Advertising Guest Columns
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Greater transparency for all? Industry experts react to new Cross Industry Programmatic Taskforce toolkit 

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As the Cross Industry Programmatic Taskforce releases a toolkit to reduce online ad spend waste, digital advertising insiders have been responding to the news. The toolkit was designed as a response to the lack of transparency around programmatic supply-chain costs, with many of them being ‘unattributable’ and few of the profits going to publishers.

While the consensus among industry professionals is that transparency can only be for the greater good, some commentators have speculated that action needs to be taken to ensure the toolkit will be widely adopted by major players if it is to be successful. Others have highlighted that publishers aren’t the only players overlooked in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Nevertheless, it’s thought that the toolkit could promote greater confidence in the open web and provide a useful framework for programmatic best practice. Below is a collation of industry reaction:

Ben Erdos, Chief Services Officer, Total Media Solutions comments: “The success of the toolkit will rest on how accessible it is, so we’ll need to see whether it can perform for all publishers in practice. For those without knowledge and resources, it may be out of reach, leaving only the big players to feel its benefits. That said, anything that aims to increase transparency and reduce waste in the industry is to be lauded and supported – aside from the obvious financial benefits of recouping ineffective spend, which in turn should trickle-down to publishers. There are also distinct productivity advantages if data is clear and consistent between all parties.” 

It sets out standards, so industry newcomers now know to bake in transparency tools from the start as a component of best practice and not an afterthought for audits.

Ben Erdos, Chief Services Officer, Total Media Solutions

Pierce Cook-Anderson, Managing Director, Northern Europe, Smart AdServer comments: “With transparency across the value chain more important than ever, the task force is a great way to ensure confidence in the open web. Digital advertising is operating more efficiently than it ever has before. However, there is still a need to better understand the players involved at each stage of the supply chain and the value they each bring.”

“While the toolkit is a positive step, it will likely face the same challenge all new initiatives face. Namely, they are only valuable if adopted at scale and by major players in the industry. For example, some transparency issues have already been addressed by tools such as sellers.json and SupplyChain Object. But these are only present on one side of the value chain, and the recent introduction of their counterparts (buyers.json and demand.side object) aren’t implemented to the same extent on the demand side. Moreover, the lAB’s Shared Campaign Identifier (ex:Trust.Id) – which enables the tracking of a campaign throughout its lifecycle – is also yet to be deployed widely. That said, any step the industry takes to further build confidence via transparency is a positive move.”

Robert Sewell, CEO, SmartFrame Technologies says: “The toolkit is excellent news for transparency between advertisers and publishers, but what about image owners? Two years ago ISBA and PwC found how little money in programmatic advertising goes to publishers, but image owners are often left out of the equation entirely. Imagery is a crucial part of the media ecosystem and with the proliferation of fake news, alongside increasingly sophisticated image manipulation, the industry must start to take the journey of an image more seriously, not only to promote fairness and transparency for every contributor, but to protect their own brand image.”

Paul Cranwell, VP Strategic Partnerships, AdTonos adds: “The toolkit is good news and AdTonos welcomes this initiative. It is vital that clear parameters are communicated across the industry so that everyone in the supply chain is clear about the requirements and expectations. Honesty and transparency is the key to the long-term growth and health of programmatic. As audio advertising becomes more prevalent in other channels such as gaming, these measures will further contribute to audio’s credibility as a safe and trustworthy medium.”

The intentions of the Cross Industry Programmatic Taskforce and its toolkit are admirable; but with all new initiatives, its effectiveness remains to be seen. As commentators have highlighted, it will need to be adopted on all sides of the value chain and at scale to fully achieve what it has set out to do. Moreover, it must be completely accessible so as not to leave anyone behind, and for publishers to entirely feel the benefit. If these reservations can be resolved, the toolkit may signal a new dawn for programmatic advertising, one that is transparent and offers equal opportunities to all. 

Time will tell.