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.

4 Ways GDPR Compliance Could Impact You

As the European Union prepares to enact the General Data Protection Regulation, digital marketing’s core will start to look different.

In the wake of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, Facebook is taking the overhaul seriously. The social platform is leading the charge by allowing users to review and update privacy settings to give everyone a say in how Facebook and its advertisers use data.

While high-profile companies can take those measures, smaller enterprises may struggle meeting GDPR’s technical challenges. Additionally, the new EU regulations could start a trend that allows governments worldwide to levy fines to businesses of all sizes for noncompliance.

U.S. companies that haven’t taken action should start soon. Just 21 percent of American businesses have GDPR contingency plans in place, meaning if you’re not already compliant, the law may soon affect you. Here’s how:

  1. Advertisers and Publishers Will Be Held Accountable

The GDPR may force companies to invest more resources toward compliance support like a data protection officer or integrate a consent management platform onto their websites. Notices and consents will increase across all platforms, and new tools will give users more control over the types of data that can be processed related to them.

This has spawned the creation of a host of related offerings. For example, Google’s CookieChoices now provides links to its EU consent policy, examples of consent notices, and consent tools that publishers can use on their own websites.

Data “individualization” is a key to more personalized advertising. From here, companies should analyze their EU data exposure to determine whether they’ll need to bring a DPO into the C-suite. As across-the-board compliance becomes mandatory, it’ll be even more difficult to operate without a department that specializes in advertising and privacy compliance.

  1. Customers Will Need to Stay in the Loop

In a 2017 survey, the tech company Gigya found that 68 percent of consumers distrust brands with their personal information. Even if a company is compliant, customers won’t trust it unless it conveys this information to customers, so be deliberate about how you communicate compliance initiatives.

Articulate how your organization processes and transfers personal data internally, including between partners and vendors. Every effective GDPR compliance plan begins with the data “discovery” process and data-flow mapping.

Overly broad communication may signal that your company doesn’t understand or care enough about how it handles personal data. Customers, clients, and EU regulators want granularity on these compliance topics, so go in-depth. Your business can’t afford to be perceived as failing to take its customers’ data security seriously.

  1. Third-Party Partners Will Be Key

Companies routinely collect data from third-party data providers, and they must get more selective. In the pre-GDPR world, the data management platform procurement process heavily weighed diversity, depth, and scale. The more data a provider had, the more sought-after it was in that bigger-is-better world.

In the post-GDPR world, large-scale data will carry increased financial, legal, and geopolitical risks. Facebook’s privacy scandal involved a third-party vendor in Cambridge Analytica, yet Facebook still ended up in the hot seat over how another company used its data.

Safe data has replaced big data, which means it’s good only if obtained with the proper consent. Properly vet your partners to ensure your company remains compliant and does not get invited to speak before Congress.

  1. Native Advertising Will Play a Bigger Role

With fewer data points to inform ads, native and contextual advertising are each on the rise. It’s a fallback for advertisers to rely on content and context relevance to serve consumers. Retargeting ads may decrease as consumers take back control over their data.

Many advertisers fear a regression to the days of blanketed ads, but that’s not necessarily the case. Well-run data and ad tech companies that are compliant could make huge gains on established competitors if those competitors are slow to adapt.

GDPR starts in Europe, but its impact is far-reaching. Companies operating in the U.S. that have European customers or end users need to ensure compliance to avoid fines. It’s only a matter of time before more regulators follow suit, so invest in compliance now to avoid headaches (or an invitation to Washington).

Ian Connett, Esq. is legal counsel for Visto, a programmatic advertising SaaS platform focused on bringing transparency, interoperability, and accountability to digital advertising.

Originally published 5/22/18 in Adotas

Why Brands Should Demand API Before KPI

This summer seems to have been open season on “walled gardens.”

There are good reasons why the big-kahuna platforms restrict third-parties from operating on their networks – after all, the biggest walled gardens have few incentives to share their data, and mounting privacy concerns give them good cover. But, for brands trying to better evaluate their media spending, the inability to share data across and layer third-party measurement tools over the big platforms is increasingly an issue.

No wonder we are seeing so many advertisers and brands clamoring for more open platforms. While these DSPs and exchanges may not boast the same depth of customer data that a Google or Facebook do, their algorithms are a differentiator and their apparent connectedness is a potential virtue. By allowing third-party audience data, measurement and verification tools to connect, they are making a tangible play to poach restless buyers.

But buyers should look beneath the surface. While many ad platforms may appear to be more “open” than the walled gardens, the true extent of that openness can sometimes be diminished when you explore the details.

What lacks in openness is often manifested in limited integration. Specifically, support for third-party measurement and verification software is often enabled through a proprietary and private vendor-to-vendor set-up. That means alternative platforms can appear to be open, while actually being only selectively open. You only get to connect your data with your vendor’s preferred partners.

What happens when an advertiser wants to switch one service to a perceived rival, to best optimize their media spend towards reaching the best audience? Not much. When the lack of truly open integration with the range of in-market platforms ends up functioning as a kind of lock-in. Connectivity remains all on a vendor’s terms.

Not many of these proprietary platforms offer an API. A set of rules providers can offer for opening up their platform to third-party peers, for truly connecting functions like campaign measurement to their services.

Some do but I am worried as, lately, I have seen some of the main platform protagonists begin to pull up the drawbridge, restricting that API and reducing the features and value customers could get from plugging in extra tools. If this trend continues, we could just end up with a new host of walled gardens, under another name.

