There was an interesting announcement earlier this month, regarding the potential for introducing much needed reforms to the programmatic digital media marketplace. Specifically, several of the top exchanges announced that they had reached out to the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) for help in cleaning up some of the non-toward practices that have plagued digital advertisers.
As part of the group’s efforts, these exchanges have agreed to not charge hidden fees or offer rebates that unduly influence agency holding companies. Further, they have pledged to notify buyers in advance if they change auction dynamics, to clearly mark first-price and second-price auctions and to not bid cache without notice.
Translation, the exchanges have been employing these practices all along to the detriment of advertisers as a means of shoring up their bottom lines. Step in the right direction or affirmation of the ongoing murkiness associated with programmatic digital? Advertisers will have to decide, or have they already weighed in on this initiative.
Coincidentally, findings from an important research study and a forecast on digital marketing were also released earlier this month. The results of these efforts may very well shed some light on how advertisers are viewing the ongoing malaise within the digital media marketplace.
In the first study from the In-House Agency Forum (IHAF) and Forrester Research called “The State of In-House Agencies” it was revealed that 64% of corporate America have in-house agencies, which is up 50% from 2008. Interestingly, of those firms with in-house agencies, 38% have digital capabilities. The second piece of information came from an eMarketer forecast “Flight to Quality” which predicted that by 2020 open exchanges will see a declining share as programmatic money goes direct.” eMarketer is predicting that $4 of every $5 will go to private marketplaces. For reference, today, approximately 58% of all programmatic display spend, which totals $27 billion goes to private marketplaces.
The reasons for the move to programmatic direct are clear and compelling and have been at the root of advertiser concern for several years:
- A desire to minimize the risk of digital ad fraud
- The need to improve brand safety
- A concerted effort to move away from low-quality, non-viewable inventory
- Interest in a greater level of transparency (both as it relates to pricing/ fees and the content/ sites where their ads are placed)
Thus, it would appear that while the announcement by top exchanges to engage TAG to assist with reforming the practices employed by the exchanges may be a little too little, too late.
The time to take action to safeguard advertisers’ digital media investments and address advertiser concerns may have come and gone, at least as it relates to the open exchanges. Rebuilding advertiser trust and confidence was an excellent strategy… in 2016 at the height of the U.S. media market’s “Transparency Crisis.”
Unfortunately, as results from the aforementioned studies suggest, many agencies, adtech firms, and exchanges may have waited too long to remedy the woes that led to the epic level of waste that has negatively impacted advertisers’ programmatic digital media spend.
In the words of Og Mandino, the late 20th century American author:
“There is an immeasurable distance between late and too late.”