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Lost in Transparency


Grant Rubin
Published on March 28, 2017
By Grant Rubin

Earlier this year, Marc Pritchard – Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble – spoke at an IAB conference and made a few statements that rattled the industry blogs, boards, and trades while opening some eyes to the methods in which many marketing companies – vendors and agencies alike – are using these days. From an overall standard for viewability to “walled gardens”, there are many opportunities to improve how things are done but the question to be answered is how. While none of the discourse should have been a surprise to smart agencies, a few of the key pillars of the speech often have many associated challenges that agencies have been battling for some time.

Peephole on a green door.


Let’s take
viewability first. Some agencies this day and age have decided they will only pay for viewable impressions. The cost increase to serve only viewable impressions does not always justify the means with programmatic partners since these are often more focused on driving acquisition. On the other side, awareness campaigns based on serving a certain amount of impressions rely heavily on these impressions being seen to introduce users to a new brand or product. Either way seems justifiable and smart agencies think through this quite a bit on a campaign by campaign basis rather than as an overarching, non-negotiable strategy.


The IAB standard definition Pritchard has suggested become universal for the marketing industry at large is one we have used for years – half a second and at least half the unit showing on the page. This begs the question if this fight for universal viewability is even relevant if all we are basing it off is that split-second look. For video, it’s 2 seconds. Imagine scrolling through Facebook and a video is on your mobile screen for 2 seconds while you’re reading your friend’s long status above it, adjusting your glasses, looking to make sure you haven’t missed your subway stop, etc. Is this an appropriate way to measure viewed content? There’s no clear-cut answer here but one thing is certain – something must change even if that starts with a gamble (pun not intended) to push for improvement in the way we define, compare, and optimize viewable success to ensure the best partner mixes to achieve client objectives.

Secondly, the “walled gardens” Pritchard mentions have slowly been coming down in recent years in the display world. Our agency has taken a stance that partners must be transparent in two-ways: one, in their technology fees which are negotiable just like a CPM and two, transparency where ads serve. With so many similar vendors, their black-box technology solutions make sense as their proprietary tool to stand out. Beyond that though, it’s important to understand where ads are running, and how much we are paying for the actual media versus the technology fees. This is getting better in the programmatic display space as we’ve reignited relationships with partners over the past year as they open these transparencies as the industry trends that direction.

In the end, it’s about having these conversations that spur change and compromise, which clearly as a leader at one of the largest companies in the world, Pritchard has accomplished. As an agency, comparability across the partners that are being utilized across multiple media campaigns daily is a key to our success. Agency media teams spend hours upon hours making sure alignment exists with the right partners and tactics; to be able compare them – both up front in a proposal and when viewing in-campaign results – is crucial to continuing to build off current campaigns and inform future ones. It’s things like viewability and transparency that better allow agencies to make decisive conclusions for our clients when we know these advertisers have put so much money at stake for us to make a difference.


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