What brands need is to see the utopia of full integration, alongside the ability to reduce their tech stack load in order to drive down tech fees and maximize their ROI. To achieve this, the industry needs to adopt standards aimed at securing a truly-open ecosystem in which platforms can freely connect with one another while protecting consumers’ data and their proprietary edge.

In tech terms, we need to push the industry to adopt an API standard to make it very easy to plug platforms together, servicing the whole of the campaign journey, from set-up to reporting to measurement to attribution, allowing brands to focus on performance and transparency.

Other industries have been here for a long time. In the financial sector, for instance, we already have standards like SWIFT that have smoothed out the previous mess of methods of foreign-currency payments, which had seen banks often unable to talk to each other to receive money.

More widespread platform integration would not just improve access to measurement information that depicts campaign performance, it would also help to solve the transparency problem.

Today, the number-one reason buyers are not getting the information they need is complexity. Opacity of spending decisions and outcomes is not just a product of corporate conspiracy or vendor self-interest, it is also a consequence of the lack of connectivity forcing people to pull data together using spreadsheet surgery, not in real-time and not in a standardized fashion.

So, an “open platform” may not be so different from a “walled garden” in some cases if you look closely enough, and we need to remedy that.

We need the ad ecosystem to look more like a free-market economy, like the European Union, a marketplace with complete unfettered access across boundaries. Advertisers and brands must demand complete and open access to their vendors’ platforms through rich and comprehensive APIs to achieve more transparent, sustainable and profitable return on their media and marketing investments.

Originally appeared in MediaPost, August 30, 2017. The article can be found HERE

Today DMP, Tomorrow DAP


The recent Krux acquisition by Salesforce marks the latest consolidation in a crowded marketing technology landscape. As companies continue to try to build end-to-end marketing tech stacks that bring data together from across media channels and from every corner of the business, they have the opportunity to go from merely identifying potential consumers to turning them into loyal customers.

Data Management Platforms (DMPs) can play a central role in this shift. Instead of just serving as an information warehouse, the DMP of the future can become a learning platform that drives marketing and business decisions. Doing this requires a change in mindset and capabilities: from “Data Management Platform” to “DataActivation Platform,” a complete media activation engine that unifies three primary marketing inputs – Audience, Attribution and Ad data – to optimize marketing channels and outcomes.

The robust DAP of the future will be characterized by the following:

Moving from identity to action in real-time.

Right now, there’s too much data inefficiency and time lag between seeing relevant data and activating it. Post-campaign analysis can yield insights that might have improved campaign performance, but you often don’t see the information until it’s too late – or the analysis sits in a different system from where your campaigns are actually running, making it far from seamless to implement insights. To eliminate waste and improve ROI, the DAP needs to do the heavy lifting of integration and interoperability across planning, activation, measurement and analytics platforms. 

Cross-channel, dynamic optimization.

The typical use-case for a DMP is a one-way push from the DMP to partners. A DAP use-case would be dynamic and cyclical. In one direction, you still would have audience data pushed out to partners. Completing the cycle in the other direction, critical attribution—or action—data would return back to the DAP to inform effectiveness, automate optimization and lift performance.

This can in turn be dynamically analyzed to incorporate other inbound data streams (like site data, purchase data, creative results and other third-party data) to inform attribution and improve audience segmentation – insights that can be used across the organization.  

From ad targeting to business decisioning

Today’s DMP is used primarily for first-party data storage to inform ad targeting and delivery. The future DAP becomes an active “brain” driving marketing performance. Think of a DAP as a marketing hub that unifies and enables data, workflow and analytics to ensure marketing decisions are made correctly and swiftly.

The DAP represents the convergence of ad technology with marketing technology. Properly executed, a single DAP strategy will apply to both paid and owned activation channels.

The promise of a DAP is evident.  Here are some key steps to help brands make the shift from a Data Management Platform mindset to a Data Activation Platform approach to marketing:

Choose a DMP.   It’s impossible to be DAP-enabled without getting your data ready for syndication and targeting. Focus on addressable marketing channels first (e.g., digital, TV, email, etc.), then move to future data-driven opportunities.

Pick an Identity Management Provider.  In order to properly target and measure, you must be able to recognize the same consumer across multiple devices. Combine deterministic and probabilistic methodologies to maximize scale and accuracy.  The key is to reliably bridge Device ID and Cookie ID to enable multiple use cases – online and offline.

Centralize Your Data Providers.  Onboard and manage all first- and third-party data providers in a single DMP.  Here is where audience modeling should take place to engage likely customer prospects.  This is far less effective without first getting your Identity Management framework complete.

Select an Attribution Provider of Record. Now that you can identify and target audiences, let’s make sure you can properly attribute success by platform, screen or format. Your attribution provider of record can be your ad server, site analytics tool or specialized measurement partner, but the key is to standardize methodology and primary KPI to compare performance across channels.

Customize your DAP. Make sure your technology partners (DMP, DSP, Ad Server, Attribution Provider) embrace interoperability and can “talk” to your DAP; do an audit of partners and assess their API capabilities that enable read/write communication.  Here’s where you unify audience, activation and attribution, no matter how your ecosystem of partners change (which they will). If you don’t have in-house expertise or have not yet centralized your data, consider a programmatic or marketing technology consultant to help design the right DAP for your organization.

As consumer behavior becomes more complex, and access to audiences evolve, enterprises must embrace technology to gain control, transparency and accountability of their marketing investment. Following these key steps will put you on the path to having a DAP that activates all available data for optimal results.