By Gregory R. Raifman, President, Rubicon Project
“Trust but verify.”
This Russian adage provides time-tested advice about how independent parties should approach their relationships with each other. “Trust but verify” advises us to enter into partnerships with a spirit of trust and goodwill, while also employing data and transparency to maintain all parties' confidence in those partnerships.
“Trust but verify" also captures the lesson we should take away from the ANA study released last week on the state of relations between the world’s biggest and most influential brands and their advertising partners. The ANA study has highlighted the need for a new business environment seeded in these same bedrock principles of trust and verification.
The basic findings of the report bring to light a breakdown in the current agency - advertiser relationship: The rise of procurement and the whittling of agency fees. In addition, the world of rebates in international markets and the alleged importation of the practice into the U.S. market were all on display in their findings.
The report and the ensuing conversations it has ignited can become a positive catalyst for change - one that places the advertiser, the publisher and the consumer on equal footing in a trusted and transparent marketplace. It also highlights the need for us to finally close the chapter on the antiquated advertising models that made sense a generation ago but are no longer applicable in a market rightly seeking transparency at the speed and scale our digitally connected ecosystem now demands.
In a nutshell, the 60-page report from the ANA seeks greater transparency and a verifiable degree of trust, offering a clear call to action for our industry to fully embrace the evolution to transparent advertising automation.
The rise of advertising automation - referred to within industry circles as programmatic advertising - offers a transformative opportunity for the industry to move beyond the conversation we are having today to one that builds trust and transparent verification at precisely the time many are seeking it.
The core architecture of programmatic advertising lends itself to seeing and understanding who adds (and who subtracts) value from the media trading supply chain. Transparency is engineered directly into the architecture of programmatic advertising. For every single advertising impression, each participant in the value chain can follow the spend as it travels between advertisers, agencies, trading desks, buy side and sell side platforms and media owners. Participants can trust that their ad dollars are going to the right audiences at the right price and they can verify it right down to the impression level.
Orders, or private markets, can also be used to realize the benefits of one’s trading power enabling advertisers to negotiate direct access to the best media while creating an auditable, standardized trading practice that can then be federated across an advertiser’s agencies, media owner partners and operating geographies.
Finally, the move to automation also helps to address critical issues of viewability and fraud. Although some players purport to address these issues, it is very clear from widely available independent rankings exactly those platforms that are truly committed to combating fraud and delivering the highest quality, viable advertising impressions versus those that simply offer lip service while profiting off of bad ads.
Leading advertising agencies have embraced the move to automation precisely to help combat many of the issues highlighted in the report. Technology platforms, like Rubicon Project, were specifically created to power the automation of the advertising marketplace to enable a high quality, well-lit and transparent advertising ecosystem to flourish.
Once again, the time has come for everyone - brands, agencies and technology providers to demand greater transparency, to embrace the power of automation and to ask the tough questions of every partner to ensure value is being given rather than profits simply being taken.
Gregory R. Raifman is President of Rubicon Project and is a founding board member of the advertising industry’s Trustworthy Accountability Group.