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Will 2018 Bring Transparency in Marketing and Advertising?

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I’ve been following the marketing and advertising industries closely, ever since I started representing B2B technology companies in the space several years back here at PAN. Some clear trends emerged and have been fun to watch: the simultaneous explosion and consolidation of the vendor landscape, personalized customer experiences, clever yet annoying acronyms like “SoLoMo,” omni-channel engagement (often debatably referred to as multi-channel or cross-channel) and everything about millennials – to name a few.

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Industry Voices Bring Awareness to the Transparency Problem

Transparency in marketing and advertising is nothing new, but it has taken on a new meaning this year.  Proctor & Gamble’s (P&G) Chief Marketing Officer, Marc Pritchard, has been particularly vocal about the issue. Kicking off the New Year at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting, Pritchard made a loud call for transparency, stating that P&G has given agencies a year to get to “a transparent, clean and productive media supply chain,” or risk losing its business. According to a transcript of his speech, Pritchard went on, adding “We have a media supply chain that is murky at best and fraudulent at worst. We need to clean it up, and invest the time and money we save into better advertising to drive growth.”

Taking Credit for Fraudulent Views

When it comes down to it, marketers don’t have a handle on where their ad spend is going – this is a huge problem. There is little visibility into how ads are performing. Once they’re served to consumers and positive metrics are reported back, how do organizations know if those ads were viewed by humans or bots? Often times, they don’t. In fact, our client White Ops forecasted 2017 ad fraud losses to be $6.5 billion globally.

Viewability Comes into Question

While there is the major and costly issue of ads going to fake viewers – or bots – a separate issue exists where humans are served up the ad but may not see it. The Media Rating Council (MRC) has worked to address this and is continuously reviewing its guidelines for viewability – “an online advertising metric that aims to track only impressions that can actually be seen by users” (got to love Digiday’s “WTF series”). According to MediaPost, industry players like GroupM require 100 percent of pixels to be in view and a review of the standard could make the definition of a “view” stricter.

Time for an Agency Shake-Up

When we think of the media supply chain, there are a lot of players: in-house marketing teams, agencies, technology vendors – including programmatic platforms –  and more. Agencies have been commonplace for years, but are now being called into question. A new report by Infectious Media found that 74 percent of marketers claimed that transparency issues linger – namely that agencies do not report all of their financial data. As middlemen, it’s not obvious how they’re using the budget they’re tasked with spending. They are also expected to report positive results for the brands they’re working with. If they’ve been doing it wrong all along (not intentionally, but because of the aforementioned issues), are they going to admit this now? Probably not.

Bringing Clarity to a Muddy Conversation

Technology can help solve the transparency issue plaguing the industry, but it will never be a catch-all. Our clients that live in the MarTech and Ad Tech industries are doing some exciting things, but their work will be most powerful when action meets innovation. Associations like MRC, IAB and ANA – along with influential voices like P&G’s Pritchard –  should continue to raise awareness and agree to firm standards. Organizations themselves need to stop looking the other way. It’s time to change the status quo of how they have been executing and measuring within the walls of marketing and advertising departments. No more sweeping fake ads, views and inaccurate metrics reports under the rug. Hopefully 2018 will usher in this change. The market is ripe and ready, but collaboration and willingness to rock the boat will be key.

Further Reading

In the meantime, I urge you all to follow along with me. There are a number of informative publications covering the evolving martech / adtech world. A few of my favorites are:

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