Transparency: The Display Advertising Buzzword We Only Think We Want

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timmayerupdated"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Tim Mayer, chief marketing officer at Trueffect.

Advertisers in the display space have yearned for more transparency from vendors in recent years. This yearning has been amplified by the recent, rapid growth of programmatic display advertising.

The increased complexity, which is inherent to programmatic, led to continuous moaning from advertisers about less transparency, which may be the result of ad tech vendors, rather than programmatic advertising itself. The important thing to note is that when these advertisers request more transparency, they may also be talking around each other and seeking transparency into different performance metrics including fraud, viewability, pricing and publishers (where ads are running).

The desire for transparency was a major impetus for programmatic in the early days, but now it points to “buyer reticence … to fully engage in programmatic media management for fear of what will happen when they do. … Fear of the unknown, often couched in ‘there’s no transparency,’ is still a major obstacle,” Joanna O’Connell wrote in a recent AdExchanger article.

It’s true. Oftentimes, these algorithmic black-box programmatic ad networks outperform the manual process that enterprises and agencies employed in the past. Marketers these days are overloaded with the vast amount of data they need to analyze and the numerous systems they need to operate. As a result, they are time-bound and may never have the opportunity to review and analyze the metrics for which they are asking vendors to provide transparency.

Are marketers afraid of changing with this (inevitable) industry shift and instead using buzzwords and phrases, such as “lack of transparency,” as an excuse to resist this change?

If their roles evolve as they must, and they stop managing display campaigns and outsource this function and skill set to an outside vendor, how do they evolve as marketing professionals and continue to maintain a significant place in the value chain?

Contrarily, I would argue that transparency is key in terms of determining upside – everything that is working in marketing – rather than using transparency to only determine what is not working. It is key to discover these valuable upside insights and make them actionable, not only in the programmatic display channel, but also across premium, programmatic and other marketing channels such as paid search and email. These insights provide instant feedback into what is working from a creative messaging and audience perspective.

Over the course of my career, I have used cross-channel insights from paid search as an avenue to quickly test headlines for email and search engine optimization. If I managed my channels independently, my learnings would be far slower and less significant. The speed at which you test and react is probably one of the strongest indicators of success for performance marketing.

The other trend that will force the transparency of programmatic players is the reality that most marketers are bidding for the same audiences across programmatic, driving up prices dramatically as a result. It is often less expensive to find these audiences via premium display buys. This makes a case for the re-evaluation of how things are currently done, and the push for managing programmatic and premium in a transparent portfolio approach to optimize performance across these two buying strategies. It is not an “either/or” approach in the market; it’s “and,” which will ensure a move towards openness and transparency into campaign happenings for high-performance marketers.

As we move forward, I expect that many of the black-box algorithmic players will need to move to a more transparent framework. We must remember that the actionable insights we garner across our marketing channels are much more valuable than identifying problems within campaigns via transparent data.

Follow Tim Mayer (@timmayer), Trueffect (@Trueffect_Tweet) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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