Transparency, The Final Frontier For Ad Exchanges

sloangaon“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 Sloan Gaon, CEO of PulsePoint.

There’s no doubt that we’re living and breathing in a programmatic world. Programmatic buying is here and it’s expanding fast, with leading industry experts, such as IDC, Forrester and others, projecting that brands and advertisers will ultimately spend most of their digital-advertising dollars through programmatic buying. But there’s one last barrier preventing this from happening today: a lack of data transparency. EMarketer recently reported that 68% of US media buyers want more data to inform their bids.







Lack of transparency isn’t a new industry issue, but the conversation isn’t evolving fast enough to keep pace with the growing industry adoption of automated buying. We need to quickly move beyond the current definition of transparency, which is limited only to publisher transparency. Just knowing all the sites on which your company is advertising is akin to knowing that your radio ad will air on an R&B radio station — that information is helpful, for sure, but without deeper data about the audience hearing the ad, its usefulness is limited.  Sharing more data could bring about a more efficient market for both buyers and sellers. The industry needs to define new levels of acceptable criteria for transparency in the programmatic era.

In my opinion, today’s definition of transparency should include knowing every kernel of data that’s available on both sides of the exchange. It’s not about site-level transparency anymore; it’s about impression-level transparency. What are the content attributes of the URL where the impression is being served? What category of user is seeing the ad? What sort of post-campaign analysis can you provide to help marketers further customize their media spend? This level of detail helps make data actionable by allowing advertisers to identify and buy smarter impressions in bulk.

This new data would give brands actionable insights beyond the cookie and help them better understand who visits and converts on their sites, as well as the type of content those customers want. In defining data transparency, I see the following elements as essential to helping a buyer make smarter decisions:

  • Total visibility into inventory type, as well as the ability to see new impressions.
  • Transparent impressions delivered as biddable inventory. Buyers should know as much information about an impression as the seller does, including which types of impressions are getting bought and which aren’t, such as bid and win data.
  • Data beyond the cookie, including page-level attributes and additional proprietary audience data, completes the full cycle of transparency.

Data Transparency Is Good For Publishers, Too

These data points can, and should, not only be provided in real time, but also at tremendous scale. Data-enriched, transparent inventory available in large quantities would give brands a safe environment in which they could identify new, valuable inventory and audiences they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.

But, often overlooked, is the fact that the supply side — not just the buy side — also has much to gain from greater data transparency. Publishers would get real-time page-level categorization of their sites while boosting ad relevancy so they can deliver a better user experience.  How many times have we heard the phrase, “right user, right time, right place?” More transparency would give publishers the ability to reveal — and monetize — the true value of their inventory while also ensuring safe environments for advertisers.

As we move to the next stage of programmatic adoption — and to a future where a growing percentage of publishers sell inventory only on ad exchanges — the brands that don’t leverage exchanges and understand the true value of data transparency risk being left behind.

Follow Sloan Gaon (@PulsePointBuzz) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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