WAKE UP, IT’S TIME TO CLEAN UP THE DIGITAL MEDIA SUPPLY CHAIN
Published on April 27, 2020
“Craft or crap? That’s really the big question and technology enables both”.
This was the premise of Chief Brand Officer of Procter and Gamble Marc Pritchard’s speech at the 2017 Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s Annual Leadership Meeting. Quite an opener, isn’t it?
It’s certainly one of those talks that will stay with you as a marketing professional as you reflect on your campaigns and long-term brand performance. Are the ads you’re producing really of relevance to your customers? Are they even seeing them? Worse yet, what are you actually paying for?
Lauded as one of the most notable presentations on the need for greater media transparency, Pritchard posed some key questions that remain very relevant today in 2020. For the most part, it’s safe to say that the digital advertising industry has yet to fully address them.
According to eMarketer, global digital ad spend reached US$333.25 billion in 2019 with the expectation that brands will continue to bolster their ad budgets over the coming years as this figure grows to US$517 billion by 2023. Yet, according to Cheq, the direct and indirect costs of ad fraud will lead to losses of approximately up to US$53 billion alone in 2019.
Burdened by perennial issues of fraud and malicious actors, the amount of growth seen across the industry remains “anaemic” at best, as Pritchard puts it. Because no matter how many millions and billions one throws at a system, if it isn’t working properly, the outcome won’t change for the better. The point is, in order to drive better digital advertising to see that well-deserved growth that brands hope for, the industry needs a better digital media supply chain.
Guided by some of the most compelling points in Pritchard’s talk, this blogpost will examine some of the most pressing issues of today’s digital media supply chain and how emerging technologies are best positioned to address them.
The truth is, no matter the increased emphasis on data privacy across the regulatory agenda, programmatic advertising will not go away. Widely regarded as one of the most important automation optimisations made to the digital ad world, programmatic is certainly a boon for marketers but it must learn to adapt.
In fact, since the emergence of programmatic, ad agencies and adtech solutions providers have benefitted from a great deal of freedom—ad exchanges that anonymise the buying and selling process and platforms such as Google and Facebook that streamline the process of bidding for ad space have allowed for great convenience but at a cost.
Consider print advertising of the past—you’d be deciding where to place your ad, how it’s being placed, and the cost of the ad, based on requests for proposals and contractual agreements. Today, the formalities of human-based negotiation are long gone and we’ve settled for algorithmic, real-time decision-making.
While far more efficient than its predecessor, the system certainly isn’t perfect—an increasingly opaque, crowded supply chain has led to inefficiencies in processes such as payment reconciliation. While digital advertising has allowed brands to target more consumers at any time and any place, little has been done to mitigate the abundance of data being collected at a given time and how to best comb through it.
As much as we’d like to think that all tech solutions are created equally, the fact is, there’s simply too many. Luma Partners found that over 40 different platform categories exist, comprising over 1,000 platform providers with different offerings spanning marketing modelling and attribution to data management. This crowded landscape has led to inconsistencies in industry standards and of course, the unfortunate reality that these platforms as well as brands, end up operating within individual siloes. In the end, there is an inequitable exchange of value taking place among participants of the supply chain—after all, too many cooks spoil the broth.
This is especially the case when it comes to viewability standards—the metric that determines whether your ad has actually been seen by a real person—and how exactly this is determined. Unfortunately, inconsistent standards for viewability metrics across the digital advertising industry still remain a problem, leading to serious process inefficiencies when reconciling impressions from multiple platforms.
While three years have passed since 2017, this certainly still rings true. Today’s digital media supply chain remains woefully opaque, with stakeholders unable to leverage a full end-to-end view of the impression lifecycle. As Pritchard argues, “a complicated, non-transparent, and inefficient supply chain” gives no brand a competitive advantage—growth is stilted and rather than being able to divert ad spend towards the compelling craft that leading brands are well-positioned to produce, their budgets go to waste. In other words, a non-transparent media supply chain hinders advertisers from making timely strategic decisions.
For years, the main KPIs to gauge success have revolved around metrics on campaign performance in order to ensure that marketers have gained a quality return on investment. No longer a matter of direct conversions or successful clicks, another evaluation for success is determined based on productivity and efficiency. For the industry to have a sustainable long-term future, we’ll need to rely on more technological enhancements that enable transparency for accurate attribution, rather than hinder it.
Where do we go from here?
If today’s marketing technology landscape is any indication, tech solutions simply can’t be approached from a one-size-fits-all perspective. At worst, technology hinders productivity, creates redundancy, and simply functions as a cosmetic band-aid on systemic infrastructural issues. For marketing professionals to maximise the return on their investments, the benefits from implementing such solutions have to be truly reaped.
As fervent believers in the potential of blockchain, it’s the technology we’ve chosen to apply when it comes to building solutions for our partners. Why? It’s simple. Blockchain is a distributed ledger that allows all authorised participants on the network to view all changes, additions, and transactions being made. With a full view of all actions taking place on-chain, blockchain promises the necessary transparency needed for marketers and advertisers to make real-time decisions in order to strategically optimise their campaigns.
Beyond that, another promising solution to come from blockchain is that of smart contracts: agreements that automatically execute based on pre-agreed metrics. Think of what a blessing this would be when it comes to payments reconciliation or accessing whether an impression is in fact viewed by a real person. Rather than relying on manual, administrative processes, smart contracts help to automate these tasks, allowing for a more efficient administrative and data stream.
The next time you assess your marketing campaigns, be sure to have a think: Is what I’m doing truly adding value to the organisation? Am I able to evaluate the marketing channels with an accurate attribution of campaign performance? Is our spend going to crap or craft?
It’s 2020. We’d argue it’s time to make sure it’s always the latter.