. And yet, for a term so oft-used, it maintains an aura of mystery - it is the holy grail of advertising, highly sought after but seemingly so hard to achieve.

But this simply isn’t the case. Transparent relationships are so much more straightforward than ones built on ambiguous foundations.  And how to achieve such a relationship? Well, in my view, it’s simple - you just need to ask for it.

Pinning transparency to the wall

The mistake that many people make is to try and understand transparency as a singular, tangible ‘thing’. The truth is, it can refer to a whole host of practices and behaviours.

For many brands, the original impetus behind their pursuit of transparency came from a desire to identify where and how their budget is being spent - exactly how much does everything cost? But advertisers’ questions shouldn’t stop there.

Yes, price transparency is very important. And, at The Trade Desk, we are proud to offer 100% price transparency through customised, itemised billing setting out our fees and external costs – so advertisers can track their pound throughout a campaign. But it is equally important for players to be explicit about everything from the data partners they work with, to how they deliver the right ads to the right audiences.

And with that knowledge should come freedom of choice – a key ingredient for true transparency. Our open marketplace means buyers can choose which tools to plug into the platform.

The transparency revolution begins

2017 might end up being the year of transparency for the marketing industry. With the realisation that a certain murkiness was playing against our best interests, the legendary call to arms truly stirred the industry – and so the revolution began.

But I have some good news for advertisers: transparency certainly isn’t a battle never to be won, nor should it be complicated. In fact, transparency is incredibly straightforward. Every player in the supply chain needs to take a stand and ask questions of their partners and their relationships. How will they protect brand safety and prevent ad fraud? How will they measure success? Who else is involved in the process, and what are we paying for them? 

Now is the time for us to take ownership and work closely with partners both up and down the supply chain. And never is this more important than when we are working with the companies hiding behind walled gardens, refusing to shed any light on how they operate.

Transparency will also help us understand any bias our partners may have. In media buying, many players operate on both the buy- and the sell-side. Just as a player shouldn’t be the referee, surely these platforms cannot have a brand’s best interests at heart while promoting those of another business.

Marketers have a responsibility to challenge partners to demonstrate their objectivity and explain exactly where, how and why our money is being spent. And the great news is that many advertisers are already experiencing the benefits of transparent relationships—together we are shining a spotlight on any murkier corners.

The time for learning

No one will benefit from this more than brands. But for advertisers to successfully challenge their supply chain partners to be transparent, they need to know the right questions to ask.

So, it’s imperative that brands truly understand the programmatic environment they are increasingly investing in. Armed with this knowledge, brands are equipped to make the most of the insights that any good advertising partner should provide them with. And any worthwhile partner should offer a plethora of options when it comes to validating the value they’re providing.

Transparency is the future

After all, there is no room for a lack of transparency in the programmatic industry today. And players that aren’t transparent are rapidly losing market share.

If a supplier can’t guarantee full transparency, then a brand – or an agency, DSP, or tech provider - should cease to use them. Why work with someone who has something to hide from you? My message to the advertising industry is this. Be bold, be brave, and ask questions – and together, we’ll create a supply chain that works for all of us.

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