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Two major hot buttons in the digital advertising ecosystem this year have centered around:

  • the lack of transparency of costs and
  • a need for control over the quality of ad placement.

The “transparency” discussion involves the way the increasingly-complex supply chain has made it nearly impossible to understand where, exactly, your ad spend is going.

The real question lies with the many layers of publishers, aggregators, service providers and tech. How much of my dollar is really going to working media at the end of the day?

The “control” topic is one that’s more about brand safety and quality than spend. Brands and agencies have a justifiable concern about where their ads are appearing. We’ve seen too many instances where the lack of granular data about ad inventory has resulted in ads appearing next to less-than-optimal content — whether it be truly unsavory or just highly unfortunate.

While these are two different conversations, both are about maximizing campaign performance, at the end of the day. This, in turn, has placed pressure on participants across the digital ecosystem, and it’s being answered in the form of tools and technologies that empower agencies and brands to gain better transparency and control.

While not exactly a panacea, here are some of the controls that advertisers can leverage as a significant first step toward transparency.

Because who needs a rear-view mirror if you’ve got broader control and visibility over buys before your ads are even placed?

Pre-bid viewability

A big complaint of brands and advertisers has been that it was impossible to know the viewability of an ad impression until you’d purchased the space, examined the page and rated the spot. Mercifully, “pre-bid viewability” has emerged to ensure that’s increasingly no longer the case.

While not pervasive in the ecosystem quite yet, companies like Moat and Integral Ad Science have developed techniques that enable advertisers to estimate the viewability of a publisher’s impression based on past performance of that particular space.

Called “pre-bid viewability,” this is allowing buyers to only bid on impressions they want to run, which can lower discrepancies for campaigns that are also blocking tags. Still, in its emerging phase, there remain a few issues:

  • extra cost
  • limited availability
  • and the challenge of using a mix of vendors that may or may not support pre-bid.

Overall, however, the potential is well demonstrated and we look forward to wider implementation in the near term.

Placement verification

Whether or not an ad was actually seen is a bit like the proverbial tree falling in the forest. Thankfully, we now have verification vendors serving as the eyes and ears of the programmatic forest, always there to know if that ad made its intended “sound.”

Verification platforms allow advertisers to compare what their DSP says about where their ad runs against a third-party adjudication. They can help monitor suspicious activity and the viewability of campaigns.

These platforms allow advertisers to buy and sell with confidence by providing transparency and accuracy from their adtech partners. This helps illustrate the value of inventory, and protect campaigns, instilling trust and confidence.

Holistic verification metrics are driving customer performance and increasing the trust in the media buying process. Some are in the early phases of being able to integrate real-time capabilities like ad blocking, pre-bid targeting, and predictive data.

But the addition of this extra information to the ad tag still requires due diligence. While verification doesn’t stop an ad from being served on bad content in the first place, it does let the advertisers know where and when it is.

Final thoughts

There is no magic potion that will solve all of digital advertising’s problems, but pre-bid viewability estimates and placement verification platforms do collectively give brands and advertisers a lot more control over their ad buys.

And until we get a magic potion that gives full transparency, taking advantage of emerging technologies is a way we can enjoy improvements to transparency throughout the entire adtech stack.