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Transparency: Its New Role in Digital Media Buying

Digital Media Buying Transparency

Transparency. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone is reading about it. And everyone wants to have it. In light of recent events and specifically the roll out of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the advertising industry is going through a resurgence and pivoting to make sure transparency is at the forefront of the shift.

Consumers are becoming smarter about their digital habits and the scattered virtual breadcrumbs they leave behind. As a result, brands are being forced to respond quickly as to not lose trust of their consumers and to ultimately rethink their approach to digital advertising and the prominent role transparency plays.

So what about digital media buying and the various parties operating the vehicles to reach those consumers? This has been on the minds of industry leaders for years, as the report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and investigative firm K2 Intelligence expressed, but with the heat of recent events, a fire has been lit to drive home this reformation. We’re not only experiencing a brand to consumer shift in transparency, but also an industry shift with digital media buying. As consumers and brands become smarter, agencies must significantly set up their business practices as the trickle-down effect leads to the brand they’re working with. This means agencies are now challenged with altering their strategy and approach to how they buy digital media.

As digital media specialists at The Ward Group, it is our job to respond to changing landscapes and put our clients in the best position to succeed. Below is a list of practices agencies need to consider adopting to stay ahead of the transparency curve.

Cost Transparency

First and foremost, agencies need to be more transparent about costs. Brands and clients want to know the cost of each aspect of their marketing efforts, whether it be fees, agency commission, or data costs. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, but the question is exactly which parties get the biggest pieces. According to Digiday, transparency was the biggest theme at this Programmatic Marketing Summit Europe this year. “Advertisers blamed poor guidance from agencies more concerned with protecting margins on programmatic buys, while agencies challenged advertisers to pay more to understand how those investments work.” We believe agencies have an obligation to their clients to be forthcoming about where their media dollars are being invested and the parties involved.

Shift away from third-party to first and second-party data

Facebook is already putting this practice into action with the end of their Partner Categories feature that provides third-party audience data through Datalogix, Epilson, Experian, Acxiom and BlueKai. The social media platform believes taking this step will address the privacy of its user base in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). With brands more cautious than ever, it’s important to know and understand how the data they utilize is being sourced without obscurity. In a MarTech article, Mike Herrick, senior vice president of product and engineering at mobile engagement platform Urban Airship, said, ““The third-party data ecosystem is in danger. We can expect to see smaller ad-tech companies that depend on third-party data go out of business as they struggle to keep up with policy changes or be forced to make major changes to their core business model. The demise of these smaller companies and third-party ad networks will further elevate the Facebook/Google duopoly within the ad ecosystem.” Within the media industry, agencies have long relied on third-party audiences to attract new customers for brands but shifting to only relying on first and second-party data, you have nothing to worry about.

Utilize new tech

Be on the lookout for new technology within the digital media buying industry to assist in the wave of transparency and privacy happening right now. Just last month, IBM and Mediaocean announced they are “piloting a Blockchain network to improve transparency, ad fraud and get makegoods done more quickly.” What is blockchain? According to AdAge, it’s a technology that “time stamps transactions in a ledger visible to all participants but encrypted to prevent cheating or fraud” according to AdAge. And the goal is to “provide better, faster visibility into who’s getting paid for what” in digital media ad buying.

The Ward Group approaches our work as stewards on behalf of our clients; stewards of the brand and stewards of the dollars with which we are entrusted. It’s an approach that is so fundamental to us that it is part of our brand, Media Stewards. As stewards, we have an obligation to be transparent with our clients and we’re excited to see the results of this transparency revolution.

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