The Key To Transparency Is Technology, Not Simply Terms And Conditions

VIA MEDIAPOST

Marketers have been clamoring for more transparency and accountability, a movement underscored by the ANA’s recent transparency recommendations and earlier K2/ANA report. While these reports may seem to take aim at agencies and vendors, they actually present a unique opportunity to transform the dynamic among agencies, vendors and clients to be more open and, ultimately, more productive. To get the most out of a closer, more strategic partnership with agencies and vendors, however, marketers must first take the following steps:

Take control of—and unify—your data. This is important for all forms of data, but especially when it comes to a marketer’s first-party data. The good news is that the shift is already underway: Between CRM and DMP oversight, the proliferating volume of online data, and the establishment of data science and analytics roles within many marketing teams, the marketing department is fast becoming the “data czar” within many major brands.

But although data may be centralized, it must also be unified across vendors and services to be truly useful. Unifying your data is the foundational step to establishing a more productive relationship with your agency and media partners. Without unified data, it’s impossible to measure success, compare performance accurately, and keep everyone involved in supporting your business accountable.

Be a more active participant in technology choices. As data ownership centralizes under marketing, so does technology ownership. A Gartner survey predicted that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs will. Marketers need not be expert in all technologies, but they must know enough (e.g., what each offering provides and what alternatives exist) to be an active participant in the decision-making process. A seat at the table for media technology decisions is a prerequisite for having a strategic and cooperative relationship with your partners.

Do an everyday audit. Typically, campaign performance and delivery are measured and reported after the fact. To ensure transparency and accountability, marketers must move to a cadence where performance can be monitored daily or even intra day. Only by looking at campaign performance in real time can marketers assign scores to various partners—and ensure changes are made to improve performance while they can still have an impact.

Adopting this “everyday audit” mindset also lets marketers benefit from the increased attention paid by agency and vendor partners to your campaigns. We saw this firsthand at Collective: if a campaign is underperforming, as seen in the daily reports we send to clients or in our 24/7 dashboard, we can quickly work together with the client to assess what is impacting performance and modify strategy, increasing accountability and improving performance.

Make sure you’re looking at the same data. As the old saying goes, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Part of the industry’s push for transparency is to make sure everyone is looking at the same data. Simply put, it’s impossible to optimize performance if you’re comparing apples and oranges.

For years, we have seen double-digit percentage discrepancies between figures that ad servers, exchanges and attribution partners report. We’ve also seen marketers have varying levels of visibility into the cost structures involved when working with technology and service providers. Pulling back the curtain on hidden “ad taxes” helps marketers and their partners make the most informed choices about where to spend their dollars.

Rethink your relationship. The agency model has long been under attack. As inventory and access have become commoditized, the industry has been forced to squeeze value out of existing resources, cut media costs and do more with less. Negotiations are increasingly about cutting costs from the bottom line, rather than creating increased value.

With more transparency, however, agencies and vendors can be freed up to focus on strategy. And though every marketer of course wants a better price, most would pay a premium for better service and superior campaign performance. In other words, transparency creates a sustainable path to growth for agencies and vendors, while delivering better results for clients.

At the heart of each step above is the unification of data and a team-oriented approach to campaign management and optimization. These may sound like daunting tasks, but with new technologies—including unified workflow and execution, partner agnostic campaign management, marketing analytics, and attribution modeling—it’s possible for brands of all sizes to achieve these results.

By unifying your data and ensuring it is analyzed through a common lens with your partners, brands can gain control of their business, while the agencies and vendors they work with can assume the mantle of strategic partners, leveraging shared insights from this data to drive stronger results for everyone.

Viewability, Ad Fraud, Privacy — OH MY!

At the ANA Masters of Marketing in October, Collective had the opportunity to poll attendees as part of our “Audience Insight of the Day” sponsorship. We asked marketers to address their greatest concerns in the digital space. Their answers sent a clear message of where our industry needs to focus attention.

