Buying digital advertising is more complex and features many more links in the transactional chain than the (traditional) model it is rapidly replacing. Today, there are often dozens of links in the chain, including ad servers, trading desks, demand- and supply-side platforms, data management and ad verification platforms, ad exchanges, and ad networks.
Despite this complexity, many advertisers now understand digital ad buying. Our experience shows that companies that are making it work are those who work closely with their partners to get transparency across the transactional chain. To ensure that these critical partnerships really deliver, we recommend advertisers follow a seven-point action plan:
1. The most important place to start is with the contract framework with your media agency. Although an annual review of the entire contract may be too resource-intensive, make sure you often review the sections and clauses that cover digital activity. Ensure that your contract reflects how the market currently operates.
2. Take time to understand risks associated with trades that are not transparent. If it is appropriate for your brand, exclude media buys from your contract that limit transparency. This includes both proprietary and inventory media. And if you do decide that the rewards of using non-transparent trades outweigh the risks, consider capping the percentage of your media investment that can be spent in this way.
3. Be sure that your agency puts in place all the necessary monitoring and blocking technologies that minimise the risk of ad fraud. Consider including a requirement to track ad fraud in your agency contract and ensure you are not obliged to pay for any activity that has proved to be fraudulent or non-viewable.
4. Only trade with known suppliers. There are emerging best-practice approaches, including the IAB Tech Lab’s Ads.txt initiative, which enable publishers and agencies to manage the supply chain more effectively. These approaches limit the reselling of inventory to approved parties only. This protects publishers from unauthorised middlemen reselling inventory or claiming to represent inventory that is actually spoofing highly regarded websites.
5. Limit how the data associated with your digital ad buying is used. Use your contract to be sure that your data is used just for the purpose of running and managing your own campaigns and not anyone else’s.
6. Be clear on how much of your digital media spend is being invested in walled gardens. Today, at least 20% of all global ad revenue goes to FB and Google, but neither platform currently allows for transparent or independent measurement of performance, or in fact data usage as the recent FB-Cambridge Analytica story has highlighted.
7. Put in place an audit program so that you can verify that whatever has been agreed to in your contract is being adhered to. This enables ongoing validation that the terms in your contract are fit for purpose and that all parties are operating in accordance with them.
Sandeep Khewle is CEO, FirmDecisions India