Creating End-to-End Transparency in an Omnichannel Environment

The recent implementation of GDPR suggests that an increasing number of industries — including programmatic advertising — value transparency. MarTech solutions can provide clarity for agencies looking to clean up their end-to-end methodologies, says Kerry Bianchi, CEO, Visto

With a call at the start of 2017 for industrywide transparency, the programmatic ecosystem has made strides in meeting the challenge. But there’s still a long way to go, and the journey isn’t simple. After all, transparency can mean different things to different parties.

There’s contractual transparency, in which advertisers and agencies negotiate a benefit based on established goals. In fact, the World Federation of Advertisers found that 90 percent of advertisers currently review agency contracts to improve transparency and control.

Then, there’s transparency related to data and media execution. Accessing and acting on this information comes with its own challenges, especially when systems aren’t integrated or execution channels don’t share customer data along the sales funnel.

For omnichannel marketers, a holistic, transparent view into the inner workings of their media spend is the holy grail. Bringing those expenditures into focus requires implementing a martech strategy that is transparent and shines a light on every step of the omnichannel journey.

Fully Integrated Transparency

One of the first steps in developing a successful omnichannel approach is to define what transparency means to you. With media buying, the martech and adtech industry is rapidly evolving to meet the demands for transparency, but a lack of standard measures only adds to the confusion.

Tech providers need to work with industry associations such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Association of National Advertisers, and the Media Rating Council to create common standards and classifications of transparency. This will ensure that participants in the programmatic ecosystem use consistent and accurate metrics for measuring performance. With the advent of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, transparency into data sources, permissions, and usage is another highly scrutinized area requiring new levels of clarity.

Transparency will need additional focus around three areas in particular: contracts, impressions, and supply chains.

Contractual Transparency

Agencies should educate clients on their trading practices, with a growing number making their fees transparent to eliminate doubt around whether they are acting in the client’s best interest. If the agency receives any benefits due to usage or spend volume, there should be agreement upfront about whether some, none, or all of those benefits will pass on to the client.

Impression Transparency

Advertisers would prefer not to pay for unviewed impressions. Some programmatic exchanges eat the cost of unviewed impressions to address this concern, but there’s still a need for more high-quality viewable inventory overall. Advertisers that aim to improve transparency can utilize open exchanges and private marketplace deals that prioritize viewability.

However, the issue then becomes how viewability is defined. According to IAB standards, at least half of an ad must be in view for at least one second, which doesn’t fly with everyone on the buy side. Buyers like GroupM require 100% of an ad be in view for at least one second. The industry must agree on not only the definition, but also the value of a viewable impression. On the opposite end of the spectrum, marketers need to determine whether it makes more fiscal sense to incur the often higher premium for a viewable impression or to accept a lower viewability standard in order to achieve a more reasonable cost.

Supply Chain Transparency

Related to cost is the ratio of “working” to “nonworking” ad spend, which is 58% to 42%, according to a survey conducted by the ANA. In other words, for every dollar spent, only 58 cents went to the actual media purchase. The remaining money went to technology and agency fees.

When making a media purchase, it isn’t uncommon for a budget to pass through as many as five parties before reaching the publisher. That’s a lot of fee layers for what seems like a relatively straightforward process. Requiring disclosure of fees along the supply chain from all vendors involved is one way a marketer can assess whether the incurred costs are worth it. Another is to use tools that offer comparative performance metrics to assess the vendor’s success in reaching the marketer’s goals.

The holy grail of media-spend transparency may not exist, but adding some of these tangible tactics to our best practices puts the path to transparency in our sights.

This article was originally published in MarTech Advisors 8/17/18.

The Evolution of Amazon as an Ad Platform

The evolution of Amazon has led to the company holding a unique position. It’s simultaneously one of the biggest advertisers, spending an estimated $3.4bn in the US last year, and one of the largest advertising platforms, expected to rake in $4bn this year. And while many in the industry already consider the company a welcome challenger to the digital-ad duopoly of Google and Facebook, just how big of a piece of the ad spend pie Amazon can take in the future may depend on its willingness to jump outside of the walled garden strategy.

To truly rival the dominance of Google and Facebook and reach its market potential, Amazon needs to gain the same type of power that it has on its marketplace and inventory, off its marketplace – in other words, on other inventory. With their moves to date, they are on the right path to leverage their biggest advantage – customer data – across the ecosystem.

Connectivity

Amazon has been fairly proactive when it comes to connecting to properties besides their own with one of its two main advertising offerings, Sponsored Products, which is effectively paid search. They’ve had an API for sellers for quite some time, and more recently they created an API that gives brands self-service, customizable access to platform inventory.

The company’s other ad service, the Amazon Ad Platform (AAP), is where the real opportunity lies. With AAP, Amazon offers advertisers the ability to buy ads on a host of other web and mobile publisher properties. Functioning like a demand-side platform (DSP), AAP enables advertisers to bid on open inventory outside Amazon using the same exchanges through which they usually transact. In the past few months alone, it has progressed very quickly and agencies and marketers are clamouring to get on board.

With a growing list of connections to third-party ad servers, research providers and attribution partners, AAP is gaining traction. If Amazon continues its plans to aggressively go after outside inventory sources for display and video, offer incentives like discounted tech fees, enable integrations and adopt APIs, they’ll be in an optimal position to be the on-ramp for spend and inventory everywhere. Also, I am hopeful that they will build out robust open API access to their advertising offerings. Given Amazon’s pedigree with APIs and microservices as seen on AWS, it is quite natural for them to do so.

Consumers

Amazon’s USP is data, but wouldn’t every platform say the same thing? Google and Facebook both certainly thrive as ad businesses thanks to their user data. But Amazon’s data set is different, and it’s that difference that gives them competitive advantage.

The data that Google and Facebook have still provides insight into users’ “inner lives,” with things like searches and peer group involvement informing the personal profiles that guide ad targeting. For example, based on the behavioral data, Honda can deliver ads to “soccer moms” with a fairly high degree of accuracy. What they can’t do, based on that data, is target by the anticipated purchase intent of those soccer moms. That’s where Amazon has a clear advantage.

Amazon, unlike Facebook and Google has actual records of what people really buy, and not just the things heir habits suggest they might buy. It’s a gold mine of information that no one else can offer. How they can build on this advantage to surpass the power of their rivals is by combining those powers with their own to form a new superpower, where search, social and shopping together provide insights into purchase journeys that can inform a brand’s whole strategy.

The potential is enormous. By charting a consumers’ data all the way from social behavior, through search intent and corroborated by real historical purchase data, platforms could build a value picture in to how audiences really behave. But this is where the connectivity conundrum resurfaces. Because joining together search, social and shopping data is going to require that all three ingredients be put in to the same pot.

The duopoly, as it has been until now, is hardly known for being open and forthcoming with their services. And recent moves in the ecosystem such as GDPR and the end of Facebook’s Partner Categories, through which advertisers could target ads using customer profiles bought from data brokers, suggest further tightening of the internet’s historic openness.

Amazon, with its full funnel access to what consumers are talking about, shopping for and purchasing, is sitting at the precipice of an opportunity to strengthen their offering while being a good guy in a market looking for another trusted partner. At the risk of sounding cliche by quoting Spiderman’s uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility.” I just hope that, in this case, great power brings a revitalized sense of openness that will be necessary for the full possibilities of Amazon as good guy can be realized.

Jaisimha Muthegere, chief technology officer of Visto Hub