Why agencies need to take the lead in ad tech transparency

The world’s biggest advertisers have called time on the lack of transparency in digital advertising.

P&G’s ad chief Marc Pritchard summed it up: “The days of giving digital a pass are over – it’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.”

However, agencies can only go so far if they are tied into contracts and relationships with non-transparent ad tech partners. It’s time for agencies to be bolder and hold all of our ad tech partners to the highest levels of transparency.

Clients now have more authority than ever to demand transparency from their agencies. So, why then, has trust between advertisers and agencies declined in these past two years?

Shockingly, the ID Comms 2018 Global Media Transparency Report reveals that the level of trust this year is perceived as significantly lower than in 2016. Things are getting worse, not better.

Agency apathy

There continue to be heartening moves in the ad tech community. Just this month, six of the leading ad exchanges launched an initiative to help drive transparency. Rubicon Project, OpenX, Pubmatic, Sovrn, SpotX, and Telaria signed an open letter committing to offering a fully transparent marketplace for both publishers and advertisers

The truth is though, agencies still aren’t doing enough to hold their ad tech partners to account. Many still survive from taking mark-ups or kickbacks. Others are simply not determined enough to make a positive change.

But how can our clients trust us to be transparent if we can’t trust the ad tech platforms we work with?

The time for talking is over, it’s time for action. We believe every agency needs to develop its own transparency methodology for approving and working with their ad tech partners.

It’s incumbent on all of us to refuse to  take a mark-up and to regularly review all our partners’ transparency in regard to data, audience, and tracking.

Let’s all be brave - and serve our clients better - by vetting our ad tech partners according to these criteria to ensure the highest level of transparency. If they don’t tick all the boxes, we all need to simply refuse to work with them, giving our clients the highest level of transparency possible.

The devil’s in the detail

This is all about going far beyond box ticking. In fact, it’s about diving deep to make sure you have as firm a grip on your ad tech partners’ operations as you do on your own.

So, as an industry, what should we all insist on knowing from our ad tech partners?

We need to know exactly what performance data is available to pull reports, what additional data and insight is available above and beyond the standard metrics, and if there’s a simple interface or API for extracting data that can easily plug into our own agency dashboards.

For audience targeting, we should demand: the level of granularity, particularly for niche clients or B2B; how it’s sourced, particularly in regard to third party data; and the types of targeting solutions offered, such as onsite behaviour, search behaviour, AI solutions and so on.

When it comes to access to platforms, we all need to reject black box solutions by default. It’s crucial we understand the tech inside out. We need to be able to self-serve giving us full control of campaign set up, targeting options and day-to-day optimisation.

All agencies need this level of control so that it is always clear how our clients’ ads are being served. For instance, what happens if one of your ad tech partners hits the KPI early in a campaign? If you are prospecting can you guarantee they aren’t simply using your data to retarget?

Finally, every agency must demand full transparency from their ad tech partners on what tracking pixels will be placed on site, what information they will be collecting, and how this data will be used.

If all of this sounds demanding, that’s because it is. It’s time for all of us to raise out demands on our ad tech partners to deliver the level of transparency our clients deserve.

So, are you feeling brave?

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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