Transparency and Your Media Buying Agency: Do’s and Don’ts

"picture of coins stacked to signify data, particularly data siloes and privacy under GDPR"

If you’re a marketer interested in folding programmatic ad buying into your marketing strategy, quality control is probably of huge concern. Where ads are served, and whether they’re actually worth the spend, are often items of contention between marketers and their programmatic partners. An eMarketer survey found that over 40% of participants said that there was a significant loss of quality control when using programmatic media buying, versus more traditional modes of direct buying.

Yet according to the same study, placement transparency is a key ingredient in marketers’ decisions to move more ad-spend to the programmatic space. And unfortunately, many digital media buying services are falling way short of the mark. Before turning over complete trust to a programmatic and digital partner, we’ve come up with a list of steps marketers and agencies should use to protect themselves.

DO: Vet Partners Before Doing Business with Them

While this may seem obvious, it’s not a step worth skipping. Programmatic is still fairly new— and that veil of mystery makes it ever more important to vet potential programmatic partners before signing on with them, so as to avoid fraud. Verify that vendors are working with legitimate publishers and have success stories. Ask to review inventory to ensure quality and reasonable pricing. Even go as far as to check that the company has a physical address. We’re serious! Fraud is real, and you should absolutely take every precaution.

DO: Demand Transparency In Everything

Transparency should be an emphasized part of deals you strike with any programmatic partner, and that transparency should be evident in everything from price, to supply chain, to where ads are actually being served. For example, if ads are being served in spaces where your intended audience will never see it, or on sites with objectionable content, you should be able to either accept or deny this bid. Publishers should share details on where the ads are showing up and offer information on how data points were obtained.

Another issue is price. Any media buying service should provide the highest level of detail when it comes to pricing. This includes the media buy itself, the cost of technology used, and any additional fees. It’s quite easy to sneak some of these items in last minute— if your programmatic advertising company is not providing this information up front, you should absolutely push back and insist on more data.

DON’T: Overlook Data Value

You should also take a look at your programmatic partner’s credibility in the space. Not all media buying agencies have an equal amount of access to data— so, some vendors may only be able to provide a certain amount of data to you.

Knowledge is Power

No matter what, marketers should really take the time to educate themselves about how programmatic media buying works, and what they should be able to expect from any media buying partnership— not only in terms of strict data but also insights, margins, what they are buying, etc. Challenge digital partners that don’t provide the level of insight needed to fully understand how a campaign is performing, or abandon them for more cooperative ones. Ultimately, taking steps to ensure transparency can help marketers avoid wasting precious ad budgets. It also improves the chances of campaign success by avoiding fraudulent or non-viewable or non-targeted impressions.