Make a resolution for greater digital transparency this year

03 Feb 2015  |  Chris Le May 
Make a resolution for greater digital transparency this year

While it's good to know that a campaign is performing well, it's better to know why, says DataXu's Chris Le May.

As the end of January approaches, people's resolutions are dropping off quicker than viewers of The X Factor: the gyms are empty, while the fruit and veg sections of grocery stores are suspiciously full. It's a far cry from the green smoothies and packed running paths of the beginning of the year.

Even if your personal resolution to get fit or finally learn Spanish haven't panned out, how about setting a resolution for your business instead that you'll actually stick to throughout the year and - hopefully - beyond? This year, set your agency-wide resolution to demand greater transparency from your technology partners, and offer that transparency in turn to your clients.

It's remarkable how much is still unknown about the online space even though digital marketing is a key part of any agency's offering. You hear about untrackable 'dark social' conversations, or the dreaded 'black box' of programmatic advertising, but much less about transparent digital media buying, or the many clear and collaborative ways brands and agencies are working with technology.

While it's good to know that a campaign is performing well, it's better to know why."

'Transparency' has become such a malleable term by both the media and ad technology companies themselves, covering such a wide range of practices, that it can be hard to know exactly what to expect.

Non-transparent working practices can range from misreporting the media your ads have appeared on in order to make them seem like "exclusive" premium inventory, to bending the rules of a campaign brief to deliver good results - in ways you didn't necessarily want.

We've even heard of agency teams asking for full domain reports, in order to know exactly which sites their ads were on, from their technology vendors, and being sent a pair of designer jeans instead (a true story).

Even if technology providers aren't intentionally using fraudulent tactics, agencies can still suffer without clear lines of communication between your internal teams and tech platforms. While it's good to know that a campaign is performing well, it's better to know why.

It's key to ensure your technology providers let you know exactly which tactics, such as prospecting or retargeting, are performing, spending, and scaling in order to make the most of your programmatic strategy. If prospecting rivals retargeting in terms of CPA performance, for example, that should be an immediate red flag to any agency team - and a good reason to demand better reporting.

Not only will this make it much more difficult for vendors to cut corners in terms of transparency, it will also give your team the chance to learn exactly why certain tactics work over others - providing insight you can use across your entire client set. Digital media can be an additional form of market research, so don't let those learnings stay siloed within just one team or department. These insights are really valuable to an advertiser and help to inform future strategies.

It's time tech providers became more comfortable offering fully transparent solutions and reporting."

Full transparency between you and your tech provider ensures you're meeting your clients' requirements fully, and achieving their goals in the right way, whether that means limiting retargeting to only be a certain part of the budget, or setting the correct frequency caps.

In today's highly competitive ad tech landscape, however, some vendors might be inclined to ignore these restrictions, especially if ignoring the rules means a boost in campaign performance.

Every reputable programmatic marketing platform should have a clear user interface that shows exactly how campaigns are set up, so asking to see this can help make sure you're getting the results you - and your clients - really want.

Lack of transparency between client and agency has long been an issue in traditional media buying, so it might not be a surprise that the same would be true of digital media. Yet with spend in this area increasing every year, there's also more incentive now for less-than-scrupulous operators - both on the supply and demand side of digital advertising - to get around the rules with fraudulent or non-transparent practices.

This is why it's more critical than ever for agencies to make sure they're working with technology partners that offer them, and their clients, the transparency they deserve.

After all, technology platforms were developed to make marketers' lives easier, to automate some of the menial day-to-day tasks and free them up for more strategic thinking. Therefore, it's time tech providers became more comfortable offering fully transparent solutions and reporting - so that agencies can in turn provide this to their clients.

When advertisers are not getting transparency on how their digital media investments are being managed and measured, the true benefits of digital marketing can't be realised. With transparent working practices in place, agencies can be sure they'll help their clients hit every marketing resolution throughout the year - and avoid falling into that dreaded January slump ever again.

Chris Le May is country manager UK & Nordics at DataXu

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