Considering the increasing use of online and digital platforms among consumers, it’s unsurprising that brands have followed suit and invested heavily in digital advertising strategies. Much of this investment has been channelled into programmatic ads in recent years – 80% of the budget for display ads is now traded programmatically (up 8% from 2017). What’s more, the spend on programmatic is only going to rise as advertisers and brands look to maximise impact, reach and conversions.

However, with this boom in spending comes a significant challenge for the industry. While mostly considered a step forward for digital advertising, programmatic trading and targeting has created its own problem; a lack of transparency, clarity and control around how ad dollars are spent.

Large global brands and advertisers have very publicly threatened to pull spend from digital ad platforms in the wake of transparency, accuracy and safety issues. With some very rare but questionable suppliers muddying the waters, it makes sense that brands are demanding a commitment to transparency across the board.

This cry for a more open approach has come about due to a number of factors. Firstly, brands want more insight into where ads are appearing and how they are performing as a result. Secondly is cost. It’s time for us all in ad tech, no matter where you are on the supply chain, to disclose the fees, budgets or allocation of spend in the process of delivering an advert. And finally, they want an open and clear working relationship between publisher, agency, and partners. This includes the open sharing of data to ensure a campaign is achieving the results they expect.

Technology’s impact on transparency

While other industries like healthcare are already reaping the benefits of artificial intelligence, the advertising sector is now realising how important AI can be in serving ads to the right person and tackling the challenge of transparency. AI-powered systems give advertisers more data and therefore more insights into the ads that are being delivered, at what moment, and to which consumers.

The technology can also provide more in-depth data about how effectively the budget is being used. This gives brands assurances that they are getting value from their ad spend and are reaching the optimum number of consumers with the right ads. It’s powerful information that can be used to plan future campaigns, marketing activity - or even corporate strategies.

Unpacking the black box

A culture of secrecy only breeds a lack of trust between agencies, advertisers and ad tech providers. But in addition, it will only serve to restrict or hinder the success of an advertising campaign. Opening the ‘black box’ to reveal how a system works and the results it is delivering increases visibility of the digital ad supply chain, shows exactly what is being spent, and reveals all-important insights.

By choosing to work with one of the so-called ‘walled gardens’ brands and media agencies risk missing out on vital information that can inform important decisions. It’s why we are committed to having two-way conversations about data with our clients at Sizmek. After all, we believe there’s no point in obtaining, organising and implementing all this data if we can’t use it to help advertisers get better results, learn about their customers or create effective marketing strategies.

An advertising advantage

Trust and transparency must become the industry norm. Without it, ad tech providers not only risk damage to their reputation, but damage to their results. The end goal for all of us should be delivering adverts at scale to the right person at the perfect moment in a brand safe environment. By showing clients how we get to that point and what they can learn from our efforts puts us at a massive competitive advantage. When we’re open about what we do and where it gets us, programmatic advertising will build a reputation that’s less about protection or damage to reputations and more about consumer personalisation and relevancy - a win-win for all of us.


By Andrew Morsy, UK managing director at Sizmek

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