With programmatic ad serving, viewability, ad fraud, and privacy are obvious concerns. Therefore, Collective continues to tackle each one head-on. Our strategy is twofold—we only source inventory (programmatic and direct) from reliable sources and employ comprehensive verification practices to promote brand credibility. In addition to Collective’s IAB Quality Assurance Guideline (QAG) 2.0 certification and partnerships with Integral Ad Science and Telemetry, Collective takes the following measures to assure brand safety. Viewability: In addition to partnering with verification providers Integral Ad Science and Telemetry, Collective employs an entire quality team whose sole focus is to monitor viewability using multiple measurement techniques. Our platform agnostic approach also means we can work with any other third party verification partner. Ad Fraud: To combat bots and other fraudulent activity, our team hand selects inventory sources and applies proprietary quality-control technology to all inventory to ensure that ads are placed in brand-safe environments viewed by actual humans. Privacy: Individual privacy is critically important to Collective, which is why we take safeguards to ensure we don’t receive any personally identifiable information from our clients or partners.

The Dream Of A Well Curated RTB World

Transparency.  Viewability.  Verification.   Our lexicon of the hottest terms in the ad tech space all revolve around a central theme: lack of trust. Looking back to the beginning of real-time ad exchanges, the incredible reach, scale, and targeting abilities of RTB platforms were so transformative for marketers that they didn’t worry as much about fuzzier metrics. However, as the honeymoon phase wore off, the corrupt elements of the RTB universe presented themselves via the results of advertising campaigns and marketers began to demand more from their demand-side platforms (DSPs).

Show Me What’s Happening

Marketers stopped giving the benefit of the doubt to ad impressions bought on exchanges or DSPs, and began to require that platforms prove the value of the media being bought.  This brought about a push for domain-level transparency, the rise of 3rd-party verification companies, and re-energized industry efforts around battling fraud. The burden of proof had shifted onto the media providers, and in the absence of evidence, the new presumption was that the ad impression was unacceptable. Some prominent agency holding companies even began to require 100% viewability from partners.

Best of Both Worlds

For well over a decade, media networks were able to retain the veil of obscurity over their inventory and run successful businesses. However, it would be naïve to claim that verification will be displaced by trust at this point. But what if we could bring together the best of the old, premium inventory media sources with the benefits of the new RTB universe? If traditional marketing benefits (brand-safety, good performance results, desirable audience demographics) could be combined with the benefits of real-time bidding (individual user targeting, massive reach and scale, elastic prices), marketers would realize the high performance of new RTB metrics and see the desired reach of their advertising, all while delivering cost-effective performance objectives. This is the dream of real-time bidding, and one that Collective is turning into a reality. By taking the inventory curation from our premium network, and applying them to the data science-driven optimization of our proprietary real-time bidder, we have removed the fear and doubt from media buying with high performing, highly scaled, brand-safe media.

Programmatic And Direct Relationships: A Beneficial Balance

Everyone is well aware at this point in 2015 that there are infinite benefits to being a programmatic buyer – cost-efficacy, time management, scalable audience insights, real-time optimization, etc. However, with all of the large real-time transactions that come with high volumes of programmatic trading, one thing that seems to get very lost in the shuffle is the direct relationship between the actual buyer and seller of inventory. Sure, there are ways to connect directly through programmatic pipes, though I’d still bet that the majority of exchange connections today are indirect intermediaries of inventory.

But this begs the question – with an ever-growing list of programmatic efficiencies, do we even need direct publisher relationships anymore?

The answer is easy – YES. And it all boils down to quality. Direct relationships allow both buyers and sellers to have a clear understanding of what’s important to each party and how to evaluate accordingly. Whether a campaign is actioned via programmatic pipes or managed by a direct publisher, a buyer can communicate the value of KPI’s like viewability, interactions, brand exposure – essentially any quality or performance-based metrics to the seller – for a much more efficiently executed transaction. Conversely, if a publisher values a certain type of advertiser, creative type, or execution, they could sell programmatically in the open market, though they’d likely have more success with a direct relationship intact.

That isn’t to say that direct relationships are better than programmatic. The point is that despite the heavy shift to programmatic, advertisers should not discount the power of building direct publisher relationships. Both methods benefit buyers and sellers, just in different ways. The key is to have a beneficial balance between the two to drive value and performance.

So even in a world of programmatic, there’s no reason not to be direct as well.