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Transparency in Programmatic Advertising

Why transparency in programmatic media buying matters

On a macro level, business transparency is paramount for a company to achieve success and deliver optimal performance. Regardless of industry, supply chain optimization (SCO) requires visibility across the partner ecosystem. Similar to the adage that “you’re only as strong as the weakest link,” an opaque supply chain opens the door for some partners to extract more value than they add. In the digital ad industry, complexities in programmatic buying and selling of ads creates a plethora of ways for weak links to extract or in the case of bad actors – steal – from the ad ecosystem. 

In the United States, programmatic buying and selling of digital advertising will account for $123B in 2022, representing 90% of display ad spend. Transparency into where programmatic media budgets are being spent is key to unlocking media buying efficiencies. Additionally, understanding media placements is critical for protecting the brand’s reputation, while gaining valuable engagement insights that inform your business’s strategy. 

Visibility is the first step to improving media efficiency 

By gaining control and transparency into programmatic media buying, your business can accelerate its performance and gain greater efficiency. An analysis of performance at a granular level that enables your business to make both micro and macro level adjustments to enhance overall performance. This can include minimizing the number of partners and/or utilizing partners for specific initiatives or tactics within a given campaign.

Macro level efficiencies may include identifying high-performing supply side platforms (SSPs) or sites endemic to brand’s target audience. With robust campaign analytics in hand, media teams can explore direct relationships with preferred partners who may ultimately be able to drive further efficiencies and value. 

Transparency enables a more granular view into an audience — what resonates with them and what messaging or content potentially needs to be refined. At a micro level, business intelligence provides insights across a wide range of campaign parameters, including: media technology platforms, device makes/models, browsers, ad placements and much more. 

Ad fraud continues to plague the programmatic ecosystem and create inefficiencies in buying, but can be mitigated. It begins with transparency. A well-lit supply chain allows ad-buyers to identify fraudulent areas such as low viewability of ads, suspicious activity through invalid traffic and bots — traffic that bolsters surface level metrics such as CPMs (lower is better) or CTRs (higher is better) but does not result in genuine actions that improve campaign performance, nor do they benefit the business. 

In what could be considered a gray area, some publishers practice media arbitrage. In order to maximize yield (ad revenue), they purchase low-cost and (arguably) low-quality ads from game apps and lesser-known sites to drive audiences which are then exposed to higher CPM ads. This practice isn’t necessarily fraudulent, but the “acquired” audiences may not align with the original target audience. However, it impacts the surface level metrics previously mentioned and likely goes undetected without media forensics. 


Transparency is the key to understanding, then it becomes a catalyst for change in the way your team buys media going forward. 


Protecting the brand’s reputation 

Your company’s brand and reputation helps define your success. Transparency into where your ads are being placed programmatically and to whom is paramount to protecting your brand’s reputation. A family brand that prides itself on its family values cannot be seen next to controversial content without the risk of tarnishing the brand. Negative adjacency is a significant concern for media buyers during a time of user generated content (UGC), geopolitical unrest  and a global pandemic. Meanwhile, media planners for an alcohol brand that targets a 21+ audience also need assurance that audience targeting is accurate to ensure they are being a good brand shepherd. 


Informing your business’s strategy

Transparency in your programmatic media buying allows your business to gain valuable insights that can propel your business forward. With transparency into audience insights your business can better understand your customers and develop products and services to meet your customer’s needs. Visibility into what type of messaging resonates and with whom can inform brand positioning. For example, time and location data can inform your product offerings by market. Applying deeper insights to programmatic media buying data can truly be a differentiator between you and your competition when developing and informing your business strategy. 


Programmatic advertising is a powerful tool; however, in the digital ad landscape just like any other ecosystem — value can be added or extracted by participants. The ability to implement SCO and drive optimal media performance starts with transparency.

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