Paul Wright of iotec: what the ANA code means for adtech

The most recent report by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is an eye opener for the adtech industry. The report provides insights into the problems with programmatic ad buying, specifically the fact that there is no measurable way to tell if buyers or brands are getting what they pay for.

Initiated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), Ebiquity and AD/FIN, the study analysed 16.4 billion media impressions purchased on behalf of seven major advertisers across five programmatic DSPs over a two-year period. The report highlights the imminent need for the industry to provide greater accountability and transparency in programmatic media. It aims to demystify programmatic buying for advertisers wanting more control over the process and lays out detailed steps to enable this.

It’s not surprising to anyone that there’s obviously been a lot of speculation around programmatic transparency in recent months. However, having suspicions confirmed that buyers have no way of measuring what they’re getting and what it’s worth is a hard reality to face. As a result, this could very well be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back and changes the way things within the industry are done for brands, agencies and vendors alike.

Transparency in a business or governance context can be equated to honesty and openness – something that has been largely shrouded within the ad industry lately. Generally, to maintain good corporate governance, businesses need to maintain a greater sense of accountability. In my opinion, these ANA findings allude to the need for a move beyond transparency and hit hard at questions around ethical business practices. It begs the question of what needs to be addressed in addition to transparency and what are the root issues that are plaguing the industry as a whole?

One way to ensure that standards are being met and brands are protected is to work alongside an accredited third party like JICWEBS. JICWEBS audits for compliance and client protection – more brands and buyers should be paying attention to their work, or at the very least take heed from their Good Practice Guide, which can help to insure against exposure to fraud within the buying process. It’s important to align yourself with these parties to meet the baseline for good governance, but also to be a leader in paving the knowledge path for ways to achieve greater transparency and improve trust.

The main difficulty throughout this discussion is at the nexus of convenience and safety – we as an industry all understand the benefits of buying programmatic and moving towards automation. The question is then how to balance this and prevent controversy as programmatic continues to grow and flourish. Unless these questions are addressed from all sides – brand, agency and vendor – friction will continue to worsen and threaten the real value of media investments. Advertisers need to ensure they are getting full disclosure from their ad tech platforms or suppliers by asking the right questions, and realise it is in their power to demand full transparency over their media investments.

Paul Wright is CEO of intent marketing specialist iotec.

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