For hand-sold and hand-bought media, a marketer can rest easy at night knowing exactly when and where their media is running. Publishers, agencies, and advertisers have the peace of mind knowing that insertion orders match bookings and that media runs where it’s supposed to. The advertising is all about environments, context, and consumer messaging - and if you want to see your ad, you go to the website you placed it on.
Enter the hyper-digital world of ad exchanges, real-time-bidding, programmatic marketplaces, networks and arbitrage. A seductive world of what seems like infinite supply, big(ger) data, huge volume, and low costs. Machines drive the buying and selling decisions and advertising is tremendously cheap thanks to bidding. This world is about audience, efficiency, and scale. Uncovering where ads are running is much harder, with the trade-off that marketers are reaching their most important consumer, right at the most important time.
Over the last year, Mike Shields of AdWeek has dug into the exchange and network space to expose the underbelly of this part of the industry. Shields uncovers suspect publishers who use various techniques to create questionable online traffic resulting in brands getting ripped off. This series has shone a light on a number of unscrupulous players in the digital world and how unsuspecting agencies and marketers are being taking advantage of. The fraud techniques and methods vary, but the outcome is always the same - what seemed like an agency’s or marketer’s prosperous venture into ad exchanges ultimately resulted in wasted investment and little (real) ROI. The real surprise comes when Shields details how sophisticated the fraud is and which major publishers are impacted.
One of the lessons? Choose your media partners very carefully.
At the end of the day, it’s the media company/publisher’s responsibility to ensure that every impression and click is of value to an advertiser. The industry must set a high bar for protecting the experience of both the marketer and the consumer. Any business model that rewards fraud, even unknowingly, needs to adapt by the leaders of the industry demanding better accountability and through voting with budgets. At Microsoft, we have consistently increased validation efforts and improved tools and technology to ensure marketers can have faith in both hand-bought and programmatically-purchased media.
Hand-sold and hand-bought media still have their place. Beautiful, rich executions and fantastically relevant content drive wonderful branding outcomes and publishers, agencies, and marketers will remain as tight partners for this type of advertising. In the exchange and network space, agencies and marketers need to be acutely aware of how and what they are buying, while being even more selective about the partners they choose to work with. If anything, the AdWeek exposé shows that the rapid evolution of our industry to include more programmatic buying/selling requires even stronger relationships between agencies, marketers, and media companies/publishers to ensure that real value is being realized.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post on tips for agencies and marketers to help make sensible decisions when working in the exchange/programmatic space.